Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Brandon Phillips: What Should Braves Fans Expect?

Brandon Phillips is going to be 36 this season with the Braves, and the second baseman that we acquired from the Cincinnati Reds hasn't really shown any signs of age over his last two seasons. In 2015 and 2016, Phillips hit over .290 avg, combined over .400 slugging with an average of 11.5 homers per season. For a second baseman? That's pretty strong numbers offensively. Also, the Braves are only paying him $1M, and the Reds are picking up the other $13M of his contract. Not a bad deal for a years worth of a player.

This move tells me the Braves are looking at 2017 as a competitive year, and they don't think their prospects are totally ready to take over this season. That's good and bad. It's good because with a more veteran squad, the chances of actually getting over .500 go up, as opposed to breaking in an entirely new team with a bunch of young rookies. The bad is that at some point you do have to break in those rookies, so it moves back the long-term competitive timeline even further.

Braves fans should look at Phillips in two ways. If he produces and things go well, he's a nice piece that you're paying minimum money for, and he'll help you play competitive ball before possibly becoming a trade-bait piece for a more competitive team. The second option is that he sucks, and the Braves unload him in favor of a younger player because the overall cost is only $1M plus the trade value of the prospects they gave up (which wasn't much, this was almost purely a roster dump move by the Reds).

My guess is that since Phillips is in a contract year, we're going to see him at his most motivated, and players in contract years typically post better numbers even when they are in their mid-30s. Given what we know about Phillips I would expect about a .265/.310/.400 slash line, and he may steal a few bases, while hitting about 5-10 homers over the course of a year. Also, I think Phillips speed is still good enough for him to leg out plenty of doubles if he can stay healthy.

Defense will be an issue for Phillips as he's seen a decline with his glove as he's aged. That's to be expected playing an up the middle spot in your mid-30s, because the range can only decline from here on out. Phillips was an error machine last season with the Reds as he committed 14 errors at second base, so I'm hoping he'll reduce that number with the Braves since it was his career worst. However, I can't expect to to get much better because like I said he's old.

But the Braves have had some good luck with old guys in the past (Aaron Harang, David Ross, Derreck Lee, Eric Hinske, etc.) so why not Brandon Phillips. Go team old farts!


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