DEC. 19, 2:31pm: Phillips wanted an extension as a condition of his approval of the trade, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. As Heyman notes, it’s not surprising the Nationals balked — Phillips is already owed $27MM over the next two seasons, already a significant amount given his age and his somewhat uneven recent offensive performances. Phillips is arguably close to being worth the money he’s due, but asking to be extended even further than his age-35 season was asking a lot.
12:35pm: The Nationals are “moving on” from Phillips and will pursue other options, perhaps Howie Kendrick or a trade, Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Daniel Murphy is perhaps another possibility, although a lower-priority one. In any case, while Rosenthal notes the possibility that talks between the Nationals and Reds could resurface at some point, a trade between the two clubs does not seem likely right now.
DEC. 18, 4:11pm: The Reds are expected to give Phillips some form of incentives to waive his no-trade rights, but there’s been no progress made on those talks to this point, according to James Wagner of the Washington Post (links to Twitter).
1:43pm: Sources tell MLB.com’s Bill Ladson that it’s very likely at this point that Phillips will waive his no-trade protection and allow a deal to be finalized.
9:59am: The Nationals are waiting to hear whether the Reds will be able to work out an arrangement with Phillips to get him to waive his no-trade clause, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. There are still “lots of hurdles” remaining, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.
DEC. 17: The Nationals and Reds “apparently” have an agreement on a trade that would send second baseman Brandon Phillips from Cincinnati to D.C., according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (links to Twitter). However, Phillips has yet to waive the full no-trade protection that comes with his 10-and-5 rights (that is, 10 years of Major League service, the past five of which have come with one team). Talks with Phillips himself are in progress, per Rosenthal, who notes that Phillips accepted deferrals in his contract with the Reds under the assumption that he would remain in Cincinnati for the duration of the deal. Some kind of financial compensation might be necessary in order to get Phillips to OK the deal, Rosenthal adds.
Phillips, 34, would give the Nationals the second base upgrade they’ve reportedly been seeking. His addition would allow the Nats to open the season with Danny Espinosa at shortstop, thereby giving top prospect Trea Turner some additional minor league development time. While acquiring Phillips wouldn’t add the balance Washington has been pursuing — he’d be yet another right-handed mix added to a group that includes Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael A. Taylor — he would provide a steady defensive presence that enjoyed an offensive rebound in many ways in 2015.
The 2014 season was perhaps Phillips’ worst since establishing himself as a regular in the Major Leagues, as he batted just .266/.306/.372. His eight homers that season were the fewest he’d ever posted in a full big league campaign. The 2015 season looked more like the Phillips to which we’ve become accustomed over the life of his Cincinnati tenure, however, as his bat bounced back with a .294/.328/.395 batting line, 12 homers and 23 steals — a significant improvement from the uncharacteristic two stolen bases he recorded in 2014. His 10.9 percent strikeout rate was also the lowest of his career. Perennially regarded as a strong defender — Phillips does have four Gold Glove Awards — he recorded positive marks in both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating for the ninth consecutive season in 2015.
On the negative side of things, Phillips will turn 35 next June and has indeed seen those defensive ratings begin to deteriorate, to some extent. Never known as a patient hitter, Phillips’ 4.3 percent walk rate in 2015 was the worst of his career, and if his batting average dips back toward its career mark of .273 this season, Phillips could struggle to muster a .300 OBP. And, while his contract certainly isn’t outlandish — he’s owed a reasonable enough $13MM in 2016 and $14MM in 2017 — he also wouldn’t come cheaply to a Nationals club that has just under $100MM committed to 10 players for the 2016 season, plus a projected $31.2MM owed to another six.
That figure, of course, is before considering any type of financial compensation that may need to go his way. For example, the Nats agreed to exercise Jonathan Papelbon’s club option three months in advance in order to get the closer to waive his own no-trade rights. While Phillips doesn’t have an option in his contract that can be exercised in similar fashion, the Nats could restructure his contract in some fashion in order to more amply compensate him over the two seasons he’d spend with the team in the event of a trade.