Brandon Phillips isn’t a happy camper out in spring training camp in Goodyear, Arizona. That’s what he told me last week, while I got a first hand look at the 2012 Cincinnati Reds. His agent and Reds GM, Walt Jocketty apparently met earlier this week. And that’s good. Because Phillips needs a little hand holding right now. He’s miffed. The Reds signing relief pitcher, Sean Marshall to a long term deal was ‘a slap in my face’, Phillips told me.
“I’m happy for Sean Marshall, very happy for him,” Phillips continued. “He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, in the bullpen. He’s a great guy. But for them (the Reds management) to sign him before signin’ me, I feel that was a slap in my face.”
I asked Phillips twice if he saw himself in a Cincinnati Reds uniform after this season. “Do I think so? No,” he told me. “I feel like if they wanted things to be done by now, I feel like it’s be done before spring training.”
Phillips, as I’m sure you know, is the most fan friendly of all Reds players. He was one of the first major league ballplayers to embrace twitter and now has a following that is rapidly approaching 225,000. He constantly runs contests, with a winner last year getting an all expense paid trip to Goodyear to watch spring training games. Phillips is also a regular on the Reds annual winter caravan and an attendee without fail at Redsfest.
But the problem is always the same problem: money. Phillips is due to make $12.5 million dollars this year. Though he hasn’t said publicly what kind of money he’s looking for, only that he wants a fair deal, it’s widely believed the starting point is the contract Dan Uggla signed with the the Braves, that pays him an annual salary of $13 million. Phillips is a decidedly better defensive second baseman than Uggla and much better over all player. Phillips will turn 31 in June. And age, along with money, could be a deterrent to a long term deal.
Still, how the Reds could think about parting from their most popular player is something that seems to be beyond the realm of reality. But reality may be such that they’ll have to. If so, the Reds won’t just be losing the best defensive second baseman in the game. They’ll also be losing one of their strongest connections to their fan base.