2012 Reds / The Brandon Phillips Show

Brandon Phillips Wants His

It’s been reported that the Reds have met with Brandon Phillips’ agent this week to further discuss a contract extension. Phillips talked with the Enquirer last week on this subject:

“You want to be paid better than players you think you’re better than,” says Phillips. “I feel like I’m top three among second basemen in baseball. I feel like I should get that respect.”

Phillips has seen other Reds get theirs. Votto, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto. He noted the signing of Ryan Madson. Phillips doesn’t begrudge his peers their “respect.” He just wonders why he hasn’t gotten his. “A slap in the face,” Phillips calls it.

“I’ve been here longer than anybody, and I’m one of the best players in this game. I feel that I should come before many other people.”

Whether he’s talking about the club’s free agent extensions to Scott Rolen and Bronson Arroyo, or the arbitration buyouts of Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto, I think Phillips has completely missed on his complaints.

Looking at the deals made to Rolen and Arroyo, each player extended his current contract by just two years. They each restructured the final year of their previous deals to take less money in that year and agreed to deferred money for the length of their new deals. In Rolen’s case, his new contract paid him less per year than his previous contract. Ryan Madson was brought in because the team wanted to sign a closer. He also signed a “team friendly” short-term deal for the 2012 season.

Obviously we don’t know what, if any, of these conditions are acceptable or unacceptable to Phillips, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the Reds are trying to put at least some of these conditions in a contract extension with Phillips.

Will Brandon Phillips be smiling all the way to the bank? (The Enquirer/ Joseph Fuqua II)

If you consider his comments from the perspective of Cueto, Bruce, and Votto, you realize that their extensions are just like the extension Phillips ALREADY received. The club locked these players into a salary during their arbitration eligible years, and was able to pre-buy two seasons of Cueto’s free agent years and three of Bruce’s. Phillips already “got his”, having signed a deal similar to both Cueto and Bruce four years ago. Their extensions are not particularly relevant to whether the Reds sign Phillips through additional free agency years.

That leaves us with Phillips contemporaries. Is Phillips one of the top 3 second basemen in baseball? What are his peers collecting as income in free agency? I’m sure the Phillips camp is pointing to contracts like those the Atlanta Braves signed with Dan Uggla. Sure, Phillips should be paid more than those he plays better than. The Reds could be looking at free agent contemporaries like Orlando Hudson and Placido Polanco, who struggled to make $6 million a year after testing the free agency market.

In the table below, I’ve attempted to take a look at this. Using cumulative Wins Above Replacement (WAR) player stats at fangraphs.com from 2009-2011, the top nine second basemen are ranked below. Phillips had the 6th best 2B WAR during this period. It is anchored by his 2011 WAR, which was his career best season (6.0) and was 4th best in baseball. His 2011 OPS was 6th best in the majors.

If you shift that 3-year window back to 2008-2010, Phillips still ranks as a top 10 second baseman with the 8th best WAR during this time period. The expectation of many, and certainly the projection systems out there, are that Phillips is more like that 3 WAR player of 2008-2010 and is unlikely to repeat his career year performance.

So, Phillips is not a top 3. But clearly a top 10 second baseman.

The contract information is displayed in a unique way. First, note that
–MLB min 3 is the player’s 3rd service year and typically the last year a team can pay the major league minimum
–arb 1-3 is the 3 years of arbitration
–FA 1-3 is the 3 years of free agency
–Bolded cells refer to each players 2012 salary
–An asterisk means that this future compensation is a club option

Player 2009-11 WAR 2011 WAR MLB min 3 arb 1 arb 2 arb 3 FA 1 FA 2 FA 3
Ben Zobrist 19.2 6.6 $0.5M $4.5M $4.5M $5.5M $7.5M* $7.5M*
Chase Utley 17.6 3.9 $0.5M $4.5M $7.5M $11.0M $15.0M $15.0M $15.0M
Robinson Cano 16.4 5.6 $3.0M $6.0M $9.0M $10.0M $14.0M* $15.0M*
Dustin Pedroia 16.2 8.0 $1.5M $3.5M $5.5M $8.0M $10.0M $10.0M $11.0M*
Ian Kinsler 15.8 7.7 $0.5M $3.0M $4.0M $6.0M $7.0M $10.0M*
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
Brandon Phillips 13.6 6.0 $0.4M $2.75M $4.75M $6.75M $11.0M $12.0M*
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
Rickie Weeks 11.6 3.7 $1.0M $2.45M $2.75M $7.5M $10.0M $10.0M $11.0M
Dan Uggla 10.2 2.5 $0.4M $5.35M $7.8M $9.0M $13.0M $13.0M $13.0M
Howie Kendrick 10.0 5.8 $0.5M $1.75M $3.3M $4.5M $8.75M $9.35M $9.5M

Phillips appears to already be making about the same or more than those in the top 9 WAR over the past 3 years. He’s making more than 3 of the 5 players ranked above him from arb 2 year through FA 2. If not for Uggla’s ridiculous contract, he’s making more than everyone under 4.0 WAR/year. Phillips projects to be more in the Howie Kendrick to Rickie Weeks performance range the next couple of years. I would expect that if the Reds signed him to a 4-5 year deal, they’d be regretting the big salary in the final couple years of such a deal.

Being risk-adverse myself, I’d feel most comfortable with a 2-3 year deal that paid $10-11 million per year. If I had to guess, I would speculate that I am closer to the Reds offer, and Phillips is hoping for something closer to an Uggla-type deal.

30 thoughts on “Brandon Phillips Wants His

  1. if i was castellini and jockety running the reds i would pay NO player when it was time for him to get paid, i would invest TONS of money into player development/scouting/signing draft picks/coaching/ concessions for players and or fans. I fully believe u could win a WS with no player currently in FA years if the right “system” was in place. I mean how much of a better ran organization could the reds have if they had invested money in the right things instead of Bombson Arroyo and Old man rolen (2010 NLDS right then i knew he was DONE, why can’t anyone else see this)

  2. Cool analysis. I have a question: Does the chart show all of the years of the various players contract? Or do their contracts go beyond FA3 in some cases? I ask because the duration of the contract is clearly a big issue for both players and teams, and overpaying in the later years of a contract is part of the cost of doing business with good players. I think it’s hard to draw conclusions about what the Reds should or shouldn’t pay Phillips by looking at one year at a time. It’s the value of the entire contract that is important (and much harder to estimate).

  3. I completely get where Phillips is coming from. He can see other guys getting paid, not just by the Reds, but by other teams. He wants his 4-5 years and 12 million a year just like he will wind up getting somewhere else. Make no mistake, someone is going to pay him that. It just isn’t going to be the Reds. It has been painfully clear since last year when the talks started that Walt and company are not in the same place with offering that kind of money to Phillips. Time after time, Walt has said that they are far apart and that expectations need to be lowered.

    The problem with baseball is this: Guys get paid for what they have done, not for what they are likely to do moving forward. It works that way because guys in years 1-5 get screwed on their salary. The Reds want to pay Phillips for what he is likely to do over the next handful of years. Phillips wants to get paid for what he has done. Both sides are right, but I would rather another team let Phillips be right than my team let him be right.

    • The problem with baseball is this: Guys get paid for what they have done, not for what they are likely to do moving forward. It works that way because guys in years 1-5 get screwed on their salary. The Reds want to pay Phillips for what he is likely to do over the next handful of years. Phillips wants to get paid for what he has done. Both sides are right, but I would rather another team let Phillips be right than my team let him be right.

      So true, so true.

  4. Great post, Greg. I especially like the way you distinguish the other recent extensions the Reds have signed from Phillips’ situation.

    Your proposal for Phillips ($10-11 million/2-3 years) sounds about right to me in terms of compensation for expected value. Additional out-years seem particularly fraught with risk of age-related decline and simple regression from 2011.

    Even if BP’s relative value is high, that doesn’t mean the Reds should necessarily offer to pay for it. Someone should pay him for what he’s worth, but that doesn’t mean it automatically makes sense for the Reds to be that team.

    Unlike teams with much higher budgets like the Yankees and Phillies, the Reds have to consider not just the direct cost, but also the opportunity cost of possibly not being able to re-sign Joey Votto.

  5. I truly believe Phillips is shooting himself in the foot with his own comments. I don’t think he’s selfish. He’s never shown that before so I realize it’s just part of the life of a big league ballplayer. But you don’t win fans by complaining that your $12M a year for playing a game is not enough. Especially in a bad economy where most of us are worried about downsizing and rising gas prices. Phillips is worried about another yacht to ski behind. He needs to keep it out of the media. Fans love him, but he’ll find they will turn on him quickly if he keeps talking to the media. Once again I reference Chad Johnson.

  6. Do you think BP reads Redleg Nation?

    I’m glad Greg did such a great job laying it all out. While I still understand the economics of baseball, and the player’s desire to “be respected”, this clearly shows that Jocketty & Co should hold strong.

    Here’s a thought: do you think that the whole 6 years of team control idea actually hurts teams in the long run? It breeds this mentality that because players get hosed for 6 yrs, they need to make up for it in free agency. Maybe if salary structure made more sense throughout the player’s entire career, everything would balance out. I have no idea if that would actually happen… just a thought.

  7. @Doug Gray: great comment. I agree. Except, I would actually prefer that the Reds find a way to pay BP AND be able to pay Votto and others.

  8. @RiverCity Redleg: I think we’d all prefer that option if there were no consequences.😀

    My order of preference (best-to-worst):

    1. Extend Brandon and Joey with no financial consequences.
    2. Extend Joey for 5 years, but not Brandon, Reds slightly-to -moderately hamstrung by contract.
    3. Extend Brandon to 3 year contract, but not Joey, Reds slightly hamstrung by contract.
    4. Don’t extend either, use money to obtain cheaper replacements or upgrades at other positions.
    5. Extend Joey at Prince-like contract but let Brandon walk, Reds moderately to severely restricted by contract.
    6. Extend Brandon to long term contract, Reds moderately restricted by contract.
    6. Extend Brandon and Joey to long term contracts, but Reds are severely financially hamstrung for years.
    7. Don’t extend Brandon and Joey. Don’t spend the money on replacements. Bob swims around in pool of money.

    • Bob swims around in pool of money.

      Can it be gold coins like Scrooge McDuck? That was always so cool.😀

  9. Personally, I find his comments selfish, especially if you missed his comments to Ken Broo, link below.

    http://kenbroo.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/enjoy-brandon-phillips-this-year-next-year-well/

    He pretty much says that his deal should have been taken care of before Sean Marshall’s new deal. As if all other business should be put on hold while we wait out his terms with he and his agent. That’s not how business works, and other players wouldn’t appreciate it either.

  10. Brandon’s consistent. He’s defensively phenomenal, and a great personality. He speaks candidly(obviously) and we really shouldn’t smack him on the wrist for that. However, I don’t see the advantage to signing him as being greater than the disadvantages of losing him. If he played shortstop or center and was this defensively unreal, that’d be one thing. However, he doesn’t play those premium spots. And the fact remains we have guys not to far away who could make an impact, at either SS or 2B. I’m looking at Valaika, whose serviceable until Gregorious, Hamilton or Rodriguez, and then Wright’s in the pipeline and then there’s usually a serviceable veteran free agent in there as well. Votto is more valuable, by a lot, and it’s important to get Votto his. Phillips should’ve said “Votto needs his” let him get paid, then work on BP’s deal. On top of all of this…Phillips could land us a premium pick in the next draft. We keep votto, we dont regret a long deal, we get another high profile prospect and we continue to compete for years.

    • Brandon’s consistent. He’s defensively phenomenal, and a great personality. He speaks candidly(obviously) and we really shouldn’t smack him on the wrist for that. However, I don’t see the advantage to signing him as being greater than the disadvantages of losing him. If he played shortstop or center and was this defensively unreal, that’d be one thing. However, he doesn’t play those premium spots. And the fact remains we have guys not to far away who could make an impact, at either SS or 2B. I’m looking at Valaika, whose serviceable until Gregorious, Hamilton or Rodriguez, and then Wright’s in the pipeline and then there’s usually a serviceable veteran free agent in there as well. Votto is more valuable, by a lot, and it’s important to get Votto his. Phillips should’ve said “Votto needs his” let him get paid, then work on BP’s deal. On top of all of this…Phillips could land us a premium pick in the next draft. We keep votto, we dont regret a long deal, we get another high profile prospect and we continue to compete for years.

      I’m really starting to feel this way too. It’s starting to get a little stale, and a second baseman is not the hardest position to replace.

      BTW: I called Zobrist several years ago. Think I was BBQ’d for it, but I thought at the time he would have been a solid addition, and his versatilaty is a big plus.

    • Phillips could land us a premium pick in the next draft.

      As much as we’ve bounced this around, this is the first time I’ve seen this point come up. Another excellent point in favor of letting BP go somewhere else and get paid next year. Valaika is not Phillips, but hermanbates makes an excellent, excellent point.

  11. Nothing at all wrong with Phillips’ comments. He is one of the best 2B in the game, and one of the most consistent and valuable to their franchise. Nothing he said was false.

    WAR is a subjective stat. My eyes tell me that Phillips is top three, not because I’m a Reds fan, but because when I see the other premier second basemen play, especially on the same field with Phillips, I don’t get the sense that they are head and shoulders above him, if not below. Chase Utley a few years back was clearly better, Cano is pretty good now, but Phillips is a top player, period.

    The Rolen and Arroyo contracts were bad, so it’s hard to defend them over Phillips not getting a deal, the Reds’ second best player.

    The Uggla contract was awful, not a fair comparison for Phillips. The amount of games played, his effort, his involvement in the community, and his on-field performance warrant a large contract. If the Reds don’t want to sign him, that’s their business, but it doesn’t make them better from 2012-2014, which is the time period that the Reds will have plenty of World Series pieces in place. If the front office is interested in capitalizing on their window, they have to find a number that Phillips can live with, even if it’s a 3 year $40 million deal with $7 mil guranteed. Brandon has been playing second base AND shortstop for the Reds since he arrived.

    • If the Reds don’t want to sign him, that’s their business, but it doesn’t make them better from 2012-2014

      As with everything, it depends on what the other options for that money is. For the $12 million the Reds had been paying Cordero each of the past 4 years, the Reds have Madson, Marshall, and Masset signed this year for $11.5 million. That’s a pretty good dollar/production trade-off to the Reds benefit.

  12. I appreciate all of your comments and feedback!

    Also, I meant to point out in the article that while Phillips make more than 3 of the 5 players listed above him, the two players who make more play for 2 of the highest payroll teams in baseball: Yankees & Phillies.

    @BenL: I should have called this salary information, not contract information. I used the word income once and contract once.

    The table is meant to represent income/salary in a given year with respect to where they are in the arbitration/free agency process. Some of these players signed deals at the beginning of the arbitration process, and some towards the end. It is true that all the current contracts of the players outlined above did include at least one year of arbitration. So, Phillips will be the first of this group to have a contract covering free agency years only.

    And yes, 3 of these players have salary information into a 4th year of free agency not on this chart. Utley is due another $15 million next year. Uggla has another $13 million salary in 2015. Rickie Weeks has an $11.5 million vesting option that kicks in for the 2015 season if he has more than 600 PA’s in 2014.

    The free agent market hasn’t been as kind to second basemen as other position players. Cot’s shows the top 40 FA contracts, both in total cost and per year salary, in MLB history. The top of this list is dominated by 1B, SP, SS with more OF and 3B towards the bottom of the list.

    I did find one other example in addition to the underpaid Polanco and Hudson. Brian Roberts was in the last year of his “arbitration buyout” entering the 2009 season. His previous 3-yr WAR was 13.0, and a little more even than Phillips. by year: 3.3, 4.8, 4.9. The Orioles signed him to a 4-yr/$40 million extension. Injuries have prevented him from living up to his pay, but there is another recent comp and good comp for Phillips.

  13. One thing that’s going to be ugly: If nothing is worked out before the season, everything BP does, especially the negative, is going to be rehashed through the lens of the contract.

    • @Matt WI:

      One thing that’s going to be ugly: If nothing is worked out before the season, everything BP does, especially the negative, is going to be rehashed through the lens of the contract.

      Oh yeah. We’re going to be hearing about this all year long through twitter, in the paper, etc. If they don’t plan to sign him, they may be better off trading him now to avoid the bad PR. I believe Phillips’ fan friendly thing is partly an act of late to get the fan base on his side, but it’s working. I tend to think they’ll get something done before the season starts to avoid the mess, and they’ll likely have to overpay for at least the 4th year.

  14. BP has the right to speak to the public. Teams do this all the time through the media. BP’s current tactic seems like a poor negotiating method though. He would have been better off using the fans against WJ & Castellini by playing up the, “I love it here, I can’t see myself in any other uniform; I just want to be paid like other good second basemen…” The new stuff coming out is just as likely to get the fans on management’s side.

    I do think WAR underrates BP’s defense. It probably turns him from a Top 8 2nd Baseman to a Top 5 guy. He’s clearly behind Cano, Pedroia, and Kinsler but being in a group lumped together with Zobrist and Utley isn’t an insult.

    As for the contract,
    -3 years is optimal.
    -4 years is questionable (depends on dollar figures, structure of contract).
    -5 years or more is likely terrible unless the contract is structured to reflect declining value.

  15. @Greg Dafler: Yeah, the one thing we know about the 2013 free agent class is that it is going to be deep in OF and SP. Also, potentially David Wright or local boy Kevin Youklis (possible Scott Rolen/Joey Votto “replacement”?) could be available.

  16. Phillips can speak to the public if he wants, and we can judge him for it if we want. We aren’t going to fully understand what it feels like from a player’s standpoint, and he probably isn’t going to break it down like we’re doing here. Such is life.

    I’ve actually heard that Fangraphs’ version of WAR *over* values defense, which I guess means it could have a positive OR negative affect. Whether or not WAR credits BP enough for his defense, who knows, but I don’t think is reputation probably overstates his actual defensive value. Flashiness doesn’t always translate into value. It’s just fun to watch. The fact that he leads MLB in Web Gem points probably gives everyone, including him, the idea that he is unquestionably the best defensive 2B in baseball, which I don’t think is necessarily true.

  17. Bottom line, Jocketty won a lot of games in St.Louis with Joe the second baseman. How many can we remember? Fernando Vina, Adam Kennedy, Aaron Myles? If he feels they have a similar player and can use the money to beef up another position, then this guy has a proven track record. I bet he couldn’t care less what fans want if he knows it’s for the better. Most fans like us just want to win, BP or no BP.

  18. I looked at BP’s WAR at baseball-reference, also. I didn’t pull those numbers for other 2nd basemen. baseball-reference had BP’s WAR at 4 last year and around 2 most previous years. So, for him at least, same relative position – his career year a little less than double his previous seasons, but the overall WAR value wasn’t as high as it was calculated by fangraphs.

  19. @Aaron Lehr: What???? I don’t care about the flash, but BP gets to several balls that other guys don’t get to. Flash withstanding, he’s the best defensive 2B in the league.

  20. Really nice work Greg. Kudos on such a good post.

    I wrote some on this back on another thread. I think it was the one about reliever injuries, BP, and other whotnots. Since that post, I have tried to figure where I’d rank BP among 2B in baseball. I’m thinking he falls behind Cano, Pedroia, Kinsler, and a healthy Utley. I need to watch Zobrist more. I knew he was good but after watching “Top 10 Right Now” for 2B, and after seeing your post here, it would seem he may be ahead of BP too. I think BP is better than Weeks, Kendrick, and Hudson. I also would much rather have him than Uggla.

    So, what does this mean? To me it means that someone is going to probably overpay for him. I never would have guessed that Prince would have brought over $200-million. So, depending on the correct set of circumstances, I could see someone paying him a huge amount of money. I could see something on the order of 5yr/$70-million. Yeah, that number is really high but it isn’t out of the question. I think a very good, agressive, offer would be 4yr/$54-million but I don’t see the Reds really being able to do that. I am willing to bet that the Reds are probably looking at a 3yr deal in the $12-million/yr range with maybe an option year. Is it a fair offer? I think so but it could well be short of what BP would get if he becomes of free agent. What it represents though is money that is on the table right now. If BP has an injury or has a sub-par year, he may find himself back in that Hudson range of contracts.

    I can see where BP is coming from but I think he’s looking for a contract that a team like the Reds just probably shouldn’t do for a 2B.

    I am not as worried as some about BP talking to the media. I think if it doesn’t happen in spring training, BP’s camp is going to suggest he hit the open market and I think BP will stop talking contract and let his play do the talking.

    While I do think about this stuff and research it, I am by no means an expert. We’ll just all have to wait and see what plays out. One thing is certain. BP is worth whatever someone is willing to pay him.

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