The Atlanta Braves acquired veteran second baseman Brandon Phillips in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports broke the news of a deal late Saturday evening. Cincinnati will pay the majority of Phillips’ $14 million salary while receiving only a minimal return. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Braves are responsible for just $1 million of Phillips’ 2017 salary, with the Reds on the hook for the remaining $13 million. In return, Atlanta sent pitchers Andrew McKirahan and Carlos Portuondo to the Reds to complete the deal, which was officially announced on Sunday afternoon.
“We are excited to add Brandon Phillips to our club,” said Braves general manager John Coppolella. “He is a Gold-Glove caliber defender who will also deepen our offensive lineup. We are thrilled to ‘welcome home’ Brandon to Atlanta, where he will play in front of his family and friends and many of his fans.”
Atlanta found itself in need of a second baseman after Sean Rodriguez was injured in a car crash late last month. He is reportedly set to undergo shoulder surgery and is expected to miss 3-5 months as a result. That led the two teams to rekindle trade talks involving Phillips, who has been reluctant to agree to a trade in the past. Rosenthal reports that a medical review of a minor injury to Phillips’ left hand, suffered late last season, appeared to be the only hold-up and proved to be a formality. Phillips is viewed as a one-year fix for the Braves and will be a free agent after the season.
Atlanta had pursued Phillips previously, only to have the veteran infielder invoke his 10-5 rights (10 years of service and five consecutive with the same team) to block a trade to the Braves earlier this winter. That marked the third time over the past two seasons that Phillips vetoed a potential trade, with the Nationals and Diamondbacks both having attempted to acquire his services last winter. Where it not for the injury to Rodriguez, this trade was unlikely to be revisited. Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer added that Atlanta was able to entice Phillips to waive his no-trade clause by making some minor changes to his deal. In a follow up statement, the club announced its intention to honor Phillips preexisting 12-team no-trade list and that he would receive an assignment bonus if dealt again. This is uncharted territory in many ways for the Braves, who have not offered no-trade clauses dating back to 1991. Coppolella issued the statement, which outlined the special provision for Phillips and added that the team has no intention of changing its standing policy as relates to no-trade clauses going forward.
“We will honor Brandon’s limited no-trade clause because we are bound to honor the contract provision just as we are bound to honor other contract terms whenever we trade for a player,” said Coppolella. “If Brandon would happen to be traded from the Braves to another team, he would receive a $500,000 assignment bonus.”
Phillips had played with the Reds since 2006, but is an Atlanta native. Those ties no doubt make this an exciting opportunity. He grew up in nearby Stone Mountain and still has a home in the metro-area. Phillips confirmed the deal and thanked his agency for clearing the necessary hurdles in a pair of tweets late Saturday.
Phillips is a three-time All-Star and four-time gold glove award winner over the course of a 15-year career that began with the Indians back in 2002. He batted .291/.320/.416 with 11 homers, 64 RBI and 14 steals last season, but his defense regressed. Phillips committed 14 errors – easily his most since 2006 – and finished with a career worst -2.3 UZR/150 and -7 DRS (defensive runs saved) per FanGraphs. This trade will allow more regular playing time for Phillips, who appeared unlikely to receive that amidst a crowded infield on the rebuilding Reds. He may not be an impact bat (99 OPS+ during Reds career), but should prove far more useful in Atlanta than he would have by staying put.
Atlanta did not give up much to get this deal done, sending left-hander Andrew McKirahan and Cuban right-hander Carlos Portuondo to Cincinnati. Neither figured to factor into Atlanta’s 2017 or future plans. McKirahan, 27, was slapped with a PED suspension in 2015, a season he finished with a 5.93 ERA in 27 appearances. He underwent his second Tommy John surgery last March. Portuondo, 29, was signed by Atlanta last February and made just 17 appearance in the minors in 2016. Phillips will also become teammates with Bartolo Colon, for whom he was traded as young shortstop back in 2002. That deal between the Expos and Indians saw Colon head to Montreal in exchange for Phillips, Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore, a stunning return for a three month rental.
Rodriguez was not initially expected to be sidelined following a recent two-car accident, but concern over his shoulder mounted over the past two weeks. He and his family were riding in an SUV when they were struck by a man driving a stolen police cruiser in Miami late last month. Rodriguez reportedly did not suffer major injury, while his wife and children were hospitalized. All are now recovering. The suspect driving the stolen vehicle died in the crash. Rodriguez, 31, signed a two-year deal with the Braves in November after a career year with the Pirates in which he batted .270 with 18 home runs in 300 at-bats. The Braves also have infielders Jace Peterson and Chase d’Arnaud who are capable of playing second base, with top prospect Ozzie Albies waiting in the wings.