Why The Braves Won the Phillips Trade
A few weeks ago, reports surfaced that the Braves and Reds had a deal in place that would send Brandon Phillips to Atlanta, but the Cincinnati second baseman blocked the trade. Last week, in a rather surprising turn of events, the Braves announced they had acquired Phillips in exchange for minor league pitchers Andrew Mckirahan and Carlos Portunodo. At the surface, it may be confusing as to why the Braves, a young rebuilding team would acquire a past-his-prime second baseman with only one year left on his contract, but make no mistake, the Braves won this trade. Big time.
There is no part of this trade that does not make sense from Atlanta’s perspective. After the unfortunate shoulder injury Sean Rodriguez experienced that could force him to miss the entire season, the only other second base option the Braves had was utility man Jace Peterson, who has posted an uninspired 79 wRC+. With all eyes on the Braves in the new stadium, they could not afford to continue to run out below average AAAA players to energize the fans. The acquisition of Brandon Phillips gives the Braves another hometown player, big time name, and fan favorite that will excite fans and fill the seats far more than a platoon of Jace Peterson and Chase d’Arnaud would have.
The price the Braves paid for Phillips’ services is almost nonexistent. The two prospects the Braves sent were far from sniffing any Braves top prospect lists, much less the major leagues. On top of that, The Reds made the deal possible by paying 14 of the 15 Million Phillips is due this year. Even if Phillips doesn’t outperform most of the projections that have him just below 1 WAR for the next season, the Braves have a real bargain on their hands.
The only real issue fans could raise about this deal is concern around him blocking top second base prospect Ozzie Albies from getting time at the major league level, which many Braves executives appear to believe will be sooner rather than later. Braves GM John Coppolella shot down those concerns when he stated that Albies would not be blocked by anybody, and insisted Albies would play a large role in the Braves’ future.
Finally, the real value of this trade that you will not be able to find on any Baseball Reference or Fangraphs stats sheet is the leadership Phillips will bring to a team that is leaning so heavily on young players. In previous seasons, the Braves lacked the core of leaders to compliment the young players making their way to the majors, and that showed in their play. Even if he concedes the second base position to Ozzie Albies, he will still be able to serve as a mentor to Dansby Swanson, Albies, and any other young players that will inevitably step onto the field at Sun Trust Park this season.
Be happy Braves fans, the Braves pulled off yet another stellar deal.