Brandon Phillips said yesterday that he’d “love to get an extension” from the Reds, telling John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that “it would be nice to be here for the rest of my career” and “I want to know a guarantee instead of a possibility.”
So why haven’t the two sides worked something out already? General manager Walt Jocketty told Fay that he’s had some communication with Phillips’ agent, but with the second baseman under contract for this season at $11 million and the Reds holding a $12 million option or $1 million buyout on him for 2012 there’s really no huge rush to get a new deal done.
Presumably any long-term extension would likely start at $11-$12 million per season and the Reds may not be so keen on keeping Phillips at that price after opening up their wallet for some younger building blocks this offseason.
In five seasons with the Reds he’s averaged 21 homers and 24 steals while playing very good defense at second base, but Phillips’ overall production has been less than spectacular with a .275 batting average, .326 on-base percentage, and .447 slugging percentage. During the past three seasons his .764 OPS ranks tied for 10th among all second basemen with Orlando Hudson, who signed a two-year, $11.5 milllion deal with the Padres this winter.
Hudson is a couple years older than Phillips, so it’s not a perfect comparison, but Phillips-like production can usually be had for significantly less than $12 million per season, not to mention a long-term commitment. Phillips is 30 years old and has slugged just .407 away from the Reds’ hitter-friendly ballpark during the past three seasons. He’s a very good all-around player and has been worth $12 million in most seasons so far, but the Reds may not want to pay him like that into his mid-30s and it would be tough to blame them.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.