The Diamondbacks and Reds have discussed the framework of a trade that would send second baseman Brandon Phillips from Cincinnati to Arizona in exchange for fellow infielder Aaron Hill, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The talks aren’t said to have reached a serious stage at this time, he adds, and other pieces might well be required to create a match.
The motivation for each team in the swap seems relatively clear. With the Reds embarking on a rebuilding phase, it makes sense that the team would have interest in shedding the remaining two years and $27MM on Phillips’ contract. However, given that Phillips has been more good than great over the past couple of seasons — .282/.318/.385 with 20 homers, 25 steals — he probably doesn’t come with loads of trade value. His glove still grades out as a plus, though, and he had a much better baserunning season in 2015, both of which are points in Cincinnati’s favor in trade talks.
For the Diamondbacks, the remaining one year and $12MM on Hill’s contract is likely perceived as a sunk cost. Hill was brilliant in Arizona from 2011-13, but over the past two seasons, the veteran has batted a combined .238/.290/.359. Swapping out Hill for a comparable annual salary over a longer term would give Arizona an improved roster in 2016 and 2017, whereas the Reds would be shedding about $15MM in total salary and opening a roster spot for the 2017 season. Even in 2016, a trade of Phillips could open second base for intriguing young infielder Eugenio Suarez, who provided more than enough offense in 2015 to earn an audition as a regular player. However, with Zack Cozart coming back at shortstop in 2016, Suarez will need to shift to a new position.
There are, of course, some road blocks to consider. Firstly, the D-Backs would be taking on a good bit of salary in the deal. While I noted that they have the long-term flexibility to do so when previewing their offseason, Rosenthal says that the $14MM owed to Phillips in 2017 is at least somewhat of an obstacle in talks. Also, it has to be determined whether Phillips would even approve a trade. The 34-year-old has 10-and-5 rights (10 years of MLB service, with the five or more most recent years coming on the same team) thereby granting him the power to veto any trades. It’s now known whether Phillips would waive his no-trade rights, though the concept of playing on a team that is widely known to be rebuilding isn’t necessarily appealing to an aging veteran with playoff aspirations.
Rosenthal notes that the talks could eventually expand to include some form of financial compensation or exchange of additional players to balance out the swap. It’s worth noting, then, that former D-Backs GM Kevin Towers is a special assistant in the Reds’ front office, so he has an expansive knowledge of the players in Arizona’s system.
While there’s nothing to suggest that a trade of this nature is close, making the move could allow the D-Backs more flexibility to include a young infielder such as Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed, Jake Lamb or Brandon Drury in a trade for starting pitching help or a closer — both of which have been said to be priorities for Arizona GM Dave Stewart this offseason.