Brandon Phillips arrived at Reds camp today and naturally got some questions about the status of long-term contract negotiations as the second baseman enters his final season before free agency.
Phillips told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the two sides haven’t talked about a deal since “before Redsfest … it’s been a long time.”
Here’s more from Phillips, who’ll make $12 million this season before hitting the open market at age 31:
I thought it would be over with by now. It is what it is. The only thing I can do is go out there and play the game, do what’s best for the team. I love the moves we made to make the team better. That’s what it’s all about. We can all go out and get things done. My day will come. I’m not really worried about it. I’m letting my agent and the Reds take care that themselves. It would have been nice coming to camp knowing things were done. I haven’t heard anything.
Phillips added that his agent and general manager Walt Jocketty are planning to meet at some point during spring training, explaining that he doesn’t expect to set a firm deadline for talks and “just want(s) what other second baseman got.”
If true, he could be looking for something similar to Dan Uggla’s five-year, $62 million deal with the Braves or Brian Roberts’ five-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles. Historically speaking, second basemen generally haven’t landed monster contracts. Phillips’ current deal was worth $38 million for five years.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.
Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.
The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.
Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.