Could the Reds trade Brandon Phillips this offseason?

Moving Phillips for younger players and clearing out his salary would be a logical step in their rebuilding program. If Zack Cozart comes back healthy enough to play shortstop or second base, the Reds could use Cozart and Eugenio Suarez in some combination in the middle infield.

The Reds tried to trade Phillips in the 2013 offseason after his negative comments about owner Bob Castellini and profane outburst directed at reporter C. Trent Rosecrans. Like many people, I had Phillips ticketed out of town. But it turned out the market that the Reds had hoped for wasn’t there. Phillips had lost much of his production playing injured throughout the 2013 season. With his large contract extending for an additional four years, teams were reluctant to part with anything of value for his services. The Reds were unwilling to take the PR hit of dumping their popular second baseman without getting a splashy return.

Then in August 2014, Phillips qualified for full no-trade protection under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players with 10 years of major league service time, including five with their current team, earn that right. Phillips can refuse any trade the Reds might make, which complicates the prospect of moving him. To make matters worse, the Stone Mountain, Georgia native continued his decline in production in 2014. Conventional wisdom hardened that Phillips’ contract was under water.

But as Reds fans know, Phillips put together a surprising, bounce back season in 2015. Despite that, analysts continue to assert that Phillips has negative trade value and that the Reds would have to cover some of his remaining contract to move him.

Let’s take a closer look to see if that pessimism is really justified.  Start with the basic facts. Brandon Phillips enters his age-35 season in 2016. His current contract covers 2016 ($13 million) and 2017 ($14 million).

Phillips is past the age when a second baseman typically enters the steep part of his aging curve.

About that research: Nate Silver (2005) found that second basemen decline faster than other players in their thirties. Dave Cameron (2012) learned that the drop off for second basemen for ages 31-35 is severe and even some of the best second basemen have just stopped being productive in their early thirties. John Shepherd (2010) found that fielding ability for second basemen peaks at ages 27-29 and falls completely apart in their early to mid thirties. He concludes “your typical second baseman and shortstop will be quite useful at their natural positions until they reach about age 32.”

Prior to the 2015 season, Phillips’ career had been conforming to the norm of a gradual decline in WAR.

BPWAR14

[Reminder that WAR – wins above replacement – takes into account hitting, running and defense. It consolidates a player’s relative value into one figure. The horizontal axis in the chart above plots the season and Phillips age. The WAR values are an average of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.]

Phillips had exhibited steady, normal decline between 2011 and 2014, starting with his age-31 season. But a funny thing happened on the way to the scrapheap.

BPWAR15

In 2015, Phillips rebounded to have his best year overall since 2012.

Did Phillips adjust his game to create a new normal in 2015? Let’s analyze his season to see where his gains were made.

Power

It wasn’t in power. In fact, 2015 was the season when Brandon Phillips transition to a singles hitter became complete. His isolated power (ISO) continued its decline to .100. Phillips’ ISO was lower than Mike Leake’s. Out of 141 major league hitters with 500 plate appearances, Phillips ranked #125 in power. His ratio of extra-base hits to hits overall fell sharply to a career low.

BPXBH

19 percent of Phillips’ hits in 2015 went for extra bases. The major league average is 33 percent.

Plate Discipline

Phillips started to swing more. Many aging players do this to compensate for slowing reaction time. His pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) fell from 3.68 to 3.47. The major league average is 3.79. Phillips ranked #131 out of 141  in P/PA among qualified major league hitters. His swing rate (55.1 percent) was the highest in his career and ranked #133 out of 141 in the majors (Marlon Byrd led MLB in swinging at the most pitches).

Swinging early and often sent Phillips’ already low walk rate to 4.3 percent, the lowest of his career (MLB average is 8.3 percent). But it also dramatically cut into his strikeout rate, so in total he put many more balls in play.

Singles

Phillips did have success hitting singles. His batting average (.294) was 30th best out of 141 qualified players.

Phillips’ batting average on balls in play (.315) was well above his career average (.294). Normally when a player has a season where his BABIP is that far above his normal rate, the variation is attributed to good luck. In this case, however, the player had substantially changed his approach to swing for singles. That adjustment could explain a higher BABIP. Phillips also hit fewer fly balls as a percent of balls put in play.

The “new” BP who focuses on making early contact might sustain a higher BABIP than the Brandon Phillips who swung for power in previous seasons. But his low walk-rate meant that his OBP (.328) was below league average for qualified hitters.

Overall Contribution to Run Production

When you put all the offensive numbers together – power, average, walks – Phillips provided average run production. Here are his weighted, adjusted runs created (wRC+) numbers dating back to 2007.

BPWRC+

Reminder: With wRC+, 100 is league average, and adjusts for run environment and ballpark.

Defense

In 2015, Brandon Phillips still put up positive defensive numbers, despite a decline in range. FanGraphs’ composite defensive value number for Phillips has declined from 13.4 (2011) to 4.1 (2015). But 4.1 is still pretty good (#9 out of 20 qualified 2B). That’s consistent with other defensive metrics like UZR/150 and Defensive Runs Saved.

Conclusion

Is Brandon Phillips’ contract upside down?

Based on last season’s free agent market, teams are paying $7.5 million for each WAR. That figure rises each year because of higher revenues in the sport chasing the same number of players. With a salary of $27 million over the next two seasons, Brandon Phillips would need to produce a total of 3.6 WAR to be worth his contract.

That’s not an unreasonable number if his bump in 2015 turns out to be a new starting point to glide down the aging curve. One could make the case that Phillips has reset his offense in a way that provides more value and his defense is still, for the moment, above average. If he experiences a 20 percent decline from his 2015 level in each of the following two seasons, he would produce about 4.4 WAR, worth $33 million even without considering wage inflation.

Much depends on Phillips’ ability to stay healthy. Using the principle of selling high, this offseason will likely be the Reds best chance to move Phillips. If they find the right fit, the Reds might get a decent young player in return. But clearing Phillips’ $27 million salary would allow the club to sign other free agents. Even if the trade didn’t directly produce a contributing player, it would help indirectly.

The Reds could wait until the 2016 trade deadline or next offseason. But that would be gambling with Phillips’ health. Phillips has cheated Father Time for now. But the underlying numbers – declining power, declining walk-rate, swinging at more pitches – continue to show normal aging-related decline. Phillips figured out a way to keep his head and contract above water for now, but that’s not going to continue indefinitely. The bottom could fall out suddenly.

One remaining question is would Phillips accept a trade? He has deep roots in Cincinnati. But with the Reds heading into a rebuilding phase, Dat Dude might be interested in taking his talents elsewhere. It’s not hard to imagine him swayed by the opportunity of suiting up for a team with a real chance of playing in the postseason spotlight.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 60 Comments

  1. One omitted aspect of his 2015 production attributable to his good health and probably better conditioning for the 2015 season: 23 SB in 26 attempts. His resurgent speed was a huge indication that Phillips still had something left in the tank. Credit to the man for making the necessary adjustment in his offensive game to maximize his contribution to the team. If the Reds can move Phillips and his contract this off season for any positive return (not like the Hanigan trade!), I agree this would probably be their last opportunity. Cozart’s health plays such a huge consideration since the Reds have no major league ready 2B/SS option availalbe for 2016 or 2017 if Cozart does not fully recover from his very serious knee injury.

    • Agreed. His SB success was perhaps the biggest surprise on the Reds’ offense this season.

      • SBs add so little value it hardly matters. Even his 23 SB and 3 CS only provided 3 runs above average over the season, or about a third of a win. Not zero, but not much. Hard to expect him to keep that up at age 35. But then again, who expected it in 2015?

        • Not to imply that the SB added significant value, but what the SB represented in terms of his ability to perform. In 2013 & 2014, Phillips was slow and plodding. His XBH were down. His GDP were up. His SB were a negative value. His OBP was down. The 23 SB at a >88% clip just represented another turn around aspect of his game and contributions last season. And there are still a few teams that still over-value those SB and that could be a selling point to the correct team.

        • Yeah, I basically meant what the Cossack said. My use of “surprise” was not meant to equate to “value.”

    • The each of the three major injuries (Cozart, Bailey, Meso) leave the Reds in a position to be held hostage in their planning and moves for 2016. Odds are that at least one of the three will not return to form (at least not at the same position as before).

      If Cozart can play middle infield, they have an extra guy. If Meso can catch “every day”, the catching is set. If Bailey is back in the rotation by mid to late May, the need for a veteran innings eater is largely reduced.

      It is tempting to try to move BP for salary relief; but who plays the position if Cozart can’t play everyday? And even if Cozart can play every day, what combination of players makes up the production.

      These are all tough decisions with probably no “correct” call at this point. I would shop BP and move him for good return; but, I would not pay to move him. Maybe there is a good OPS bat for LF to be had in a salary neutral swap???

      • This is all assuming a competative team in 2016. Those odds are pretty long. If the Reds can not be competative in 2016 and Cozart is not able to play, De Jesus can manage 2B, without embarassing himself or the team, with Suarez at SS. That’s not an ideal situation, but if 2016 is a transition year anyway, then nothing lost.

        • Agree with the Cossack. 2016 is going to be a transition year. If a trade for BP materializes this off-season, then Reds should pursue it to clear the money and get some value back in a player.

  2. Credit to BP for his offseason work to put himself in position to have a good year. That said, now is the time to try and move him, and remember pigs get slaughtered. Don’t get greedy.

  3. BP is just not your “typical” ballplayer. He has defied the aging curve to a certain extent, but it was his defying the injury bug last year that gave his game a boost.
    The Reds are in a bit of a conundrum with BP and the second base position this winter. If Chapman and Bruce are moved this winter, that frees up about $26M in salary and then add BP’s $13 and that is $39M off the books for 2016 and $14M off the books in 2017. That would give the Reds some incredible payroll flexibility.
    More of the conundrum for the Reds. As a singles hitter, BP had 186 PA’s in the #4 batting spot, but hit .337. He had 294 PA’s in the leadoff spot, but hit only .271.
    The big questions however are, how bad does BP want to win a World Series championship? And would he waive his 10/5 rights to go for the chance?

  4. I want to trade BP while value is high too. The Yankees have been rumored to consider moving Gardner to save some money. Wealthy or not, I don’t think the Yankees are interested. Toronto and the Angels are considered strong contenders for 2016, and both could use a second baseman… maybe the reds would have to eat a couple million a year of BP’s contract to get a B+ prospect? If so, I’d do that in a heartbeat!

    • The Yankees have 2b Rob Refsnyder as an internal option.

      Toronto has Devon Travis as their starting 2b for 2016.

      Johnny Giavotella of the Angels is roughly replacement level and worse than Brandon Phillips, but also ~$12m cheaper.

      Finding a taker for Phillips – both in the sense of taking his contract and compelling him to waive his 10/5 rights – is tough. Expecting it to bring a notable return is even tougher. A guy with his ego isn’t going to risk a safe starting job (which he has with the Reds) for the possibility of getting benched by a new team.

      • Refsnyder is a guy I was hoping the Reds would somehow get at the trade deadline. His approach at the plate is something this lineup could use. All scouting reports I’ve seen though list him as an average-at-best defender at second with little speed or power. He also was never considered an elite, top-100 type, prospect and has less than 50 at-bats in the majors. With the Yankees likely looking to contend for the playoffs next year, them looking to upgrade at second wouldn’t be out of the question.

        Devon Travis is another young player that I wish was in the Red’s system. He has also never been a top-100 prospect though and has just over 200 career major-league at-bats. With Bautista, Tulowitzki, Encarnacion and Russel Martin all on the wrong side of 30 maybe they’d want a veteran instead of a relatively untested young player while the rest of their lineup is still intact.

        Not saying it would be easy to trade BP, just that depending on what salary the Reds are willing to eat and what they ask in return there could be teams interested.

  5. Great info Steve.Personally I would hope he agrees to be moved to a contender because it would be nice to see him maybe get a title and we need his money off the books.I did like what he did this year at the plate but I would expect we could get somebody else to play second that could get on base at a higher clip and provide at least average defense.Another one of the core players that made us relevant.Lets hope it works out for the best for both him and the Reds.

  6. The Royals might make sense as a destination for BP – Omar Infante was terrible and Zobrist is a free agent after this year. The Royals seem to focus on contact hitters and defense, so BP is a great fit for their organizational philosophy.

  7. With average production moving forward, we’d be getting real value for the $ we’re spending. So unless he completely falls off a cliff, he’s not part of the problem. More to the point, I don’t think trading BP (which would exacerbate the ongoing depth issues) makes sense even in a rebuilding scenario. I’ll take my chances with him way more than with Cozart (who’s due a substantial arbitration raise). I have a bit more faith that BP’s decline phase won’t be as steep as most 2B. I mean, he’s always been a SS masquerading as a 2B. His athletic floor is a lot higher than most.

    • Does he really have that strong of an arm to play SS? It has always seemed adequate, at best, to me. Usually a SS is characterized by a cannon for an arm.

      I think you have to look at the trade-off of keeping Phillips, though, rather than just his production (which very well could be net positive). If Price sticks to his guns and pencils in Cozart as the starting SS, that means Phillips blocks Suarez, who could very well turn into a 4 win player if he plays average defense (not out of the question, even with his bad debut this year) and shows the same power (20 hr over a full season) he showed this year.

    • Phillips will cost $10 million per year more than Cozart. I don’t think it’s wise to assume average production moving forward. He was average this year, so expect a decline of 20% even if he stays healthy.

      If the Reds are still trying to win in 2016 – no trades of Bruce, BP or Frazier, or maybe not even Chapman – then keeping BP could make sense. But if the Reds are rebuilding and BP could net the Reds a decent young player (plus the salary relief to invest elsewhere) now is the time to move him.

      • There’s also the other variable—-Alex Blandino. He’s coming fast and could very well be ready to take over by mid-season. On a rebuilding team, you don’t want him being blocked for a year and a half.

        • Good point.

        • Pump the brakes a bit on Blandino. I think you have Blandino’s arrival one year too soon, at least. He has yet to adjust to and hit AA pitching.
          Going into 2016 Blandino is about in the same boat as Winker was going into 2015, and Winker spent the entire year at AA. While I think Blandino will be a good ballplayer for the Reds, and it would be extra sweet if Winker and Blandino arrived at the same time, there is no need to rush Blandino ahead of time.

        • I certainly agree that Blandino probably needs a little more time at AA, but I do want to point out that the 22 year old put up a line of .235/.350/.374/.724 at AA where the Southern league Avg Age is 24 and Lg Avg slash line is .245/.323/.359/.681. Also note that going from A+ to AA last year his BB% increased from 9.1 to 13, his K% decreased from 16.4 to 15.2, and his BABIP plummeted from .338 to .261. So especially with him being a MI, he did quite well for himself after his promotion last year.

          Given that, I’d expect him to start out back at AA next season, but would not be surprised at all if he gets off to a hot start and finds himself in AAA in early May. So the best case scenario from there is that he continues raking at AA for May and June and the Reds find they need a MI. So yeah, mid season 2016 is imaginable, but unlikely, given it is the absolute best case scenario and doesn’t even take into account roster and Arb clock issues.

          On the other hand, a mid season 2017 arrival would be rather disappointing and would indicate he ran into a big bump in the road. I’d think ideally he’d spend a month or two in AA to start next season, and then finish the season out at AAA with a Sep call up and then be in line to start 2017 with the Reds given that they’ve opened a spot for him and that his defense is ready for prime time as well.

  8. I just don’t see Brandon Phillips leaving until at least around the 2016 ASB. He’s a fan favorite whom ownership and management will rate higher for trade than what he is, compounded with his 10-5 rights. I hope we trade him to someone whom we could net an above-average return for, but, as I said, I just don’t see Phillips traded til maybe the 2016 ASB. I don’t agree with the logic of the regime in charge, but if nothing has changed, and the insanity continues, why expect for a different outcome?

  9. It can certainly be argued that Phillips will be worth his salary according to the Average WAR/$ on the open market metric, but when you a team is in rebuilding mode, paying veteran free agents market-rate salaries doesn’t make sense. I think the Reds should definitely try to move him, so then the question is, what can they get?

    Because of his age and his two previous seasons, I have trouble believing that any team will see Phillips as a steal at $27M/2years. Because of his turnaround, I think that’s actually very close to what he would get on the free agent market, so why would a team give up a good prospect and pay him like a free agent? They’d probably just sign a free agent and keep their prospect. Most likely, if the Reds traded him and paid none of his salary, they wouldn’t get a very interesting player back in return.

    What I’d like to see them do is offer to pay a lot of his salary to get as many good prospects as they can. This is outside the box for sure, and I highly doubt ownership would go for it. But think about it: it’s very difficult for teams to sign top tier prospects. They can try to do it in the draft, but then they have a specified order, players they pick may decide to go to college, or back to college, and even if a drafted player signs they might not contribute to the team for 3+ years if ever. Signing international free agents can be like signing a prospect, but most of the time those guys are 16 years old. If they aren’t, recently they have been commanding salaries that aren’t that far from MLB free agents.

    But, in a Phillips trade, the Reds could essentially “sign” some prospects. Consider Phillips’ salary the money the Reds have for their signing bonuses. What would a team be willing to give up in minor leaguers if the Reds paid $10M? $20M? All $27M? Those are the types of players I want them to get. If the Reds could get 3 prospects in the top 100 for him, wouldn’t that be better for a rebuilding team than whatever free agents they could sign with $27M (essentially the equivalent of Phillips, but maybe at a different position)?

    • Given where the Reds have fallen to, they probably aren’t going to be able to sign any significant FA’s without grossly over paying until it is clear they have turned the corner and are on the (quick) rise again.

      This makes your proposal interesting even though I said above I wouldn’t pay to move BP. However who is in financial and baseball dire straits enough to give up the required prospects it would take for this course to make sense for the Reds to follow? Also, I think the guys coming to the Reds, at least a couple of them, would need to project as being MLB no later than 2017 which could be an issue.

      • Well, by paying a lot of money, I think you would certainly be targeting prospects in the higher minors.

        I don’t know if there are any teams out there that would go for this type of trade, but I don’t necessarily think it would have to be a cash strapped franchise, just a franchise in win-now mode. That team could potentially Phillips for free for two years, and that would allow them to sign another free agent.

        For that team, they are basically getting a two-for-one coupon for their free agent budget, but the price of that coupon is some of their better prospects.

        • It is a bit like what Atlanta did in taking Arroyo to get the prospect from Arizona along with him.

          In this case, the taker would have to be really desperate to have what at this point figures to be only an average defensive 2B and quite possibly an offensive liability. I am not sure it would make sense for them to take Phillips even for “free” and give up prospects versus just spending their money on an FA and keeping their prospects. Still, it is intriguing to consider.

        • As Jeremy mentioned it would give them the flexibility to use that money on other FA(s) which would be the most enticing part. I am not well informed enough to think of teams that would fit this scenario but it does make a lot of sense to me.

  10. While this article is about BP,it is obvious some of the core group has to go if we are in the re-build mode.I am a big fan of this core but if BP can bring some prospects and some salary relief then you have to pull the trigger.SULTAN OF SWAFF makes a great point on Baldino and one last thing is if he does fall of the cliff next year then you are stuck with his salary for little or no return.I just think you move a guy on the downside of his career before he falls and not take a chance because he will fall.

  11. Phillips is really in an interesting situation. His 2015 performance reflects a contrat that will not go belly up, so if the Reds keep him, that’s not a bad outcome. If the Reds can unload his contract, even without anything approaching a significant return, that’s not a bad outcome. If the Reds eat most or all of his contract and trade him for a significant prospect haul, that’s not a bad outcome.

    With Mesoraco coming back, If Phillips stays with the Reds, he will certainly be bumped back up to the top of the lineup and if he produces near his 2015 results, that’s not a bad situation for 2016.

    • Given the rebuild, I view the first option – keeping him – as a bad outcome. The odds he’ll contribute much at age 37 in 2017 are slim. Get something now for him, including salary relief and invest that elsewhere.

  12. There will be 2-3 teams with money that have a need for a second baseman. They will like it is only a 2 year commitment. Phillips will probably want a contract extension to waive his no trade rights. Whether Phillips cares about a chance for a championship will be a factor. The Reds will need to get a decent player(s) for Phillips or many fans will be unhappy. The Reds will not get a 5 star prospect but a good 3 star player with the potential to get better would be OK. Brandon will be an asset on a team with a good chance to go far in the post season. With the Reds he will help them lose 90 games.

  13. According to Ben Lindbergh and MLB Trade Rumors, the Cubs could be open to trading Schwarber. They posit that he’d make a good fit at DH in the AL, but the Cubs need pitching and the Cincy native would be a nice bat behind Votto in the lineup.

    Odds the Cubs would take an offer of anyone not named Winker or Stephenson? I’m thinking Chapman and a young starter or Chapman, Bruce, and a mid-level starter

    • I think every team would have interest in Chapman, but I have a hard time thinking the Cubs would trade Schwarber at all, and for anything but top prospects if they did.

      The most valuable asset in baseball is a top prospect that has success at the major league level. The one thing that gives GM’s pause in trading for prospects is that they might bust in the bigs. A prospect that has success at the major league level removes that last doubt, while still having 6 years of cost-restrained team control.

      So basically, in Schwarber the Cubs have one of the most valuable assets in baseball. Chapman and Winker I think could be close, but nothing less than top prospects will get it done.

  14. Also to consider impact to any potential/theorized BP trade, is the current market. Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, and Ben Zobrist are all free agents with various values to their game. Also, what Pirates may do with Neil Walker who is in his final year, does Pittsburgh consider him too expensive or keep him for a potential playoff run and lose him at year end for a comp pick.

    • The Pittsburgh situation is intriguing in regards to the Reds. Walker is projected to make just under $11M for 2016 and as stated on line for free agency after the season. How much would the Reds have to eat to send BP to the Pirates; and would he go there? Would the Reds make such a deal within the division with a team they have, shall we say, “had issues with” the last several seasons.

      • I don’t really understand why either team would want to make that deal. Walker is part of their team and I’m sure it would bother some of their other players if he was dealt. He’s also been better than Phillips over the past 3 years, and quite a few years younger. The Pirate’s dilemma is to figure out whether they want to pay an above average second baseman a lot of money. If they decide they do, I’m sure they would rather pay Walker than Phillips, so why would they want to acquire the latter.

        From the Reds perspective, the benefits of trading Phillips are to either save a bunch of money and/or get good prospects in return. The one thing they don’t care about is getting a player who helps them in 2016. Walker doesn’t save a lot of money, isn’t a prospect, and would only help in 2016.

        Plus, as you said, its a trade between division rivals. I’d put the odds of this one happening at 0%.

        • I wasn’t clear in what I saying what I meant. I didn’t see a Philips/ Walker trade as likely. I was thinking along the lines if the Pirates could get Phillips and half the money due him might they do that deal and then nontender Walker.

        • Jim-Jim, Neil Walker is a Pittsburgh area native. The fans in Pittsburgh love him. They aren’t going to trade him away or non-tender him, and then make a trade for the Evil Empire that is Brandon Phillips. The Pittsburgh fans and their TV announcers do not love them some BP. That would not go over well at all in Pittsburgh. That would be the 7th sign of the coming Apocalypse in Pittsburgh.

  15. “$27 million salary would allow the club to sign other free agents”

    Yea the Reds are great at signing free agents. I do not believe that the Reds could sign a better player than Phillips for the same mon80 ey.

    first of all, it is not $27.0 million but probably more like $18-20 million after the Reds provide salary relief.

    We had to overpay for Francisco Cordero, $44 mil for 4 years, the last significant FA that we have signed. Now if you are saying that freeing up $20 million will allow us to give Dexter Fowler $30 for 2 years then I am interested. The issue is that it will take 5 years and $80 million to bring in Fowler because of the Cincy has to overpay for free agents tax.

    Then in 2 years, we will be talking about how we dump $50 million in contracts for Fowler

  16. Chapman should bring us some good prospects and provide some salary relief.Paying him what we did and what he will demand to lose 98 games this year and probably 90 next year is not good business.Our core group will bring us prospects and salary relief which we need as we go forward if we truly believe we are in rebuild mode.Remember Walt said we will compete next year so I don’t see much of anything happening to be honest.

  17. I know it’s off topic, but I saw a MLB Rumors report that the cubs may trade Jorge Soler for pitching….any chance the reds give up a strong pitching prospect (Stevenson or DeSclafani for Soler?

    • Geez, let’s hope not. WJ has assembled plenty of hitters who strike out 30% of the time. The Reds do not need another stratospheric strike out hitter on the roster.

      • While I generally agree that we don’t want another K-King, sometimes the flip side of that coin (lots of HRs and doubles) is worth it. Value is value, regardless of where it comes from, and Soler has a pretty high upside.

        Contrast that with high K guys (Byrd, Boesch, Dominguez, etc) we’ve had recently who have almost ZERO upside. Ultimately, I think the problem is the FO doesn’t accurately weigh the various risk/reward scenarios when picking up new talent. (e.g. – Were Marquis and Gregg really expected to be more than slightly below-average, at best? If not, why pay them real money when you can pay a AAA pitcher league minimum for the same production?)

    • I like Soler a lot, but he put up a pretty disappointing season after a monster debut, and may be on the outside looking in for that reason. That means two things to me: 1) it’s a good time to trade for him because his value is down, and 2) I certainly wouldn’t give up either of the guys you mentioned.

      The Reds do have a bunch of pitching that I would deal though. Howard, Travieso, Lorenzen, Cingrani. Could be interesting.

      • I don’t WANT to give up either of those pitchers either, but Soler is young and fairly inexpensive. I really think you would have to give up two ,or even three, of the guys you mentioned to get him.

    • That same MLBTR piece said that Starlin Castro and Javier Baez would also be shopped.

      I think Castro could be the most attractive of the three to the Reds. He is signed thru 2019 at an annual average salary of under $10M (including buying out his option for 2020 @ $16M). If his option for 2020 is not bought out his average annual salary over 5 years thru 2020 goes to $10.6. 2016 will be his age 26 season so he is either 29 or 30 at end of the contract depending on the 2020 option being bought out or not bought out.

      Between 2B, SS, or LF the Reds certainly should be able to find as place for him. Given his age there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t return to his more typical OPS level if he is put in the line up at a position and not jacked around like he was in 2016. And that is not to mention that from what’s been seen of his personality in the past, he will like have a burr under his saddle and be out to prove a point if the Cubbies move him.

      • Fat finger correction……
        “not jacked around like he was in 2016 ” obviously should have been 2015

      • Starlin Castro? I would have no interest in Castro if the Reds had to give up anything of value. At best he’s a good hitter with a shaky glove. At worst he’s below replacement level, which he was two years ago.

        The Reds should be trying to develop guys that can play at that level or higher for way less money, and spend their larger dollars on real impact players.

        • I think Castro’s fielding is more aptly described as inconsistent than shaky. He has the skill set; he just needs to avoid careless errors. The same thing could have been said of Brandon Phillips a decade plus ago when he was about the same age Castro is now.

          Contractually, Castro is assured of being around longer than Frazier or Cozart. He could play 2B, 3B, SS or LF. He’d be there when the pitching comes arounds.

          You have a look see at him for a year or two and flip him if he doesn’t work out because unless his hitting goes totally south, that $10M AAS will be movable.

  18. Don’t forget Billy Hamilton is really a second baseman and could figure in the equation of Cozart and Suarez in the middle of the diamond. Of course if Cozart and Suarez could play SS and 2B, why not let Phillips play left field? That spot requires the least amount of arm of the outfield spots, and if we think BP has lost a step, don’t forget how much ground Billy covers. I agree, not many takers for BP and playing the outfield keeps him out of the way of a lot of injury opportunities that come from playing up the middle. He is the devil you know vs. the one you don’t, and frankly without big FA money or a monster trade, we have no better LF option in hand.

    • First, there’s no possible way that a perennial gold-glove candidate at 2nd is moving, or should move, to left field while he’s still a good defender. Think about it this way: he’s a slightly below average hitter compared to all hitters, and he’s a slightly above average defender at second compared to other second baseman. What you want for left field is exactly the opposite: someone who is above average with the bat that may be limited defensively.

      Second, moving Billy Hamilton to 2nd immediately kills almost all of his value, which he provides by running long distances in the outfield to get balls no one else can. Even if Billy could reasonably play infield still, and he made a lot of errors when he did in the minors so that’s a big if, his speed would be wasted in the infield. Infielders need to be quick, not fast. And more than being quick, they need to have great hands, strong arms, and accurate arms.

      Moving Phillips to left and Hamilton to second, besides blocking a middle infielder we want in the lineup (Suarez) makes the Reds worse in two ways.

  19. While I and others on here would be for trading him, my question with this has always been “Then, who? Who plays 2nd base?” Many got on the hot stick and said Negron. While Negron had the hot bat going, sure. But, then, like with many, what happened when he got back through the league, when the book got out on him? He started making outs. Not such an attractive choice.

    While BP was on his self-promotion during his contract year, while I enjoyed it, I knew what was going on. He was simply looking to make himself attractive to the fans and community and, thus, hopefully the Reds see that he was still a vital piece of the team and community and offer the extension. It’s about what you do out on the field.

    Now, BP did pick it back up some last season. However, it needs to still be there.

    In short, this was simply another bad contract the FO got us in. I don’t believe it was too bad a contract; Homer’s extension is way way worse. But, BP’s extension didn’t do us any favors.

    • Except there’s an obvious answer: Eugenio Suarez.

      Kris Negron was a 7th round pick, and never a prospect. He has a career .677 OPS in the minors, and didn’t see the big leagues until age 26. When he got hot for 150 ABs in 2014 (.810 OPS) it was nice to dream that he had maybe magically turned into a good player, but it was only ever a dream.

      Suarez was signed as an international free agent at 17, and was ranked in the Tigers top 10 prospects for two years before the Reds traded for him. He had a .778 OPS in the minors and made his debut in the majors at age 22.

      It’s easy to say, “oh, we’ve been down this road before, a young guy plays well and then the league figures him out.” But these two players really couldn’t be much further apart. There was no reason to think Negron could sustain his success from 2014, and every reason to think that Suarez is the real deal, at least with the bat.

      • Oh, definitely yes, we do have a plan B now. But, now, if we do a plan B, we have to be able to dispose of Plan A. That may be the hard part now. Or, what might be easier is trading off Suarez or Cozart.

    • What Negron brought to the table was exception defense and exception flexibility as a utility player capable of covering all IF & OF positions defensively. If Negron could contribute offensively at the major league level, you could rename him Ben Zobrist II and he would be a blazing hot commodity. While some fans grasped his brief and extremely SSS as indicative of future performance, most fans realistically saw no starting role for Negron at the major league level and hoped he could hit enough to fill a utility role at the major league level. The fact that Negron was the best option available in the Reds’ minor league system, speaks volumes to WJ’s roster management and roster structuring.

  20. Through mlb.TV I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to other teams’ broadcasts during games. I will say the vast majority of visiting announcer commentary regarding BP is positive. “Slick-fielding” “a machine” “a wizard” etc. I recall a specific Mets broadcast when the announcers literally spent 45 minutes gloating about BP after a nice play. Anyway, all I’m saying is that I believe his perceived value may be higher on the open market than actual. Perhaps we can find a non-analytic front office to buy into BP’s street cred? His 10/5 rights will be an issue though – in fact, this is the very scenario why 10/5 rights were collectively bargained into existence!

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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