The Red Sox signed infielder Brandon Phillips to a minor league deal yesterday. Phillips has played 16 seasons for four different teams, but is best known for his 11 years with the Cincinnati Reds. The 37 year-old (who just turned 37 today) has not played at all this year.
Phillips is reporting to Florida to get back into baseball shape, after which he will report to Triple-A, according to Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski also added that if Phillips isn’t on the Major League roster by mid-July, he has “numerous” opt-outs in his contract.
But looking at the current construction of the Red Sox’ roster, it’s probably a good idea to hope that Phillips makes it to the majors. Dombrowski said that he’d like to see more production against left handed pitching, and Phillips could certainly help in this regard. Last season, he slashed .297/.339/.373 against lefties and has a career slash line of .285/.333/.450 against them. He definitely has better power numbers against righties, but the Red Sox wouldn’t be looking for power from him – just better and more consistent production than what they are currently getting.
Phillips is set to play second and third base in the minors while also getting some work in at first. But he is a natural second baseman. He had gone his entire career as a second baseman until the Braves decided to try him at third in the first half of last year.
Sliding Phillips in as the regular second baseman would be an upgrade defensively as well. He’s won four Gold Gloves in his career and has a .988 career fielding percentage at second. It’s just obvious that playing second base comes naturally to him and that he excels at it. The opposite is true for Eduardo Núñez. And as for Brock Holt, you want to keep his versatility and not have him locked in at one position. Because, again, there is still no guarantee that Dustin Pedroia will be back this season.
It’s actually a little bit baffling why Phillips went unsigned this past offseason. Age aside, he’s been always been at least average throughout his career. He’s about as consistent as they come. Since 2006, he’s only played fewer than 130 games one time and that was in 2014 when he played 121. He has a career average of .275, has over 2,000 hits and 210 homeruns. Last season he batted .285 with a serviceable .735 OPS in 144 games between the Braves and the Angels. His homerun and RBI totals have gone down since 2013, but he hit 34 doubles in each of the last two years and had over 160 hits in each of the last three seasons.
If he can get back into good playing shape, this is a guy who could really give the Red Sox some good production down the stretch. He would become a good in-house option for an upgrade and it would allow the Red Sox to focus their sights elsewhere in the trade market. And based on his Instagram account, he’s ready to help.