The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s John Fay — a very professional beat reporter who doesn’t dabble in nonsense — reported last week that the Reds will likely shop second baseman Brandon Phillips this winter. Which makes sense in a lot of ways. Phillips is owed $50 million over the next four seasons and posted a weak .706 OPS (92 OPS+) in 151 games this year — his lofty RBI total a product of Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo. Phillips is still an elite defensive second baseman, but he’s turning 33 next June and some of that athleticism will inevitably fade.
Phillips also rubbed many in the organization the wrong way this summer with his multiple off-field incidents. There was the ugly dust-up with Enquirer baseball writer C. Trent Rosecrans and the article in Cincinnati Magazine where Phillips complained about Votto being the first to have his contract extended. Here’s a new column on the coming trade talks from Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, who says there is a “For Sale sign on Phillips’ neck” …
While Phillips is popular with fans through his Twitter account and his willingness to sign autographs, he is not so popular in the clubhouse and is thought of as a self-promoter.
Said one man who is in the clubhouse every day, “You can’t tell by Brandon’s face whether we won or lost, but you can tell if he went 0 for 4 or 2 for 4 no matter if we won or lost.”
AND IT DID PHILLIPS no good when he disappeared in September — 18 for 95 (.175), four RBI, one home run, three doubles as his team collapsed into the rubbish pile.
There’s plenty more where that came from — so much of so that it’s difficult to envision Phillips suiting up for the Reds next March. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution hears the Braves have interest.
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.