Reds deal Phillips to Braves for 2 pitchers

McKirahan, Portuondo acquired as veteran goes to hometown team after 11 seasons in Cincy

Reds deal Phillips to Braves for 2 pitchers

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Brandon Phillips' previous refusals to waive his no-trade rights both this winter and the previous one left Reds general manager Dick Williams with little hope of moving the team's longtime second baseman. But it happened on Sunday, when the Reds sent Phillips and cash to the Braves for two Minor League pitchers.

Because the Reds will be paying all but $1 million of Phillips' $14 million salary for 2017, the Commissioner's Office had to approve the trade. Phillips, who gained his no-trade rights as a 10-and-5 player, waived them to clear the way for the Stone Mountain, Ga., native to play for his hometown club.

Cincinnati received left-handed pitcher Andrew McKirahan and right-handed pitcher Carlos Portuondo.

"I think we all collectively thought this was the best move for the future of the organization," Williams said. "It's tough when you say goodbye to a popular player like that, especially one that's been with you a long time, and his tenure has made such a connection to the fans. We're not trying to win a popularity contest. We're just trying to do what we collectively feel is the best for the longer term future of the organization."

Phillips' memorable Reds years

The Braves became motivated to make the deal after learning infielder Sean Rodriguez is expected to be out three-to-five months recovering from left shoulder surgery after he was injured in a car accident. Phillips blocked a trade to the Braves in November and also declined trades last winter to the Nationals and D-backs.

The previous talks with Atlanta and the club's need to replace Rodriguez sped up the process this time.

"It went pretty quickly, just a couple of days," Williams said. "We had had some conversations with Brandon's representatives recently where they had made it known to us that Brandon had sort of shifted his position on wanting to go somewhere."

Williams talks Phillips trade

The Reds' longest-tenured player, Phillips spent the last 11 seasons in Cincinnati, which included all three of his All-Star campaigns. He hit .291/.320/.416 with 11 home runs, 64 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 141 games in 2016.

Acquired from the Indians in April 2006, Phillips was a three-time National League All-Star and won four NL Gold Glove Awards. He also won a 2011 NL Silver Slugger Award. In recent seasons, the 35-year-old played through several hand or wrist injuries but also provided diminishing returns offensively and defensively. Since peaking with an .816 OPS in 2007, he had a .723 OPS in 2015 and it was .736 in '16.

But there is no denying that Phillips was a key cornerstone -- along with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto among others -- that helped Cincinnati reach the postseason three times from 2010-13. That included two NL Central titles.

Phillips was popular with fans because of dazzling defensive plays, a flashy style, his quick embrace of social media and his willingness to take pictures and sign autographs.

"I think he did have a unique understanding of the value of connecting with fans, and you'll see an outpouring of love and support for him now that he's leaving because people did feel like he connected with them," Williams said.

On the other hand, Phillips' occasionally mercurial personality also created friction. In 2010, comments to a reporter about the St. Louis Cardinals sparked a bench-clearing incident the following day that involved catcher Yadier Molina. In 2012, Phillips told a magazine that his new six-year, $72 million contract with the Reds was a "slap in the face" because he had to wait for Votto's mega-contract to be completed first.

In 2013, Phillips was caught on camera verbally abusing a Reds beat writer.

Now it's time to turn the page. With Phillips leaving, the Reds have achieved one of their major offseason goals in trying to clear a middle-infield spot. Both Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera -- who was acquired from the Mets for Bruce in August -- will compete for the job. Peraza, who batted .324 for the Reds last season, would appear to have the inside track. The team has also made efforts this offseason to move shortstop Zack Cozart. Right now, Cozart, Peraza and Herrera are set to get the majority of playing time in Spring Training.

"We've still got a plethora of young guys that we're excited to get a look at," Williams said. "You mentioned the three up the middle that we're going to give at-bats to. We've got other guys as well. [Arismendy] Alcantara is going to get some time in the middle infield. We've got some non-roster guys like Zach Vincej -- a Gold Glove winner in the Minor Leagues last year at shortstop. Some other guys we'll give reps to -- Tony Renda we've seen play some middle infield."

Williams on middle infield depth

Both Williams, and manager Bryan Price, had discussed with Phillips that the club would be looking to the future more this season. It likely would have reduced his playing time.

"Those were good conversations between Brandon and myself. I know Bryan had some similar talks with him. That may have factored into his thinking. I really can't speak for him," Williams said.

McKirahan, 27, has a 2.20 ERA in 96 Minor League games but missed all of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. He was originally in the Cubs' organization, followed by the Marlins as a Rule 5 Draft selection before ultimately being claimed off waivers in April 2015 by Atlanta.

Portuondo, 29, was signed by the Braves in February 2016 as an international free agent from Cuba. He made 44 starts and 81 relief appearances for Santiago in Cuba's Serie Nacional. He spent last season in the Minor Leagues, pitching for Atlanta's Class A Advanced affiliate at Carolina and Triple-A Gwinnett.

Williams said he considers Portuondo, a control pitcher who's not overpowering, more as Minor League depth. He said with McKirahan, a lefty who can get his fastball up to 94 mph, the organization is trying to "catch lightning in a bottle" as he comes off the surgery.

Neither McKirahan nor Portuondo will be added to the 40-man roster or attend big league camp.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Unlikely to experience a significant change in fantasy value as a result of this deal, the veteran Phillips remains a late-round mixed-league option given his ability to contribute double-digit totals in homers and swipes. In the bigger picture, the three-time All-Star will help lengthen a fairly formidable lineup with a handful of mixed-league assets -- such as Ender Inciarte, Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp and Dansby Swanson.

Fantasy impact of Phillips trade

The trade's biggest fantasy winner appears to be former Atlanta farmhand Peraza, who will likely assume Cincy's newly vacant second-base spot. After batting .324 with 21 steals across 256 plate appearances with the Reds last season, the 22-year-old speedster should be taken near the 100th pick in 2017 mixed-league drafts.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.