McAuley: Braves Notebook, What’s Up With Second Base?

No homecoming for Brandon Phillips…

The big Hot Stove news item of the week appears to have expired back in November. That’s when Brandon Phillips reportedly rejected a trade that would have sent him to Atlanta. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote about the failed deal on Thursday. It was nixed because Phillips invoked his 10-5 rights (10 years of service and five consecutive with the same team) to block the trade to the Braves. Phillips has one year and $14 million remaining on the extension he signed in 2012 and Cincinnati would have covered a portion of that salary in order to facilitate a trade. Phillips would not have fetched much in the way of prospects, with possible names likely among the players Atlanta has traded away in subsequent deals or cut loose this winter. The Braves went on to sign free-agent infielder Sean Rodriguez, which makes any chance of revisiting the deal remote at best despite claims to the contrary.

It’s a curious turn of events on several fronts. Phillips, 35, has been with the Reds since 2006, but grew up in nearby Stone Mountain and still lives in Atlanta. It stood to reason that the opportunity to play closer to home may have appealed to him, but other factors appear to have led to his decision to pass on that opportunity. This marked the third time the Reds had lined up a trade for their second baseman only to have it vetoed by Phillips. Cincinnati had previously attempted to trade him to both the Nationals and Diamondbacks.

Phillips batted .291/.320/.416 with 11 homers, 64 RBI and 14 steals last season, but his defense bottomed out with 14 errors – easily his most since 2006 – and a career worst -2.3 UZR/150 per FanGraphs. In the midst of a rebuild, the Reds are looking to get younger and create some playing time for former Braves prospect Jose Peraza among others. This could affect Phillips’ playing time in 2017.

 

Brian Dozier (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Brian Dozier (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Whither Brian Dozier?

Rumors persist that the Braves could indeed be in the mix for Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. He has drawn interest from multiple clubs, including the Dodgers. As discussed last week, Atlanta did not seem to be at the forefront of talks, but remains at least an outside possibility should the right deal come together. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press trotted out a rumor of a Dozier to Atlanta possibility, before walking it back on Friday morning.

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It’s hard to imagine that a pair of young arms who have struggled to establish themselves at the big league level is all it would take to land an All-Star second baseman. While Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair both have upside, Minnesota would likely require more in return. Dozier, 29, is under team control for two more seasons at a total of $15 million. He belted a career-high 42 home runs and posted a 6.5 WAR during a career-year in 2016. Given his team-friendly salary, the Twins could very well hold onto him and let the demand build. As an aside, Dozier is also one of the better defensive second basemen in the game, making him a far better player than former Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla, whose name seems to be top of mind for many fans when discussing Dozier’s hitting exploits. The Uggla trade is a cautionary tale, sure, but that deal went south thanks in large part to a multi-year extension and his rapid, almost inexplicable decline. Make no mistake, these are two entirely different people, if not players.

 

Sean Rodriguez (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Sean Rodriguez (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Stick with what you have…

The Braves could very well opt to go with their in-house options and look to the newly-signed Rodriguez and holdover Jace Peterson at the keystone position, while awaiting the debut of top prospect Ozzie Albies later this summer. Rodriguez could potentially get at-bats at third base as well, where Adonis Garcia is the incumbent. Though he showed improvement in the second half, Garcia is not a big factor in Atlanta’s long term plans. On the other hand, Albies’ arrival has been anticipated since last summer and may well have happened were it not for the broken elbow he suffered in September during the minor league playoffs. Albies is expected to be ready for spring training. Braves pitchers and catchers report on February 14 and the first full squad workout is on February 18.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves and MLB for 92-9 The Game. You can subscribe to the “Around The Big Leagues” podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. Follow Grant on Twitter.

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