Trading Brandon Phillips was a deal the Reds had to make, John Fay says

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It was a deal the Reds had to make.

Not because the prospects they got for Brandon Phillips were so good. When the prospects are 29 and 27, they’re not really even prospects.

The Reds had to make the deal because they had to move on from Brandon Phillips. He had a great career with the club. He’ll make the team Hall of Fame as soon as he’s eligible.

That made the trade tough, but, again, the Reds had to do it.

“We all collectively thought that this was the best move for the future of the organization,” president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. “It’s tough when you see good-bye to popular player like that, especially one who has been with you a long time and it is tenured and made such connection to the fans.

“We’re not trying to win a popularity contest. We’re trying to do collectively what is best for the longer-term future.”

But Phillips was not going to be around when the Reds are competitive again, and he was going to keep a player who is a major part of the future from playing. Jose Peraza can play every day now. He’s ready for that.

Having Peraza in the super utility role would do nothing for his overall development. This way, the Reds get to determine if Peraza is a middle infielder in the future.

While this trade is about the future, I think it helps the Reds for this year. Peraza is a better offensive player than Phillips at this point. Peraza’s slash line was .324/.352/.411. Phillips’ was .291/.320/.416.

Phillips’ WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was 31st among major league second baseman.

Phillips turns 36 in June. His WAR has gone from 5.4 to 3.4 to 2.5 to 1.6 to 2.7 to 0.9 over the last six years, according baseball-reference.com.

He may have a revival in Atlanta, but the numbers suggest otherwise.

It’s hard to say why Phillips was willing to accept the trade this time after rejecting trades three other times. My guess is the Reds gave him a nudge by telling him his playing was going to be significantly reduced.

Williams did not anoint Peraza the second baseman. Zack Cozart, Peraza and Dilson Herrera will get a bulk of the time in spring.

“That’s a logical conclusion,” he said. “We still want to see Herrera. The good thing about Peraza is he plays both of those middle  infield spots.”

It’s hard to say why Phillips was willing to accept the trade this time after rejecting trades three other times. My guess is Reds gave him a nudge by telling him his playing was going to be significantly reduced.

“I don’t want to speak for Brandon on that,” Williams said. “I want him to be able to answer the question. This fall we did have something put together and he determined it wasn’t a fit at the time.

“What changed in the offseason? I know that Bryan and I were honest with him about what to expect coming into this year. I mean that in very positive way. We talked about how we thought everybody could
help the club and where the roles would be and we use spring training to determine a lot of things for season.”

“I don’t know if that played into his thinking. In the past, he was reluctant to leave Cincinnati. I do that his thinking changed. His representatives let us know if there was the right opportunity, he’d open to it.”

That Atlanta is his hometown helps as well.

As a Red, Phillips was as good defensively at second base as any player in history, in my opinion. He played hard, except for occasional lapses. He was great in the community.

It’s a shame it had to end this way. But when you’re rebuilding, you have to part with players who were very much a part of the history. We saw it with Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman.

“These trades — we’ve had a handful of them the last few years — we traded off players who had been with us a while —they’re tough,” Williams said. “Brandon is a guy who had a great career with the Reds on and off the field.

“. . . It’s never easy.”

The Reds waited too long on most of them. In Phillips’ case, they probably should have made the move before he got his 5-and-10 rights.

That’s easy to say in retrospect. Phillips reached 10 years of service time in 2014. The trade deadline of that year was the time to move him.

The players the Reds got -- Carlos Portuondo and Andrew McKirahan -- won’t help this year and probably never will. Here’s a hint: Neither is on the 40-man roster; neither is invited to big league camp.

“I would consider them minor league depth,” Williams said.

But that wasn’t the point of the trade. They had to make it to move on from Phillips.

That’s a little sad for fans, but the Reds started the move toward the future a long time ago. This is just another move they had to make.

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at johnfayman@aol.com.

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