John Fay wrote this column last month. In light of reports Brandon Phillips has been traded to Atlanta, it explains why Fay thinks that move is necessary:
CINCINNATI -- The Reds have been busily hiring statistical analysts over the last two seasons, and the department has grown include to nine full-time employees.
I’m not privy to their reports.
But I can say this with certainty: Anyone who has crunched the numbers would advise the club to move on from Brandon Phillips.
The team has tried to do that. Phillips has definitely rejected two trades and reportedly rejected a third, but it might be time to move on whether the club can trade Phillips or not.
I’ve spelled out the reasons before:
a) The club is in the rebuilding mode.
b) Phillips will not be around when the club is competitive again.
c) Jose Peraza needs to play every day.
Peraza is a better choice at second right now than Phillips simply based on their performance.
Phillips turns 36 in June. His play, according to the numbers those analysts look at, has declined since 2011.
His Wins Above Replacement – or WAR, a baseball stat designed to show a player’s overall value -- has gone from 5.4 to 3.4 to 2.5 to 1.6 to 2.7 to 0.9, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Fangraphs has his WAR as 4.7, 4.0, 1.8, 1.7, 3.5 and finally 0.8 over that same period.
His defense, Phillips’ calling card, has dropped over the last two seasons. Fangraphs rated him at 13.4 in 2011. His rating has since plummeted to 10.6, 10.9, 9.9, 4.1 and -0.4. That’s right -- the numbers say Phillips is now a below-average defensive second baseman.
Phillips' slash line (average, on-base and slugging percentage) was .291/.320/.416 last tyear. Peraza’s was .324/.353/.411. If he were playing in the NFL, he’d be Peraza’s backup, but Major League Baseball does not operate that way.
The scary thing is that players don’t often have a bounce-back year at Phillips’ age -- at least, not since the advent of drug testing.
What will the Reds do? It’s hard to say. It’s the toughest call of Dick Williams’ short tenure as president of baseball operations, although ultimately it’s CEO Bob Castellini’s decision.
I called Williams for this column. He didn’t return my call. That’s understandable given what Phillips said about the reported trade to Atlanta.
It was widely reported that the Reds and Braves agreed to a trade, and Phillips rejected it as a player with so-called 5-and-10 rights. That means he has 10 years in the majors with at least five with the same team.
Phillips did the same thing with trades to Washington and Arizona in previous years.
MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds said Phillips told him that he was never approached about a trade. Phillips tweeted:
There's "3" sides to EVERY story.
There's one side, there's the other.
And then there's the TRUTH ~ #Monstar
— Brandon Phillips (@DatDudeBP) January 6, 2017
The Reds owe Phillips $14 million for this season. He’d get every cent of that if the team released him. While that’s obviously a factor, they were supposedly going to pay the bulk of that to facilitate the Atlanta trade.
If the Reds bring Phillips back, it will almost certainly be in a reduced role. Peraza’s got to play.
That won’t sit well with Phillips, but I don’t think he will be a major disruption in the clubhouse. Phillips has never wielded great influence in there. He keeps to himself, mostly. His locker has always been a partition and six pitchers’ lockers away from the rest of the position players.
Then there’s the matter of Phillips’ popularity with the fans. He’s had a great career with the Reds. He’s been a joy to watch. And he’s always been the most accommodating player as far as interaction.
The Reds don’t want to further alienate the fan base.
But Peraza is what Phillips was when the Reds got him: a young, dynamic, athletic player with lots of potential.
The wisest move -- the analytically sound move -- is to move on from Phillips to Peraza.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.