CINCINNATI -- While the timing of former Reds manager Dusty Baker's departure was a shock, the dismissal itself certainly wasn't. And it appears the Reds are looking for a completely revamped attitude in the clubhouse with several published reports saying that All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips is on the trading block.
Phillips and Baker were definitely akin to a father-son relationship, so the news of shopping Phillips with the man that stuck up for him most out doesn't come as a huge shock.
But why trade a guy who just knocked in more than 100 RBIs and stops everything short of a pellet around second base?
Looking at the rest of Phillips' numbers in 2013 doesn't put him among the elite offensive second baseman with a mediocre on-base percentage of .310, a lower-end batting average of .261 and 98 strikeouts, the second highest season total of his career. Even his fielding percentage, normally at Gold Glove levels, dipped this year to .987, the second-lowest in his career as a Reds second baseman and ninth among NL second basemen.
Dumping Phillips based off a dip in some of those numbers in just one year can only be described as rash. Even if you do scoff at the numbers, Phillips' timely hitting was what kept the Reds in contention the first half of the year. When new management comes in, those RBI opportunities are likely to dip as Phillips is more fit for a No. 2 spot than the clean-up position Baker had him in most of 2013, so an argument could be made the Reds need more of a Mark Grudzielanek type second baseman who gets on-base a lot and hits doubles every once in a while, especially with the Reds lead-off spot up in the air for 2014.
All that said, it's probably not the numbers that are driving a decision among Reds upper management to ship the 32-year-old elsewhere.
It could be that Phillips' very uninhibited personality is one that caught too many sparks this season, and with no father figure to defend him in Baker, the flames may not be as welcome in the Reds clubhouse. There were the public blow ups in the locker room, specifically aimed at Reds beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans and a comment made about Phillips' on-base percentage (which he finished sixth among qualifying National League second basemen). Then there was this quote in Cincinnati Magazine about Phillips' disdain for his contract negotiations:
“To this day, I’m still hurt. Well, I don’t wanna say hurt. I’ll say scarred. I’m still scarred. It just sucks that it happened. For (Bob Castellini) to sign somebody for $200 million, there must be a new vegetable or fruit coming out that we don’t know about. For him to do something like that and tell me they didn’t have any more money, that’s a lie. But what can I do? I just feel like it was a slap in my face.”
Phillips agreed in April 2012 to a six-year, $72.5 million extension to keep him in a Cincinnati Reds uniform through 2017, just days after the Reds signed Joey Votto to a 10-year, $200 million extension.
Then there was the "choke" comment made minutes after the Reds bowed out of the postseason in their Wild Card loss to the Pirates, which didn't sit well with teammates. Phillips later apologized, but it was more fuel for the No. 4 fire.
And that's just the stuff we know about. Phillips' personality likely rubs a few folks the wrong way in the locker room, and could deter that cohesiveness that the Reds are looking for.
With that kind of bottled up animosity, and a team looking to rebuild its attitude to get it over the postseason hump, the timing may be right to let Cincinnati's biggest smile go. Not to mention the Reds are going to have to fork over some big cash to their over-performing pitching staff, whose contracts have already expired or are expiring in the coming years (Latos, Bailey, Leake, Marshall, LeCure, Hoover), and they would be wise to free up the money sooner rather than later.
As for the fans, Phillips is typically well-liked, but has a reputation of being a bit too flashy, and many times not serious enough when the situation calls for it.
A Phillips-Dan Uggla trade with the Atlanta Braves would certainly make sense. Phillips, originally from Georgia, would be right at home, and the Braves would be spending the same amount of money at their second base position for a huge upgrade. The Reds, in turn, would be unloading the enormous amount of cash they invested in Phillips, and could shop around for cheaper second baseman, or give Uggla a shot at redemption in a different lineup (He's an ideal low-lineup power hitter if Bruce and Ludwick combine for some type of 4-5 next year, particularly in GABP's short field).
Otherwise, only the Yankees and Dodgers could pick up Phillips' big price tag with no issues, and a spot in New York could be perfect for the animated All-Star with Robinson Cano negotiations in flux. But the Dodgers' new signing in Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero shuts Phillips out, unless the Reds were going to pick up Guerrero's steep contract in a trade for Phillips (which would be a tough sell for LA).
Then again, would it really be that bad to have a DatDudeBP with a career .271 average, 20 home runs and 83 RBIs per year in Cincinnati for a little longer?
Do you think it's time for Phillips to go? Or do you want to see him play out his career in Cincinnati? Leave a comment in the section below.