How Brandon Phillips Makes the Washington Nationals a Little Better
It was easy to hate on Brandon Phillips after his subpar 2014 season in which he hit .266/.306/.372 with just 8 homers and 51 RBI in 499 plate appearances.
At 33 years old, it seemed as though Dat Dude was largely done.
But 2015 was a nice bounceback season for the long time Cincinnati second baseman, and now it appears as if he will be heading to the Washington Nationals to be their everyday second sacker.
In 623 plate appearances last season, Phillips was definitely better, slashing .294/.328/.395 with 12 homers, 70 RBI, 69 runs scored and 23 stolen bases. He lowered his strikeout rate to a career-best 10.9% (his career average is 13.4%) and continued to play above average defense at the position.
Of course, he was not the run producer he was back in 2013 when he hit 18 homers and knocked in 103. And his weighted runs created (wRC+) of 96 last season means he was still a below league-average run producer. But his batting average and on-base percentage both bounced back nicely, and in adding Phillips, the Nats get themselves an everyday option at second base.
Last year, they relied on Danny Espinosa to play the majority of games at second (118 games, 412 plate appearances ) and the results weren't pretty. He batted .240/.311/.409 with 13 homers and 21 doubles with a wRC+ of 94. Phillips' nERD of 0.45, meaning a lineup full of Phillips would score 0.45 runs a game more than a league average player, was far better than Espinosa's -0.16. Espinosa was worse than league average in terms of that metric.
Phillips also comes to Washington on a reasonable contract. He's owed $27 million over the next two seasons, and it's believed the two sides will work on a deal that could see the Reds picking up some of that cash.
And while some of Phillips' stats may not look that great on the surface, he was still one of the more valuable second basemen in the National League last year.
He ranked third among all NL second sackers with a 2.6 fWAR. His 12 homers were fifth, his .328 on-base percentage, 70 RBIs and .294 batting average were third, and his 23 stolen bases were tied for second. Phillips also finished tied for second among qualified NL second basemen in Defensive Runs Saved with five.
Phillips has been available for a while, but the team may have been even more willing after acquiring his replacement in the Todd Frazier deal this week, 21-year-old Jose Peraza. He will immediately jump into a starting role after making his Major League debut last August with the Dodgers, batting .293/.316/.378 with 33 stolen bases in Triple-A. He has hit .280 or better in every minor league stop and is known as a top-notch base stealer.
Before the season, Peraza was rated as the 54th-best prospect by Baseball America, and he also plays solid defense. It's also possible Peraza could play some shortstop for Cincinnati as well.
Of course, the Reds have been trying to deal Phillips for a while now, especially after 2014's rough season. However, his 10-5 no-trade rights certainly added a wrinkle into any discussions the Reds may have had with other teams. But it appears as if Phillips wants to go to the Nationals, and a deal could be in place soon.
If it goes through, the Nats will have landed themselves a productive player for a relatively cheap price. That is provided they get 2015 Phillips and not the 2014 version.