Posted on February 12, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After the Atlanta Braves reportedly completed a trade with the Cincinnati Reds for second baseman Brandon Phillips earlier this offseason, only to have Phillips veto the trade, the Braves have apparently worked out another trade for Phillips that is set to go through. Multiple outlets are reporting Sunday morning that the Braves and Reds have agreed to a trade involving Phillips.
Neither team has announced the deal, which may not become official until Monday. However, Phillips reportedly underwent a physical for the Braves on Saturday, implying that he has agreed to waive his no-trade clause. Cincinnati will pay all but $1 million of the $14 million Phillips will make this season. The commissioner’s office must sign off on atrade involving that much money for it to become official.
The Reds are set to receive pitching prospects Andrew McKirahan and Carlos Portuondo in the deal. McKirahan, a right-handed reliever, posted a 5.93 ERA with the Braves in 2015, but missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery. Portuondo is a 29-year old righty who has just one year of minor league experience after defecting from Cuba.
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Atlanta’s interest in Phillips was renewed by recent reports that utility man Sean Rodriguez will miss the next three to five months after suffering a shoulder injury in a recent car accident. Rodriguez was in line to be the team’s primary second baseman this season, although he would have shared time with Jace Peterson. With Rodriguez most likely out until at least June, Atlanta had a vacancy to fill at second base, as the Braves are waiting for prospect Ozzie Albies, who should be major league ready by this time next year, if not sooner.
Phillips, a Georgia native, will now step in as that placeholder for Albies in the final year of his contract. Despite some decline in his performance in recent years, the 35-year old Phillips hit .291 with a .746 OPS last season, so he appears to have plenty left in the tank. He will undoubtedly be an upgrade at second base over Peterson and Chase d’Arnaud, who likely would have split time there wtih Rodriguez out.
Based on the moves the Braves have made this offseason, the team believes it can compete for a playoff spot in 2017, and the acquisition of Phillips is further confirmation of that belief. In addition to being an upgrade over their internal options at second base, Phillips should serve as a positive influence for his new middle-infield partner, Dansby Swanson, who’s one of the top prospects in baseball. The presence of Phillips will allow Rodriguez to fill a super-utility role when he returns later in the season.
As for the Reds, they were motivated to trade Phillips in order to free up space in their middle infield for youngsters Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera. Pereza is a natural shortstop, although he may be forced to play second base with Zack Cozart still with the Reds as their primary shortstop. Peraza has also played the outfield, although he’s unlikely to see significant time there unless the Reds favor him over Billy Hamilton.
The Reds appear open to trading Cozart, who is one year away from free agency, as they view Peraza and Herrera as their middle infield of the future. Nevertheless, with Phillips out of the picture, there should be enough playing time available for both Peraza and Herrera this season. Herrera saw some major league time with the Mets in 2014 and 2015, and while the Reds didn’t call him up last September after acquiring him in the Jay Bruce trade, he has little left to prove at the minor league level.
Both teams appear to getting what they want out of this trade. The Reds don’t receive much in terms of prospects or salary relief, but they do clear space in their infield for Peraza and Herrera, who appear to be key pieces for the future. Meanwhile, the Braves get a player who can help them compete in 2017, while also helping them create a bridge to the future middle infield partnership of Swanson and Albies.