“I didn’t say no to [the] trade,” Phillips told Mark Bowman of MLB.com. “I didn’t really know what was going on. When I heard about it, I was like, ’For real, why didn’t you guys make that happen?’ That’s why I didn’t want to say anything or to call anybody out. I never said I didn’t want to play for the Atlanta Braves. I’m here now, and I’m very happy.”
Regardless of the cause, the Braves temporarily abandoned their goal of trading for Phillips, which led to their signing of Sean Rodriguez in free agency at the end of November. That disappointed Phillips, who had his “head down a little bit” afterward, but the shoulder injury Rodriguez suffered in a car crash last month put Phillips back on Atlanta’s radar. The Braves ultimately picked up the 35-year-old Phillips last Sunday for two minor league pitchers who lack big league potential, and they’ll take on just $1MM of the remaining $14MM on his contract. While Bowman notes there are “some concerns” regarding the left hand injury Phillips suffered late last season, the Braves simply couldn’t pass on Phillips at such a minimal price.
For Phillips’ part, he was “jumping for joy” when the move became official. Phillips had to waive his 10-and-5 rights in order to make it happen, and it surely helped the Braves’ cause that he’s a Georgia native who owns a home near their new stadium, SunTrust Park. “It was like I signed my first check or something,” said the three-time All-Star.
“I wanted it to happen a long time ago, but things happen,” added Phillips, who had been a Red since 2006. “There are different sides. I never thought it would happen, but I told my agent, ’You’ve got to make this happen.’ I miss Cincinnati. That’s always home. But Atlanta is my home, home.”
If healthy, Phillips believes he “can be one of the best players in this game” – a level he hasn’t reached in several years. More realistically, Phillips should be a satisfactory stopgap in 2017 for an improving Atlanta club which is anticipating high-end prospect Ozzie Albies’ forthcoming major league debut. Albies, 20, reached the Triple-A level as a teenager last season and now ranks between 11th and 26th on the top 100 prospects lists of Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law and MLB.com.