CHICAGO – The Braves traded veteran Brandon Phillips to the Angels for journeyman minor league catcher Tony Sanchez, a deal that Phillips had to approve and did so only after talking with his mother, brother and other family members for hours while the Braves were playing the Cubs.
Phillips, 36, has lived most of his life in Stone Mountain outside Atlanta and said leaving the Braves was harder than being traded from his longtime Reds team six months ago just before spring training.
But his family convinced him that going to the Angels to pursue a World Series ring was the right call and that he should approve the trade.
“I didn’t want to leave my family; it’s fun playing for the Braves,” he said. “Hopefully I can come back next year or whatever’s in the future for me. It’s really tough to leave the team that I grew up watching. This decision is much harder than leaving the Reds, honestly. Just being around the family and stuff like that. So my family made this decision for me. I’m going to go out there and do what I’ve been doing. My dream is to get a ring and that’s what I have a chance to really do now.”
Phillips had a partial no-trade clause that included 12 teams, one of which was the Angels. The three-time former All-Star second baseman had to approve any trade to any team on the list, and he did just before the midnight deadline for teams to acquire players if they’re to be eligible for postseason rosters.
“The Angels called us today about Brandon,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “We didn’t call them. We felt obligated to share this with Brandon because it means a chance to go to the playoffs and a trade assignment bonus.”
The Angels agreed to pay the $500,000 assignment bonus that Phillips had negotiated into his contract when he agreed to the trade from the Reds to the Braves.
The Reds were responsible for $13 million of Phillips’ $14 million salary this season in the final year of his contract. He’ll be a free agent this winter and Coppolella said the Braves “will strongly consider” him as an option this winter.
The Braves will use the last month of the season to further evaluate rookies Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz at third base, the position Phillips had played since being supplanted at second base at the beginning of August when the Braves called up second-base prospect Ozzie Albies.
Sanchez, 29, hit .272 with four homers and a .729 OPS in 70 games this season at Triple-A Salt Lake, in his ninth minor league season.
He’s hit .259 with four homers and a .681 OPS in 155 plate appearances in 51 major league games over parts of three seasons, most recently with Pittsburgh in 2015.
He was scratched from the lineup shortly before the Braves’ series opener against the Cubs on Thursday night in Chicago, and trade rumors immediately began to swirl.
On Wednesday, Phillips got his 2,000th career hit in a win against the Phillies, becoming the 12th active major leaguer to reach that standard. He has a 14-game hitting streak and has hit .291 with 39 extra-base hits (11 homers), 52 RBIs and a .753 OPS in 120 games for the Braves, his highest OPS since he posted an .810 OPS in 2011 and won a Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting second baseman in the National League.
“Brandon did a tremendous job for us all year,” Coppolella said.
The Braves acquired him in a trade just before spring training from the Reds, who were looking to go with younger players while the Braves needed a proven second baseman after offseason signee Sean Rodriguez was injured in a late-January car crash and had shoulder surgery.
The four-time former Gold Glove second baseman switched positions at the beginning of August after the Braves called up Albies and asked Phillips if he’d agree to play third base, since they intended to play Albies there on a regular basis the rest of the season.
A day later, Phillips became the starting third baseman despite never playing the position in his major league career. Phillips has not just played adequately at third base since the move, he’s played exceptionally well.
The Angels are expected to use him at second base, where they’ve not gotten good production from Kaleb Cowart and had looked to upgrade the position for the stretch drive and postseason.
The Angels will only owe about $200,000, the remaining portion of the $1 million not covered by the Reds, plus the $500,000 assignment bonus, which the Braves would’ve had to pay if the Angels hadn’t agreed to as part of the trade.