The Cincinnati Reds are rebuilding and when a team does that it means moving on without their aging superstar who is often beloved and deeply connected to the city.
After toiling in Cleveland for the first four years of his career, Brandon Phillips arrived in Cincy and for the next 11 years made three All-star games, won four Gold Glove awards as one of the premier second basemen and unforgettable swag masters in Major League Baseball.
The Reds franchise has been stuck in a precipitous fall since the departure of Dusty Baker in 2013 after a 90-win season and opening round playoff loss. Cincy is 208-278 since Bryan Price took over and attempted to replace Baker’s incomparable baseball savvy and experience.
As Cincy has struggled, Phillips has aged and the club feels that despite his productivity ( his .736 OPS was his highest since his .750 in 2012, when Phillips finished 13th in the MVP balloting.) his defense has regressed, he doesn’t take enough walks and at age 35, his better days are behind him. He’s also become more vocal in the clubhouse and reports say Reds management had to break off the relationship to start fresh, develop a new culture and a new leadership voice.
(Photo Credit: NESN.com)
Cincy traded Phillips who has 1,863 career hits and almost 200 homers and 200 steals, to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, opening the way for Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera to get more playing time as the team's rebuilding project continues.
It’s the end of an era in Cincinnati. Phillips was a wildly popular player and one of the rare African-American middle infielders in baseball. Brothers at shortstop and second base are almost non-existent these days.
“I think we all collectively thought this was the best move for the future of the organization,” Reds general manager Dick Williams said Sunday. “It’s tough when you say goodbye to a popular player like that, especially one that’s been with you a long time and his tenure has made such a connection to the fans. We’re not trying to win a popularity contest. We’re just trying to do what we collectively feel is the best for the longer term future of the organization.”
So eager were the Reds to ship BP out of Ohio, that they agreed to pay $13 million of his $14 million salary in 2017, according to reports.
Neither team is expected to make much noise this season, but bringing a Black Knight to Atlanta is not a bad look. It’s not like his offensive skills are deteriorating. He hit .291 with 11 homers, 34 doubles and stole 14 bases with 160 hits in 141 games in 2016. Dat Dude can still whip it and Atlanta knows it. Plus, Phillips is from Stone Mountain, Georgia, so his MLB journey is 360 and eventually retiring as an Atlanta Brave would only be right.
“(Phillips) is a Gold-Glove caliber defender who will also deepen our offensive lineup,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “We are thrilled to welcome home Brandon to Atlanta, where he will play in front of his family and friends and many of his fans.”