Chase Utley just re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers to be a bench bat for $2 million this year. Jimmy Rollins is with the San Francisco Giants, for now, on a minor league deal. Angel Pagan is still a free agent, as is the indefatigable Juan Uribe - the latter while sitting on 199 career home runs.
The market has not been kind to mid to late 30’s players this offseason, even to those who were obvious standouts during their peak years. The Cincinnati Reds certainly were aware of this during their attempts at trading veteran 2B Brandon Phillips, so while we waited to find out the specifics of the deal that would send him to the Atlanta Braves, we knew the likelihood of there being a great return was near nil.
The deal is now official. The return, as expected, is near nil.
The four veterans I mentioned to start this article were all free agents, yet each has struggled mightily to find a fit on a big league roster. That Phillips was under contract for $14 million in 2017 further complicated the chances of him being moved, his no-trade rights only serving to shrink the number of places Cincinnati could move him to near zero. In fact, it seems the Braves only emerged as a potential landing spot after the shoulder injury to Sean Rodriguez - a player who they’d chosen to sign over trading for Phillips last month, just as one example of how far Phillips’ value had fallen to that date.
Other examples of how far his value had fallen? Andrew McKirahan and Carlos Portuondo.
McKirahan, who didn't throw a single professional pitch in 2016 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, is a decently hard-throwing lefty who has never once started a game at any level since being drafted in 21st round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. His fastball once averaged 93.1 mph back when he made his big league debut in 2015, so at least there's a chance he could provide some bullpen value if his arm is healthy once again - he does own a career 9.6 K/9 in his MiLB career.
As for Portuondo, well, who the hell knows? Now 29 years old, he made his first waves in the minors just last year after three seasons sans professional baseball, his entire career before that having come as a professional in Cuba. He spent 8 years with Santiago in the Cuban National Series, at times teammates with the likes of Adeiny Hechavarria, Hector Olivera, and Alfredo Despaigne, before joining the Braves organization for 34.2 innings split between A+ Carolina and AAA Gwinnett. 25 strikeouts and 17 walks later, he's now part of the Reds' organization, and I'd be lying if I told you to expect to see big things out of him on any sort of stage this year, next year, or ever.
That's the return for having traded Phillips, albeit to the one place he'd actually approve a trade. And, to do so, it cost the Reds $13 million of the $14 million due Phillips this year to get their other hand untied from behind their back. Yes, Phillips used that trade leverage to squeeze the Reds into a very, very uncomfortable position. Yes, the Reds had the ability to prevent that scenario by being proactive earlier in the rebuild, and yes, they completely failed to follow that course, too.
In the end, the Reds will 'move on' from Phillips in a way that will at least have a more amicable remembrance than simply cutting him, whether McKirahan or Portuondo ever materialize into anything, at all. Logistically, you can pretty well say the Reds 'moved on' from Phillips well before this point, like when they focused on bringing in Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera as focal points of earlier rebuild-fueled trades. And much like the team's recent signing of Scott Feldman was really the last piece of the Dan Straily trade transaction, shedding Phillips at any cost should be viewed as the final piece of the Herrera/Peraza acquisitions - since now the Reds will actually have the ability to play their young prospects and see how good they can be.
Phillips' career with the Reds wraps a .279/.325/.429 line in 6899 career PA, with 191 dingers, 851 RBI, four Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, three All Star appearances, and 30.5 bWAR. He's been the second best 2B in the long, storied history of the franchise, and despite the rather mundane exit should be remembered as such.
Best of luck in Atlanta, Brandon.