The Braves are bringing home a former All-Star second baseman, Brandon Phillips, after acquiring the Atlanta-area native from the Reds in a Sunday trade for two minor league pitchers who weren’t highly projected prospects.
So eager were the rebuilding Reds to trade Phillips, 35, that they agreed to pay $13 million of his $14 million salary in 2017, a person familiar with the situation said.
The Braves’ renewed pursuit of Phillips, who is from Stone Mountain, came after it was learned that utility man Sean Rodriguez was injured more severely than initially thought in a January 28 car crash and will require shoulder surgery.
“(Phillips) is a Gold-Glove caliber defender who will also deepen our offensive lineup,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said of the right-handed hitter, who batted .291 with 34 doubles, 11 homers and a .320 on-base percentage in 141 games in 2016. “We are thrilled to welcome home Brandon to Atlanta, where he will play in front of his family and friends and many of his fans.”
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Left-hander Andrew McKirahan, 27, and Cuban right-hander Carlos Portupndo, 29, are the minor league pitchers headed to the Reds in the trade. The Braves’ top-rated farm system is deep in pitching and those two weren’t considered prospects or expected to compete for spots on the opening day roster.
The Braves wouldn’t comment on the status of Rodriguez, other than to offer their support for the wellbeing and recovery of the player and his family. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported he would miss three to five months, but another person familiar with the situation said there was a chance Rodriguez could miss the entire season.
Rodriguez, before his injury, would’ve been the primary second baseman to start the season while prospect Ozzie Albies continued his development at Triple-A. Phillips is now expected to handle second-base duties, with Jace Peterson also getting some starts at the position and serving in a utility role.
Phillips will be the primary second baseman, at least until Albies is ready, perhaps at some point during the 2017 season. A three-time former All-Star and four-time former Gold Glove winner, Phillips also won a Silver Slugger award in 2010 when he set career-highs in average (.300), OBP (.353) and doubles (38).
He was a “30-30” player in 2007 when he set career highs in homers (30) and stolen bases (32).
The Reds tried for the past year to trade Phillips, who reportedly rejected deals to at least two teams — the Nationals and Diamondbacks — last season and also vetoed a trade to Atlanta in November.
Phillips, 35, had no-trade rights as a player with at least 10 years of service, including five with his current team. Now that he’s with the Braves, his contract reverts to its original partial no-trade clause, which lists 12 teams he can’t be traded to.
The Braves don’t issue no-trade clauses and haven’t since 1991, when John Schuerholz became general manager. They make no exceptions and didn’t give no-trade clauses to Hall of Fame pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz or future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones.
However, all teams are obligated to honor the contracts of players they trade for, so the Braves will honor Phillips’ 12-team no-trade clause and also agreed to pay a $500,000 assignment bonus if they trade him in 2017.
He had nagging injuries in 2016, but nothing to prevent Phillips from passing a physical exam that was required before the trade was finalized and announced Sunday afternoon.
Phillips will be a fill-in for at least the first part of the season for Rodriguez, injured in a serious accident last month that required his wife and two of their children to be hospitalized. His wife sustained a broken tibia and femur and had wrist surgery.
On his Twitter account, Phillips, who has kept a home in Atlanta, hinted that a trade to was already done when he posted at 10:47 p.m. Saturday: “What a day lol! #BackInDaTrap #ATLien”
A graduate of Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Phillips has a .275 career average, 197 home runs, 198 stolen bases and a .320 OBP in 15 seasons with Cleveland and Cincinnati, the past 11 spent with the Reds. Phillips and the Reds had a relationship that had become strained, to say the least. He’s entering the final season of a six-year, $72.5 million contract.
The Braves would have given up more in the proposed November deal for Phillips, who was expendable for the rebuilding Reds despite showing again last season he could still be quite productive offensively; his .736 OPS was his highest since his .750 in 2012, when Phillips finished 13th in the MVP balloting.
Coincidentally, former Braves infield prospect Jose Peraza is one of the younger Reds who stands to get more playing time now that Phillips has been traded. The Reds wanted to turn the page and play younger players as they rebuild.
After Phillips vetoed the trade to the Braves in November, the Braves moved on and signed Rodriguez soon after, seemingly ending the pursuit of the Reds second baseman. But that situation changed with the Rodriguez injury.