April 24, 2014

Brandon Phillips Trade Continues to Haunt Cleveland

When the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds lock up for interleague play, it is supposed to be the “Battle of Ohio.”  And while it’s always an entertaining subplot, the focus of many fans tends to turn to Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips – the former second-round selection whom the Indians traded for, only to ship him to the Reds prior to the 2006 season.

Per usual, Phillips did not disappoint this past weekend, going 5-for-12 with two runs scored and an RBI.  Increasing his average by 11 points over the last week of play, Phillips seems to have any Indians-Reds match-ups circled on his calendar for retribution purposes.  In fact, Indians fans should actually feel good that Phillips only scored two runs with an RBI in this series as the Gold Glover tends to wreak havoc on the Wahoos.

Through his career, the 29-year-old Phillips* has amassed an OPS of .930 against his former team.  If we take the Reds out of the equation, only the New York Mets have felt more pain at the hands of Phillips through his nine years in the Major Leagues. 

In 29 games against Cleveland, Phillips has gone 40-113 (.354) with five home runs, six doubles, 24 runs scored and 20 RBI – a runs scored-to-games played ratio that is nearly 1:1.  We can call this the “I was traded for Jeff Stevens” factor.

Whether it was just poor timing or a lack of opportunity, Phillips’ improvement after leaving Cleveland has been well-documented.  After producing an OPS total of .553 in his only real season with the Indians (112 games in 2003), Phillips would be given little chance to prove his worth, suiting up in exactly 12 total games in 2004 and 2005.  Following the trade to Cincinnati, the then-25-year old produced OPS totals of .751 and .816 in 2006 and 2007, respectively.  2007 was arguably Phillips best season as  a professional where he would provide the Reds with 30 home runs and 32 stolen bases. 

Phillips (with nine home runs on the season) is looking for his fourth straight season of at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.  Despite the slower start from a home run standpoint, he is currently hitting an OPS clip of .847 – it would be his career-high if it is sustatined – thanks to an on-base percentage of .370 and a vastly improved walk rate (2010 K:BB of .650 compared to a career mark of .390).  

Beyond hitting, Phillips has provided the Reds with excellent glove work.  Winning a Gold Glove award in 2008, the former-Indian has committed no more than nine errors at second base since 2007.  This season, his fielding percentage is .994 with a UZR/150 of 5.1.  For a comparison of this UZR figure (which, mind you, is a bit lower than the last few seasons) to his Cleveland peers, I suggest going here

Phillips has played in 149, 158, 141, and 153 games, respectively, since being acquired by the Reds – a decent model of consistency at the second base position.

Since trading Phillips in 2006, the following players have played second base for the Indians:

Ronnie Belliard
Joe Inglett
Hector Luna
Lou Merloni
Aaron Boone
Ramon Vazquez
Josh Barfield
Asdrubal Cabrera
Chris Gomez
Luis Rivas
Mike Rouse
Jamey Carroll
Jorge Velandia
Tony Graffanino
Luis Valbuena
Jason Donald
Mark Grudzielanek
Anderson Hernandez
Jayson Nix

Nineteen different players have played second base in five seasons; not exactly the same model of consistency at the second base position.  The last member of the Indians to have a UZR figure above 3.0? Asdrubal Cabrera in 2008 – now he’s Cleveland’s shortstop.  Ronnie Belliard achieved a 5.6 back in 2005, so there’s always that.

But does the future hold anything brighter?  One can only hope…

Clippers second baseman Josh Rodriguez has been hitting the ball very well through 2010, providing Columbus with a slash line of .341/.429/.602 (1.031 OPS).  Unfortunately, the Indians front office opted to demote Rodriguez to Double-A Akron to make room for the recently optioned Luis Valbuena.  Arguably not the best way to reward a player for his hard work and successful results.

2008′s third-round draft selection Cord Phelps has hit .333/.396/.521 (.917 OPS) in 13 games with Columbus as a second baseman.  Last year’s second-round selection Jason Kipnis has played all of 2010 at second base and has hit .306/.393/.492 (OPS of .885) with nine home runs and 38 RBI between Class-A Kinston and Double-A Akron.

*Phillips turns 29-years old today

  • 5haun

    If only he didn’t get a big ego and rub the front office/Wedge the wrong way…

  • mgbode

    great DP by Phillips yesterday. full on flyinging in the air after touching 2B and the throw is crisp and on target.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    If Wedge and the front office didn’t want to deal with egos, they were in the wrong buisness.

  • REEPJP

    Can’t completely blame the organization for this one…..Phillips wasn’t performing for us while he was here….I will say however, that this is probably one of the main reasons it took so long for them to waive/designate Marte before he cleared waivers.

    If I remember correctly, Phillips was actually the key piece of the Bartolo trade…just so happens the Cliff and Grady panned out pretty well also

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Jon

    But was Jeff Stevens arrested for doing 72 in a 35 this weekend with his mother in the car?

    So Brandon Phillips begot Jeff Stevens, who begot Mark DeRosa, who begot Chris Perez. I wish everyone would remember this tree rather than just the last two players. Sure we got a steal in Perez (IMHO), but we got rooked on the other deals. (Jeff Stevens is having a pretty good year with the Cubs’ bullpen this season–2.81 ERA.)

  • 5haun

    @Scott – I agree. From what I remember he wasn’t even that bad. I read that one year he showed up to spring training with a wristband that said “The Franchise” or something like that, and was saying that he was the future of the franchise. CLEARLY HIS EGO WAS OUT OF CONTROL AND WE COULDN’T GIVE HIM A CHANCE BEFORE HE RAN OUT OF OPTIONS.

  • Stinkfist

    I just cant get over how good of player the prospects from the Bartolo deal turned out to be (especially how ticked it made Cleveland fans at the time). Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Grady Sizemore. If they were all healthy, and all still on the Indians, that’s a pretty impressive core group of guys.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    “I just cant get over how good of player the prospects from the Bartolo deal turned out to be”

    It also (unfairly?) set the bar for all future studs-for-prospects trades…

    “I wish everyone would remember this tree rather than just the last two players.”

    No need for broad persepective in these parts, sir.

  • Harv 21

    “Whether it was just poor timing or a lack of opportunity, Phillips’ improvement after leaving Cleveland has been well-documented.”

    Was going to comment on that, Scott, but it looks from your own follow ups you didn’t intend that as the two possibilities. The kid just needed a looser, grind-free environment. Wedgie bonded with the aw-shucks/Casey Blakes more. What sucks was that he was about the best position player in the system. Maybe Wedgie was still all twitchy from the Milton Bradley thing.

    Really sad that the most interesting Tribe topic in June is a decent player that we gave away. Speaking of which – Kerry Wood for a bag of balls and partial salary savings, anyone? If The Muscle got us a 6’4″ shortstop, maybe Wood can fetch a 4’11″ third baseman.

  • mgbode

    @8 – yes unfairly. since it’s been well-documented that Omar Minaya was willing to sell anything for a short-term fix in a last ditch effort to win for Montreal (since they were getting moved).

  • Turk

    What is the purpose of dwelling on the four-years-past loss of a slightly above average second basemen who now plays for a non-contending team? What is the Cleveland Indians “fan” obsession with dwelling on players we “let go” or “got nothing for” rather than enjoying some of the exciting players we have. How many of you lamented trading Casey Blake? And now, we have one of the most exciting young players in the game because of that trade. What, did you also cry when we traded Eddie Taubensee for Kenny Lofton?

  • mgbode

    “slightly above average second basemen who now plays for a non-contending team”

    Philips is not slightly above average 2B. He is much above average 2B. His offense + defense puts him near the top, in fact.

    I know it’s hard to believe for any team from Cincinatti, but they are a contending team.

  • Stephenwolf

    @harv 21

    Hah 4″11 3rd baseman….

    @Turk

    Defintely agree that the “what if” game has become very old, but the reds are having a nice season and have a couple young stud pitchers in their farm system too. That being said, their due for a right-on-schedule 10 game losing streak that will put dusty’s job right back on the hotseat, where it seems like it has been about 85% of his coaching career.

  • mgbode

    @13 – it pains me that they are having a tough time finding a spot for Harang in their rotation now and still have more pitching in the minors.

    Do you think they’d like Austin Kearns back for Harang? Perhaps one of their other pitching prospects?

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