Brandon Phillips had two walk-off hits for the Braves over the weekend. On the season, the veteran second baseman is slashing .304/.348/.43 on the season with four home runs, a .778 OPS, and a 104 OPS+. That means he’s been slightly above average offensively for the 2017 season. That’s not bad for a guy that cost the Braves Andrew McKirahan and Carlos Portuondo, who the Cincinnati Reds have already released.
But with Ozzie Albies, the future second baseman of the Braves, in Triple-A, it makes Phillips expendable. By no means do the Braves have to trade the veteran, who is a free agent at the end of the season, but he would have a few suitors should they make him available. This also depends on Phillips’ no-trade list, which the Braves honored when they acquired him in February.
Let’s take a look at some teams who might value the veteran All-Star.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays currently have Ryan Goins as their starting second baseman, who has been worth -0.1 WAR. The Blue Jays sit with a 33-35 record, which is 6.5 games out of the AL East and first wildcard seed, but just two games behind the second wild card. The Blue Jays are in a “win-now” mode, so the Braves could get a decent haul for Phillips but will have to be careful of the asking price.
While it would be nice to acquire one of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Sean Reid-Foley or Anthony Alford, I don’t know that the Blue Jays would consider it, unless you offered more. The Blue Jays could use some starting pitching, so if they decide to go all in, how does this trade work?
Phillips and Jaime Garcia to Toronto for Alford
That would bolster Toronto’s lineup and starting rotation in just one trade. The issue may lie in the fact that Alford could be used to replace Jose Bautista once the veteran right fielder decides to move on from the Jays or baseball.
Garcia would be an upgrade over either of Francisco Liriano or Marco Estrada. Devon Travis could be done for the rest of the season after knee surgery, which leaves an opening at second base? A one-year stop-gap you say? Enter Brandon Phillips.
The Braves could use Alford in the outfield and it would open up a spot should the Braves decide to trade Matt Kemp. With Phillips and Garcia on an outbound train out of Atlanta, it opens up the doors for Albies and a young starter to step in for the Braves brass to analyze and scout.
The Brewers are a tough team to gauge right now. They are 38-33 and sit two games atop the Cubs in the NL Central. The eye test says that Milwaukee should buy at the deadline, but this is a team that could still be in a rebuild (they traded Jonathan Lucroy one season ago). The Brewers don’t want to risk the future in an attempt to chase false gold, but they would also love a playoff spot (wouldn’t every team?).
So what would a trade look like?
Medeiros and Harrison are Milwaukee’s 18 and 22nd prospects. There are other guys in front of them in the organization that it wouldn’t hurt Milwaukee’s rebuild to acquire a guy like Phillips, who would leave after this season.
Medeiros was the 12th overall pick in 2014 out of the state of Hawaii. He has struggled with his pitching mechanics and is struggling in High-A Carolina with a 5.27 ERA. The 21-year-0ld still has some potential and it would be a great opportunity for the Braves to buy-low.
Harrison, another 21-year-old, is slashing .265/.359/.475 in A ball. He is known more for his excellent arm and fielding ability than his offense, which still needs some work. He’s shown off the power but is striking out in 31 percent of his at-bats this year. He’s getting on base, but guys with high strikeout rates are risky.
Medeiros and Harrison are both expendable to the Brewers and would not cause a dent in their farm system. For the Braves, it gives you some better talent in the minor league system and with that much quantity, you’re bound to get some quality outcomes.
Tampa Bay Rays
Here is another team that many didn’t expect to compete, and yet here they are in the middle of June with a 37-35 record, sitting 3.5 games out of first place in the AL East and the first wildcard berth, yet they own the second wildcard berth if the season ended today.
The Rays have Brad Miller, who owns a -0.1 WAR on the season. Enter the Braves veteran second baseman to help improve the Rays in their quest to grab a postseason berth. Like the Brewers, the Rays will not give up much to improve a roster, which many feel should still be focused on building up talent for the future. Plus the simple truth is that the trade market for Phillips will not be much, so teams could give up less.
He’d help the Rays, but what trade would help the Braves?
Personally, I’d love it if the Braves could grab the 18-year-old Rondon, who is ranked as the Ryas 13th best prospect. He was the high rated prospect in the 2014 international free agent class, but he’s struggled since playing professional ball. In A ball this year, Rondon is slashing .228/.284/.347 and is striking out in 37 percent of his at bats this year. As stated earlier, high strikeout rates are risky with younger players, but even more so for players who aren’t slugging the ball. This might be a chance for the Braves to buy-low.
Padlo is the 18th ranked prospect in the Rays organization and is slashing .260/.344/.442 in 77 A ball at bats. His plate discipline is great for a 20-year-old, though the team is pushing him to be more selectively aggressive. His arm strength needs to be worked on as well, if he wants to stick at third, but he has the potential to be an every day starter at the big league level. Like most 20-year-olds, he needs some work.
With the Braves not set at third base, Padlo and Rondon make sense, especially when the Rays could make them expendable with Willy Adames and Joshua Lowe ahead of them on the organizational depth chart.
To summarize, you shouldn’t expect a big deal for Brandon Phillips because a market hasn’t emerged for him. You won’t see a big name prospect come Atlanta’s way unless it can package a bigger piece along with Phillips.
Of course Phillips could always stay in Atlanta. He didn’t cost the Braves anything to acquire and it would give Albies some extra time in Triple-A to develop his skills for the 2018 season.