Brandon Phillips' contract is the gift that keeps on giving

Posted by Scott Wuerz on December 12, 2013 

Brandon Phillips likes to think that he's a player the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans fear.

But the biggest thing I fear about Phillips is that the Cincinnati Reds will be able to find a sucker to take the loud-mouthed second baseman -- and his ridiculous contract -- off their hands.

I'm not saying that Phillips is a bad player. He's hit averaged .279 with 18 homers over the last four seasons and is an excellent defender at second base. But he's 32 years old and is starting to display signs of slowing down. Both his slugging and on-base percentages have been in steady decline over the last three years, something that can be expected from a player who has moved into this thirties.

In fact, we ought to be able to expect more of the same in coming years.

Factor his age and production with the his four years and $50 million left on the contract that former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty gave Phillips in 2012 and the Reds' small market status and it's not a pretty picture.

Reds fans like to believe that Phillips is an elite Major League Baseball player who possesses enormous trade value. But the fact that Cincinnati offered Phillips to the Yankees straight up for surplus outfielder Brett Gardner -- and New York flatly said no, according to CBS reports -- indicates otherwise. The Yankees, who recently signed former Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran former Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury already had Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano and Gardener in their outfield stable. They seem like they would be desperate, even in the American League with the designated hitter, to get rid of an outfielder or two. 

Gardner is by far the least accomplished of those fly chasers and least attractive as a DH with a career .268 batting average and no more than nine homers in a single season.

The best thing that could happen for National League Central competitors would be for the Reds to be forced to keep Phillips who can throw public temper tantrums at reporters and create discord in the Cincinnati clubhouse while sucking up more than a tenth of the team payroll until he's 37 years old.

Cincinnati has passed out lucrative deals to franchise player Joey Votto (10 years, $225 million starting in 2014) while Jay Bruce is in the middle of a seven-year deal that will increase dramatically in coming years. He made $7.5 million in 2013 but will make $10 million in 2014, $12 million in 2015 and $12.5 million in 2016. Johnny Cueto goes from $7.4 million last year to $10 million in 2014.

It will be tough to keep a supporting cast on the field beyond 2014 if the Reds don't get some payroll relief because Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Mat Latos and others are going to command huge raises if Cincinnati wants them to stick around. 

So, Yankees, don't do anything silly. You're better off without him. And St. Louis fans like Phillips just where he is.

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