Earlier this week, several news outlets reported that last November Brandon Phillips exercised his 10/5 rights to veto a trade that would have sent him to the Atlanta Braves. Former Reds and Nationals’ GM Jim Bowden reports that BP feels the Reds have yet to fulfill some ‘promises’ they made to him in past years. This is the third trade in two years that Phillips has blocked ‘on principle’. A few thoughts:

  1. Brandon has every right to do this. The Reds signed him to a contract where they knew he would acquire these rights during his tenure as a Red.
  2. This is probably about Joey Votto. Phillips called the owner a liar – twice – because he claims the Reds told him during contract negotiations that they didn’t have enough money to pay him his requested amount. The Reds went on to sign Votto’s rather large deal.

Some may call this hard bargaining by Phillips (and the fact you have to sign 25 players, not one), but the Reds second baseman is claiming this is a matter of principle (side note: if this is really how he feels, I would love to play poker with DatDude). While the ‘unspecified issues’ are not spelled out in Rosenthal’s article, last year Phillips wanted a guaranteed extra year on his contract (around a $10-14 million price tag) in order to waive his 10-5 rights. This would be consistent with the theory that he feels he was underpaid during the last round of negotiations and now is using his leverage to gain additional compensation.

Phillips is right that he is in the stronger bargaining position: the Reds don’t need to win this year, would like to shed payroll and inexplicably traded for his replacement before dealing Phillips. All of these factors strengthen his hand, but this stronger bargaining position doesn’t add up to what he is asking. If he were willing to accept a smaller buy out for his 10/5 rights, I think a deal is there to be made.

The problem is that he seems dead-set on not moderating his asking price. This places him outside of the price range for any potential suitor and way beyond the Reds willingness to bargain. So what now?

The Reds objectives for 2017 are pretty clear: test out the new pieces and flip some rentals at the trade deadline. Winning is not the primary objective, but setting up a winning 2017-2018 season is.

With that in mind, the Reds could try to make BP moveable at the deadline. Here’s how:

  1. Limit his playing time. His starts *might just* have to be against other teams’ #4 and #5 starters. In 2016, he had a reverse split against lefties, so make sure that he is “taking a day off” against those pitchers. Let the kids try to hit Kershaw.
  2. Need a pinch runner in the 9th? How about BP. Counting stats count (hopefully to someone else).
  3. Sit him day games after night games. He’s getting older. Let’s not risk tanking those defensive stats because his legs are tired.
  4. Bat him behind Joey Votto (and Devin Mesoraco, if possible). Both have higher OBPs, granting Phillips’s a better chance of bringing home a run.
  5. Bobblehead nights. Lots of bobblehead nights. Those only go to All-Stars, right?
  6. Make him play with a golden glove. He can be the Reds’ literal ‘gold glove’ player.
  7. Hope that a contender needs a 2B at the deadline. If no trade partner can be found, sit him for most of the second half and give the younger generation the wheel for the rest of the trip.

There are plenty of problems here, notably that other executives will probably see through this strategy. It would have to be a subtle shift in playing time. It could also be that Phillips’ talents are too degraded to be saved. But if BP is not willing to moderate his demands, the Reds have got to get creative if a move is to be made.

Cutting him is a $14M waste. Sitting him guarantees he is unmovable at the deadline. Controlling Phillips’ playing time to shade his stats might seem like a terrible idea, but right now we’re selecting from a slate of bad options. Maybe — just maybe — the Reds can nudge his stats enough that someone (hello, Arizona?) will be desperate enough to pick him up at the deadline.

So let’s prop him up like an All-Star and hope nobody recognizes it for 81 games.