In the world of negotiations, there is nothing that replaces leverage. And did Brandon Phillips gain leverage this week. Let’s recap. On Tuesday night, Phillips won a Gold Glove, his third in the last four years. Again, Phillips was deemed by Major League Baseball managers as the best fielding shortstop in the National League. That he was, was never in any doubt. This was merely confirmation.
On Wednesday night, those same managers voted Phillips the winner of the National League Silver Slugger award. That goes every year to the best hitter at his position. One night an award for being the best fielder, the next night an award for being the best hitter. What else is left? Being the best dressed at his position.
Phillips just had his option picked up by the Reds. He’ll make $12 million next season. But what Phillips wants (and what the Reds need) is a long term deal. With no player in the system to immediately fill that role, the Reds need Phillips. And why would they not want what he offers? That’s the problem, really. If they don’t, some other team certainly will. And, if allowed to get on the open market after next season, Phillips will certainly command a lot of attention and money.
Really, this shouldn’t be an issue. Phillips was asking for a long term deal at spring training this past season. The team wasn’t exactly proactive about it. In fact, Phillips was surprised when told by the media on the final home game of the season that the Reds had picked up his 2012 option, bringing him back to Cincinnati for at least one more year.
In the eight months since asking for a long term deal and winning baseball’s two top individual honors, Phillips stock, and asking price, has soared. Now, the Reds may be in a position where they can’t afford to keep Phillps past next season. That would be a crime.
Phillips is a fan favorite. He’s embraced social media (his tweets @DatDudeBP are often hilarious and rarely controversial). And Phillips is one of the ‘go to guys’ for the local media in the Reds club house. He ALWAYS has something funny or informative to say. I remember interviewing him immediately after Mike Leake pitched the Reds to a win, days after being arrested for shoplifting. Phillips quote, which made every newscast in town that night was “It was good to see Mike Leake steal a win for us tonight”. Phillips delivered it deadpan, then burst into laughter.
The Reds have some serious payroll issues. They are doling out $9.5 millon to Joey Votto next year, $17 million in 2013. Jay Bruce jumps to $5 million in 2012, part of his seven year $56 million dollar deal. Scott Rolen is due $8 million in 2012. And that’s only the tip of the payroll iceberg.
Keeping Phillips long term now has become problematic. It’s a lesson, really, in controlling the market. The Reds didn’t in the spring of 2011. They may pay dearly for it now. They’ll either have to up the ante to keep Phillips, or lose him to free agency. Either way, it’s not a good situation.