Assuming all of the rumors, reports, and tweets are to be believed, the Washington Nationals are on the verge of acquiring Brandon Phillips from the Cincinnati Reds. All that’s likely left to complete a trade is Phillips agreeing to waive his no-trade rights and pass a physical. The All-Star second baseman will be 35 in June, and will likely push the Nationals to add one more year to the two years left on his current deal in return for agreeing to the trade. That’s something Washington will seemingly be willing to do to reunite Phillips with Dusty Baker.
At this point of his career, Phillips is no longer the difference maker he once was. Though Phillips is coming off a .294 season with 23 stolen bases, it was the first time in three years his average crept above .270. The 2011 Silver Slugger has always been a swinger, not a looker (Phillips has never drawn more than 50 walks in a season), at the plate, and is almost entirely dependent on his batted balls to get aboard. He has not recorded a slugging percentage above .400 since 2012, and 2015 broke a two-year streak of single-digit stolen base total for Phillips.
Brandon Phillips is no longer an elite second baseman in the Major Leagues. He’s lost a step defensively (though he will still wow you every once in a while with a between-the-legs double play flip), and his bat has lost a bit of pop. That being said, Phillips is a great addition for the Nationals if this deal gets done, and it may not even be for the tangible offensive numbers he will put up at the plate.
For years, the Nationals have been a good team, but a boring one. Despite having Bryce Harper on the roster, this is not a team with a great deal of fire and energy. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth are nice guys, as is Wilson Ramos. There is not a player on the team who can really provide a spark, not even Harper, who often becomes withdrawn into himself. That’s not a strike against any of the solid contributors on the Washington roster. The Nationals have assembled a strong core of homegrown talent, but there is not a take-charge type of leader or personality in the clubhouse.
Brandon Phillips is exactly the type of spark Dusty Baker needs in his new clubhouse. Phillips is funny, energetic, personable, and by all accounts, the best baseball follow on Twitter. The fans love him, his teammates love him. Phillips brings a special type of energy to a team, an energy whose value cannot really be quantified. This type of spark is often overlooked when building a ball team, but that does not mean it is an essential part of a winning mix. Phillips will also serve as an outstanding mentor to rookie shortstop Trea Turner as he goes through the trials and tribulations of making the leap to the big leagues.
It’s very rare for a new teammate to walk into a clubhouse and instantly become a leader on the team, but that’s exactly what Brandon Phillips will be in Washington if this deal comes to pass. The Nationals are not getting a peak version of Phillips by any stretch of the imagination, but they are still getting something very valuable in Dat Dude BP.