It’s been reported that the Reds have met with Brandon Phillips’ agent this week to further discuss a contract extension. Phillips talked with the Enquirer last week on this subject:

“You want to be paid better than players you think you’re better than,” says Phillips. “I feel like I’m top three among second basemen in baseball. I feel like I should get that respect.”


Phillips has seen other Reds get theirs. Votto, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto. He noted the signing of Ryan Madson. Phillips doesn’t begrudge his peers their “respect.” He just wonders why he hasn’t gotten his. “A slap in the face,” Phillips calls it.

“I’ve been here longer than anybody, and I’m one of the best players in this game. I feel that I should come before many other people.”

Whether he’s talking about the club’s free agent extensions to Scott Rolen and Bronson Arroyo, or the arbitration buyouts of Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto, I think Phillips has completely missed on his complaints.

Looking at the deals made to Rolen and Arroyo, each player extended his current contract by just two years. They each restructured the final year of their previous deals to take less money in that year and agreed to deferred money for the length of their new deals. In Rolen’s case, his new contract paid him less per year than his previous contract. Ryan Madson was brought in because the team wanted to sign a closer. He also signed a “team friendly” short-term deal for the 2012 season.

Obviously we don’t know what, if any, of these conditions are acceptable or unacceptable to Phillips, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the Reds are trying to put at least some of these conditions in a contract extension with Phillips.

Will Brandon Phillips be smiling all the way to the bank? (The Enquirer/ Joseph Fuqua II)

If you consider his comments from the perspective of Cueto, Bruce, and Votto, you realize that their extensions are just like the extension Phillips ALREADY received. The club locked these players into a salary during their arbitration eligible years, and was able to pre-buy two seasons of Cueto’s free agent years and three of Bruce’s. Phillips already “got his”, having signed a deal similar to both Cueto and Bruce four years ago. Their extensions are not particularly relevant to whether the Reds sign Phillips through additional free agency years.

That leaves us with Phillips contemporaries. Is Phillips one of the top 3 second basemen in baseball? What are his peers collecting as income in free agency? I’m sure the Phillips camp is pointing to contracts like those the Atlanta Braves signed with Dan Uggla. Sure, Phillips should be paid more than those he plays better than. The Reds could be looking at free agent contemporaries like Orlando Hudson and Placido Polanco, who struggled to make $6 million a year after testing the free agency market.

In the table below, I’ve attempted to take a look at this. Using cumulative Wins Above Replacement (WAR) player stats at from 2009-2011, the top nine second basemen are ranked below. Phillips had the 6th best 2B WAR during this period. It is anchored by his 2011 WAR, which was his career best season (6.0) and was 4th best in baseball. His 2011 OPS was 6th best in the majors.

If you shift that 3-year window back to 2008-2010, Phillips still ranks as a top 10 second baseman with the 8th best WAR during this time period. The expectation of many, and certainly the projection systems out there, are that Phillips is more like that 3 WAR player of 2008-2010 and is unlikely to repeat his career year performance.

So, Phillips is not a top 3. But clearly a top 10 second baseman.

The contract information is displayed in a unique way. First, note that
–MLB min 3 is the player’s 3rd service year and typically the last year a team can pay the major league minimum
–arb 1-3 is the 3 years of arbitration
–FA 1-3 is the 3 years of free agency
–Bolded cells refer to each players 2012 salary
–An asterisk means that this future compensation is a club option

Player 2009-11 WAR 2011 WAR MLB min 3 arb 1 arb 2 arb 3 FA 1 FA 2 FA 3
Ben Zobrist 19.2 6.6 $0.5M $4.5M $4.5M $5.5M $7.5M* $7.5M*
Chase Utley 17.6 3.9 $0.5M $4.5M $7.5M $11.0M $15.0M $15.0M $15.0M
Robinson Cano 16.4 5.6 $3.0M $6.0M $9.0M $10.0M $14.0M* $15.0M*
Dustin Pedroia 16.2 8.0 $1.5M $3.5M $5.5M $8.0M $10.0M $10.0M $11.0M*
Ian Kinsler 15.8 7.7 $0.5M $3.0M $4.0M $6.0M $7.0M $10.0M*
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
Brandon Phillips 13.6 6.0 $0.4M $2.75M $4.75M $6.75M $11.0M $12.0M*
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
Rickie Weeks 11.6 3.7 $1.0M $2.45M $2.75M $7.5M $10.0M $10.0M $11.0M
Dan Uggla 10.2 2.5 $0.4M $5.35M $7.8M $9.0M $13.0M $13.0M $13.0M
Howie Kendrick 10.0 5.8 $0.5M $1.75M $3.3M $4.5M $8.75M $9.35M $9.5M

Phillips appears to already be making about the same or more than those in the top 9 WAR over the past 3 years. He’s making more than 3 of the 5 players ranked above him from arb 2 year through FA 2. If not for Uggla’s ridiculous contract, he’s making more than everyone under 4.0 WAR/year. Phillips projects to be more in the Howie Kendrick to Rickie Weeks performance range the next couple of years. I would expect that if the Reds signed him to a 4-5 year deal, they’d be regretting the big salary in the final couple years of such a deal.

Being risk-adverse myself, I’d feel most comfortable with a 2-3 year deal that paid $10-11 million per year. If I had to guess, I would speculate that I am closer to the Reds offer, and Phillips is hoping for something closer to an Uggla-type deal.