I held onto this post from last week, in order to see if — miraculously — Brandon Phillips and/or Zack Cozart were traded during last week’s Winter Meetings. Neither player was dealt, obviously. Here’s what GM Dick Williams said about the possibility that the Reds might start the season with BP and Cozart on the active roster:

Williams said that if the Reds open the season with Cozart and Phillips while also trying to find playing time for Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera, financial matters won’t play into who takes the field. Phillips, who will be making $14 million and has a no-trade clause, might have to give up some of his playing time.

“I think what’s most important is the future of the club, the benefit to the organization,” Williams said. “We’ll look at it as, we’ll play the guys that put us in a chance to compete this year and, more importantly, get better for the future. That’s the most important thing, not the guarantees.”

I tend to give Williams the benefit of the doubt, since he’s the new guy in charge and it would be unfair to pin the mistakes of the previous GM on him. But as I’ve been saying pretty consistently over the last few months: Where (and whether) Brandon Phillips is playing next year is going to be an early litmus test for the seriousness of the Dick Williams regime, when it comes to this rebuilding process.

Williams is saying the right thing here; decisions on 2017 playing time need to be based on competitive considerations, not paychecks. After all, as Steve Mancuso said, it’s a season for sorting:

Brandon Phillips is entering the final year of his contract, due to make $14 million. It’s no secret the Reds have been trying to trade their second baseman for several years. Last offseason Phillips exercised his no-trade rights and turned down two trade offers to Washington and Arizona.

Phillips is reportedly more open to a trade out of Cincinnati this season. Maybe the Reds prodded Phillips’ change in outlook with heartfelt conversations about the team’s life cycle. The club will have to find an Old School trade partner that still valorizes blips in batting average. They can’t depend on the bizzaro D-Backs for that any more.

Yet, the Reds front office seems serious about finding everyday playing time for their young middle infielders. It’s hard to imagine a higher priority in 2017. So expect Cozart and Phillips to be moved or suffer reduced playing time. Neither player will return anything of much value in trade.

Put another way, 2017 matters when it comes to the development of the young middle infielders (specifically Peraza and Herrera):

They need to play so their role in 2018 can be assessed with a full season’s worth of data. Playing Cozart and Phillips to start the year makes it harder to field a competitive team in 2018 because it reduces the information you have about the relevant players.

So yeah, Dick Williams is saying the things I want to hear. Let’s see if that philosophy endures once it’s time to start penciling names onto a lineup card in April.