Reds GM Walt Jocketty announced Wednesday morning that he plans to exercise Brandon Phillips’ $12 million club option for the 2012 season. But what happens after that? Will the All-Star second baseman be allowed to hit the free agent market?
Our guess, based off Phillips’ comments Wednesday afternoon to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, is yes.
“This is my last contract,” Phillips said. “There is no homeboy hookup. I just want to be paid what I am worth.”
Phillips is one of the best defensive second basemen in the major leagues and has posted a .294/.346/.452 batting line with 18 home runs and 81 RBI in 144 games this season, so “what I am worth” is likely to be a hefty sum. The Reds are far from broke, but their payroll typically ranks in the bottom half among baseball’s 30 franchises. If Phillips is not going to be giving the small-market club a hometown (er, “homeboy”) discount, there’s a good chance Cincinnati will be outbid.
The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.
Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.
Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.