This pretty much sums it up. Am I right? That’s the interpretation being assigned the Commander-in-Chief’s remarks yesterday. It goes something like this:
“We went online at the MLB marketplace. We got on the phone. We would have loved to have bought ourselves a little better coverage, particularly at the plate. And yes, the coverage in the field is turning out to be a bit more expensive than we would like. But, hey, in the end we’re happy with what we have.”
The narrative continues: the Reds acted rashly, out of spite, attempting to thread a narrow needle of opportunity in an effort to get rid of a sometimes productive player turned miscreant—and the window has now closed—making a bad situation with their second baseman only worse. According to Ken Rosenthal, someone will have to “overwhelm” the Reds with an offer, who will now have to be bowled over with not only a willingness to take on Phillips’ considerable contract, but kick in player(s) as well. Rosenthal opines that the Reds—who have lost Choo—cannot afford to lose what he considers to be Brandon’s considerable offense, as well. And the whole Redsfest plea is an attempt to rescue a troubled marriage.
Let’s dig deeper and take these suppositions one at a time. But, first, let’s look at what Jocketty actually said, first on the radio to Chris Russo on MLB Network Radio, then the more expansive remarks as reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer:
“I talked with Brandon yesterday… I also told him that we are not in any talks to trade him. Not saying that we wouldn’t trade him, but I told him …we’re a better team with him here.”
“We had a nice long talk (Tuesday), we talked about his place on the club and I told him I don’t really have any talks going with any clubs right now, not that that couldn’t change, but as of right now you’re part of this club and Redsfest is an important part of our program,” Jocketty said. “(I told him) you love the fans, the fans love you and I think it’d be disappointing if you weren’t there. I think he might end up showing up.”
“I did make it clear to him that right now he is part of this club,” Jocketty added.
1. The Reds are no longer shopping Brandon Phillips.
Well, they say they are not actively shopping Brandon at this point. By all accounts, the Reds either initiated or openly welcomed these trade discussions—take your pick. The horse is out of the barn. Lips were loosened. Clubhouse confidentialities were spilled. Everybody knows the Reds are open for business on BP. The Reds haven’t been able to sell at their opening price. We always knew Walt wouldn’t simply give Phillips away without playing this out to see exactly how much, if anything, he could get in return. Just as Jay-Z knew all along he wasn’t getting $300M for Robinson Cano, Jocketty knows he’s unlikely to get salary relief and a meaningful talent. But, you have to ask. Then sit back—and wait.
2. There are few trading partners left and we pretty much know who they are.
Yes. And No. Trading Brandon has never been the linear proposition that many assume it to be. It’s not a question of simply identifying the teams who are in need of a second baseman. Needs are fluid as players come and go. GMs change course. No one shows their hand before the river card. Raise your hand if you saw respected GM Dave Dombrowski trading away Doug Fister—perhaps the best #4 starter in Baseball—for what is widely viewed as a rather paltry package? Who would have foreseen Billy Beane of all people handing out $10M next year so some guy not named Rivera do that overrated closer thing for him?
3. This is an “emotional” and thus a “bad” move.
Maybe. The really emotional move was the new contract in 2012. While the owner may be angry with his employee and have his own motives for wanting him gone, the GM may simply see this as an opportunity to use a set of circumstances to undo some buyer’s remorse, like a husband returning that new set of irons.
4. Choo’s offense is gone. You can’t afford to lose Phillips’ offense, too.
The Reds cannot survive another year of Brandon Phillips with an OPS+ of 92. If the Reds have any hope of signing Choo, they must rid themselves of DatDude’s contract. If Choo is too expense (as I think he will be), you have to replace Choo AND find at least find one more sizable bat. There’s not enough pitching depth or prospects to barter away, unless the Reds are willing to set their future ablaze. That means spending more money. Either way, Brandon’s contract has to be moved even if it brings little in return.
5. The “Come to Redsfest” plea is an attempt to patch things up.
The Reds are drunk-dialing BP now? I don’t think so. Common sense says do not make things worse than they currently are. He’s still an employee. His reputation for fan friendliness needs to continue—now more than ever. As Marvin Lewis would say, “Be a pro.” If no reasonable trade can be cobbled together in the coming days, hold everything together until an injury in Spring Training somewhere else makes a deal possible. Until then, keep the lid on. A little decorum, please. After all, we are not the New York Yankees here.
Ultimately, it’s hard to see this marriage survive. The man who came from the Cleveland Indians under a cloud seems to be channeling his younger self. The famous Molina dust up, the quick accusation of racism aimed at a Pirates player–only to be dropped just as fast, calling out the owner, the ugliness with Rosecrans—all suggest a pattern. The whispers that he lockers away from his peers, that he’s happier losing and going 2 for 4 than he is winning while going hitless, are disconcerting. It suggests his peers don’t trust him. The fact that we know this little secret says they’ve had enough and feel comfortable voicing it, even if under a cloak of anonymity. After replacing a manager with a year left on his contract, after a stated desire to bring a different culture to the clubhouse and following that up by paying Skip Schumaker above market price based in part on his clubhouse bona fides, does the front office really want to saddle their new, inexperienced manager with this roiling undercurrent? With Phillips approaching 10 and 5 status, it’s trade him soon or forever hold your peace.
At his heart, Brandon Phillips is a good guy, which makes all this so sad. Brandon Phillips also carries with him some high maintenance swag. Above all, Brandon Phillips needs to be loved—a lot. You see it in every tweet. You see it reflected back in the face of every fan who crowds the railing hoping for a special moment with his dat dude-ness.
Sorry always seems to be the hardest word. This time, it’s probably not enough.