Sep 28, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips (4) in the dugout during the third inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
It was fairly easy to envision the Royals offseason shopping list. The Royals needed at least one, maybe two, starting pitchers, a second baseman and a right fielder. If they were able to locate a middle of the order bat in that list as well, it would be a bonus. While it was expected that the Royals may end up bargain hunting at second, potentially bringing in a decent veteran player for a year or two, Kansas City may have set their sights upon a bigger catch, someone that could provide that middle of the order production from second. That player – Brandon Phillips.
According to a tweet by former Reds and Nationals General Manager, and current ESPN baseball analyst Jim Bowden, not only are the Royals discussing bringing back Ervin Santana and a Carlos Beltran reunion, but they have also discussed trading for Phillips. While the interest in Beltran and Santana are hardly surprising, the potential availability of Phillips may seem quite unexpected.
Yet, Phillips may have set the stage for his potential departure from Cincinnati during the past season. He complained publicly about the contract extension that teammate Joey Votto received, calling it a “slap in the face.” He then went off on a reporter who criticized the Reds moving Phillips up into the second spot in the lineup twice, going on a profanity laced tirade when reporters went in to interview then manager Dusty Baker. It could be that the Reds are tired of Phillips act, and are looking to part with someone they consider a malcontent.
Is that truly the type of player that the Royals would want to introduce into a young clubhouse? Phillips has had his moments of controversy previously, most famously when he referred to the Cardinals as “little bitches” in 2010. However, Phillips is a player who not only plays hard, but will also play hurt, willing to do what it takes to be on the field and help his team win. While Phillips is no longer the 20/20 player of his youth, he has hit exactly 18 home runs in each of his last four seasons, while providing excellent offense from second base. Even though Phillips had a down year in 2013 by his standards, his .261/.310/.396 batting line with 18 homers is still light years ahead of the .243/.296/.304 line that the Royals got from second base last year.
Another facet of Phillips game, which seemingly goes without notice, is his defensive capability. Phillips has won four Gold Gloves, including three in the past four seasons. He has consistently ranked among the league leaders in most defensive categories at second, and even ranks 17th all time in fielding percentage. Pairing Phillips with Alcides Escobar in the middle of the infield could be a major benefit to the pitching staff.
Brandon Phillips may not have been a player that was on the radar for the Royals until recently, but he could solidify not just second base, but the middle of the Royals lineup. It will be interesting to see what happens with Phillips now in Cincinnati.