The Rays designated outfielder Brett Phillips for assignment yesterday upon acquiring outfielder Jose Siri from the Astros, and while a team normally has a week to trade a player following a DFA, that’s not the case with today’s 6pm ET deadline looming. Phillips seems likely to change hands today, as he’s already drawing interest from multiple clubs. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox have reached out to the Rays, while Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that the Phillies have also shown interest as they look to add some defense in center. Brendan Kuty of NJ.com adds the Yankees as another interested club.
It’s been a dismal season at the plate for Phillips, who’s hitting just .147/.225/.250 through 208 plate appearances and has fanned at a whopping 40.9% rate. He’s never been one to provide much with the bat, but this year’s struggles still represent a pronounced departure from last year’s .206/.300/.427 output and the career .201/.291/.381 Phillips carried into the season.
For all of Phillips’ struggles with the bat, he’s long been one of the game’s premier defenders. He’s not only capable of playing all three outfield spots but is a plus defender across the board, evidenced by career marks of 38 Defensive Runs Saved, 31 Outs Above Average and a 25.3 Ultimate Zone Rating in just 2100 innings of outfield work in his career. The left-handed-hitting Phillips also has displayed plenty of pop and been an excellent base stealer prior to the season. In 675 prior plate appearances, he’d popped 23 homers and gone 29-for-34 in stolen base attempts.
Phillips is earning $1.4MM this season and is controllable for another two years via arbitration, although this year’s struggles at the plate make him an obvious non-tender candidate. Still, as a backup outfielder with power, speed and an elite glove, he could offer plenty of value to a contender off the bench in the season’s final couple months. He’s out of minor league options, so he’ll need to stick on the roster of whatever club potentially acquires him.
Speculatively, there are plenty of other potential fits even beyond the three teams reported to have inquired. The Marlins and Astros are both known to be looking for potential center field upgrades, and Phillips is of course a former Astros farmhand. The Twins’ outfield is banged up beyond recognition at the moment, and Phillips would give them a low-cost stopgap with elite defense to help shore things up. The Blue Jays could see Phillips as a more appealing version of the same skill set that current fourth outfielder Bradley Zimmer offers.
Lack of offensive value notwithstanding, the defense, speed and past power production could very well land Phillips with another team at some point today.