It seems hard to believe, but Brandon Phillips has been our 2B for 5 seasons now and the time to start thinking about a new deal is rapidly approaching. Both Dan Uggla (he ain't got no alibi) and Orlando Hudson appear to be close to signing new contracts. As members of that exclusive-yet-not-really-exclusive group of second-tier second-sackers (Chase Utley is incomparable), it stands to reason that these new deals will be viewed as reasonable starting points for any negotiations. Here are some numbers from the last four seasons:
Them UZR numbers ain't gospel, obviously, but I think it serves to set up a very nice symmetry among these players. Phillips has the best glove but the worst bat, O-Dawg is in the middle, and (yo mama is so) Uggla is the best bat and the worst glove. At first blush, I'm flabbergasted that two seemingly-comparable players are signing such drastically different deals. $60 mil for Uggla seems pretty high, and only $11.5 mil for Hudson looks to be on the low side. So where does Phillips fit into all this? Is he worth $60 mil or $11.5 mil, or somewhere in between?
The first thing I noticed was that Phillips and Uggla are basically identical over these last 4 seasons according to WAR, but they get there in very different ways. Whether you like UZR or not, I think their reputations are reflected pretty accurately in these particular numbers. Phillips is the Gold-Glover and Uggla is the Silver Slugger, but they both end up being pretty darn good overall.
I think Hudson's WAR numbers lag a bit mostly due to time lost to injury, as he's averaged only 130 games over this span. BeeP and Uggla have averaged 152 and 155.5 games per season, respectively. If he had played those 20 games or so each season, I think his total WAR would end up pretty close to the others. Of course, that fragility depresses his value on the market, which is probably a big reason why he's only getting 2 years and $11.5 mil. His true talent level is probably pretty close to BeeP and Uggla though, so I'm not sure if the injury risk is enough to make up the difference between $12 mil per year for 5 years and less than $6 mil per for just 2 years.
Another factor to take into account is aging. Hudson is the eldest of the three, as he just turned 33 last week (happy bark-day, O-Dawg!). Uggla will turn 31 just before the season starts, and Phillips will turn 30 mid-season. That two years of difference between Hudson and Uggla is significant, as it means Uggla is still likely on the edge of his peak years while Hudson has begun his decline. In fact, Hudson has seen his wOBA decline in each of these 4 years we are looking at, from .361 in '07 down to .320 last season. It seems the O-Dawg is showing a bit of gray scruff on his muzzle. Uggla, on the other hand, is coming off a career year, setting career highs in wOBA (.381) and home runs (33). So while at first blush I thought Uggla's deal was too much and Hudson's too little, the difference between the two players is more apparent now.
So what does this mean for Brandon Phillips? Perhaps the most important factor in any new deal for him is that he's already making Dan Uggla money. $11.25 mil this season with an option for $12 mil next season is probably the top end of the market for him, and I seriously doubt he'll sign a contract extension at a pay cut (unless he gets injured or sucks or whatever). He'll be Uggla's age now at this time next year, so you better believe his agents will be making the obvious comparison. I still have issues with Uggla's deal, as I don't think he'll be at 2B and clubbing 30 dingers a year by the end of it. But if the Reds want to keep the BeeP, it looks like it's going to take that kind of money. Whether or not he's actually worth that much is a different conversation.