After recently becoming more concerned about the lingering effects a Jan. 28 auto accident had on Sean Rodriguez’s left shoulder, the Braves acted quickly to acquire Brandon Phillips from the Reds in exchange for two Minor League pitchers.
The Braves announced the trade on Sunday afternoon, about 48 hours after they learned Rodriguez might miss a significant portion of the upcoming season.
That prompted the Braves to revisit previous talks with the Reds, who had spent more than a year attempting to trade Phillips. The 15-year veteran had used his trade-veto privilege to nix at least three other deals, including one that would have brought him to Atlanta in November.
Because the two teams had previously talked this winter, they were able to quickly complete the deal. The Reds will pay all but $1 million of the $14 million Phillips is owed as he enters the final year of his contract. In exchange, they will receive left-hander Andrew McKirahan and right-hander Carlos Portuondo, Minor League relievers who might have been released by the Braves by the end of Spring Training.
“We feel like we’ve gotten a really good player in Brandon Phillips,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “He solidifies our team and our lineup. We’re very excited to give Brandon a chance to come back to his hometown and to be a part of our lineup and our infield this year. This deal made a lot of sense for us.”
Phillips will now have a chance to serve as the Braves’ primary second baseman and play in front of many friends and family members. The 35-year-old, three-time All-Star graduated from suburban Atlanta’s Redan High School.
Phillips vetoed trades to the Nationals and D-backs last year, as well as at least one potential deal with the Braves in November, a short time before the Braves gave Rodriguez a two-year deal with the expectation that he would serve as their primary second baseman. That deal was completed to allow Ozzie Albies — the No. 2 second baseman in the Minors, according to MLBPipeline.com — to develop until he’s Major League ready.
As recently as Friday morning, the Braves were anticipating Rodriguez would be ready at the start of Spring Training. Rodriguez did not require hospitalization after he and his family were involved in a car crash that resulted in the death of a man who had stolen a police car in Miami two weeks ago. But lingering discomfort in Rodriguez’s shoulder led to surgery, and the Braves decided to revive their pursuit of Phillips.
The Braves have never given players a no-trade clause, and Phillips lost his full-trade veto privilege when this deal was made. But the Braves have to honor his contract’s limited no-trade clause — Phillips can block a trade to 12 teams — and they have guaranteed he would receive a $500,000 bonus if he is traded this year.
“Sean is going to be out for a while,” Coppolella said. “We’re not sure for how long. Our focus is on Sean and his family. Whenever he returns is secondary to the his health and his family’s health. Our primary concern is for their well being.”
Before finalizing this trade, the Braves had some concerns about a left hand injury Phillips suffered during the final week of last season. But they opted to take a chance on the possibility he will remain healthy.
Phillips batted .291 with 11 homers and a .736 OPS last year. The four-time Gold Glove Award winner and three-time All-Star finished the season strong, hitting .344 with an .844 OPS over his final 63 games.
While Phillips may serve as Atlanta’s primary second baseman, Jace Peterson will also see time at the position. Peterson’s ability to play each of the infield and outfield positions will compensate for some of the versatility that the Braves would lose with Rodriguez on the shelf.
Unlikely to experience a significant change in fantasy value as a result of this deal, the veteran Phillips remains a late-round mixed-league option given his ability to contribute double-digit totals in homers and swipes. In the bigger picture, the three-time All-Star will help lengthen a fairly formidable lineup with a handful of mixed-league assets — such as Ender Inciarte, Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp and Dansby Swanson.
The trade’s biggest fantasy winner appears to be former Atlanta farmhand Jose Peraza, who will likely assume Cincy’s newly vacant second-base spot. After batting .324 with 21 steals across 256 plate appearances with the Reds last season, the 22-year-old speedster should be taken near the 100th pick in 2017 mixed-league drafts.