The Nationals are known to be eyeing second base upgrades, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that they’re currently discussing a potential Brandon Phillips trade with the Reds. As a player with 10+ years of Major League service time and five straight with his most recent club, Phillips has the ability to veto any trade, so he would need to approve of the deal. Cincinnati would receive prospects in the deal that is currently being discussed, sources tell Rosenthal.
Phillips, 34, had a strong season with the Reds in 2015, hitting .294/.328/.395 with a dozen homers and 23 stolen bases. The 23 steals were his highest single-season total since 2009, and Phillips’ 10.9 percent strikeout rate was easily the lowest of his career. Additionally, he continued to post strong defensive marks (+2.0 UZR, +5 DRS) in spite of his relatively advanced age.
Of course, the Nationals already have a quality defensive option at second base: Danny Espinosa. The Nats, though, reportedly would like to add a left-handed bat to complement the switch-hitting Espinosa at second base, given his history of troubles against right-handed pitching. Phillips, obviously, doesn’t meet that criteria, but he could provide an everyday option instead, freeing up Espinosa for a utility role and allowing him to start the season at shortstop while prospect Trea Turner gets some additional development time at the Triple-A level.
Phillips has a reasonable $27MM owed to him in total over the next two seasons ($13MM in 2016 and $14MM in 2017), so the Nats certainly have the financial means to add him to the fold, assuming he signs off on a potential trade. There are certainly reasons to believe that Phillips would be open to the idea; the Nationals are assuredly a better bet to contend in 2016 than the rebuilding Reds, and a trade would reunite Phillips with recently hired manager Dusty Baker — his skipper with the Reds from 2008-13.
From the Reds’ point of view, the trade would clear playing time for promising young infielder Eugenio Suarez, who impressed while filling in for the injured Zack Cozart over the final few months of the season. Cozart, though, will be healthy in 2016, leaving Suarez without a regular playing spot as things currently stand in Cincinnati.