The Washington Nationals are reportedly “moving on” from Brandon Phillips after initially agreeing on a trade to acquire the Cincinnati Reds’ second baseman, pending his approval, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the 34-year-old Phillips asked for the Nationals to extend him if he agreed to the trade. However, with his diminishing talents, age, and money already owed ($27 million over the next two years), the Nationals balked at the offer.
Rosenthal adds that it’s not impossible for both teams to re-engage on a Philips trade, but it appears unlikely.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 19, 2015
The 14-year veteran Phillips is coming off a nice bounceback season in 2015 as he hit.294 with 12 HR and 70 RBI in 148 games. He also stole 23 bases — which is the most he’s stolen in a season since 2009. It was a stark improvement over his 2014 campaign, which was Phillips’ worst full season since becoming a starter in 2006. He hit.266 with a career-low eight HR and 51 RBI through 121 games in 2014.
Despite his age, Phillips’ defensive abilities are still solid as FanGraphs rated his Defensive Runs Saved (+5) and UZR/150 (+2.1) positively. However, the four-time Gold Glove award winner’s defensive metrics are nonetheless on a decline. The Defensive Runs Saved were his third-worst total since 2007 and the UZR/150 was the worst of his career.
In 2014, amid the Cincinnati media questioning Phillips’ skill-set, the three-time All-Star vented his frustrations. Phillips questioned how his skills could be deteriorating despite his productive season, per MLB
“I don’t have nothing to say to those cats. They know what the deal is. They just talk about how I was falling off and declining. How the [expletive] am I declining? I had 100… ribbies [RBI] last year. And I did that with one… hand. And I won a Gold Glove? So how the [expletive] am I declining? Come on, man.”
Despite any sort of decline, Phillips would have represented an upgrade for the Nationals’ infield. Also, slotting Phillips at second base would’ve enabled the team to shift Danny Espinoza to shortstop and give top prospect Trea Turner more time to develop in the minor leagues. With that in mind, the Reds and Nationals “apparently” agreed on a trade this past Thursday as Rosenthal reported.
However, the deal required Phillips’ approval as he has 10-and-5 rights (10 seasons in the Majors with the last five coming with the same team). There was speculation that Phillips would indeed accept the trade, especially with the chance to reunite with former manager Dusty Baker.
The Nationals signed Baker to manage the club in early November, per The Washington Post. Phillips increased the speculation, sending out a tweet that suggested he was switching area codes.
For now, the talks appear dead, but there are a few other options the Nationals could pursue to play second base. Rosenthal mentioned free agents Howie Kendrick and Daniel Murphy as two players the Nationals could target.
Kendrick, 32, spent last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers after spending his first nine years with the Los Angeles Angels. In 117 games, Kendrick hit.295 with nine HR and 54 RBI. All three of those categories are close to Kendrick’s career averages as he’s been one of the most consistent hitters at the keystone this past decade.
Murphy. 30, is coming off another productive season as the longtime New York Mets player looks for a new home. The 2015 postseason hero’s time with the Mets unofficially came to an end when the Mets acquired second baseman Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team also signed Asdrubal Cabrera, filling out the infield. However, Rosenthal said that Murphy is a “lower-priority” to the Nationals.
[Featured Image by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images]