Monday, July 20, 2015

In the Cross Hairs: Brandon Phillips

The Reds are said to be open for business and on their team there are several intriguing options that could fit for the Kansas City Royals. We've heard a lot about the Royals interest in Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. Perhaps, there is another name that could catch the Royals' eyes. I'm speaking of the flashy Brandon Phillips.

When talking about the Cincinnati second baseman, the first thing we need to recognize is that he is not the offensive force that he once was. In fact, since the start of the 2013 season, the former 2nd Round pick has played in 352 games and hit just .267/.310/.381, which is good for an OPS+ of 91. A below average line, but still much better than the .245/.278/.326 line that Omar Infante boasts as a Royal.

What Phillips does bring to the table is excellent defense. This season, Fangraphs credits him as having been worth 4 defensive runs saved, and being worth 2.5 UZR/150. Both of which are above average tallies. In fact, since the start of the 2013 season, Phillips ranks 3rd among qualified second basemen in converting "Remote" (1-10%) plays into outs at 9.8%. He ranks 1st in "Unlikely" (11-40%) plays at 51.5%. He ranks 7th in "Even" (41-60%) plays and 3rd in "Likely" (61-90%). Quite simply his glove is one of the best (and most fun to watch) in baseball.

So what would it take to land Phillips should the Royals decide to pursue this route?

Here's how Phillips contract breaks down moving forward:

  • 2015 - $12 million (roughly $5.2 remaining)
  • 2016 - $13 million
  • 2017 - $14 million
Phillips is currently worth 1.1 fWAR in 2015 and ZIPs projects him to garner 0.9 over the remainder of the season. If Phillips can continue to be worth about 4 WAR for the remainder of his deal. By valuing a win at the current Fangraphs valuation of $7.6 million, then Phillips would be worth -$1.7 million in excessive value. If we go with a more conservative $5.5 million valuation of wins, then Phillips drops to -$10.2 million. 

So let's say the Royals could work out a Infante plus a prospect swap for Phillips. Before we know what kind of prospect that we'd be talking about we first need to evaluate Infante in the same way that we have Phillips. ZIPs currently projects Infante to be worth about 0.3 WAR over the remainder of 2016. If we project Infante to then be worth 0 WAR in 2016 & 17, then his excessive value would be -$15.6 million at the Fangraphs rate and -$16.2 million at the more conservative rate. 

What we see here is that the difference in excess value between Phillips and Infante comes in somewhere between $6.2 and $13.9 million. Thanks to the work of The Point of Pittsburgh on prospect valuation, We can see that sort of valuation would be reflective of a borderline top 100 prospect, or even a pitching prospect ranked somewhere in the 51-100 range in a top 100. Prospects that could work in this range would be guys like Jorge Bonifcaio, Bubba Starling, Miguel Almonte, Brandon Finnegan, Sean Manaea, and maybe guys like Foster Griffin, or Scott Blewett.

So Royals fans, how would you feel about an Omar Infate plus one of the aforementioned players for Brandon Phillips? Would sacrificing a prospect of that quality be worth the upgrade? Is the upgrade worth having Brandon Phillips less than stellar personality in Kansas City?

Tell me @Landon_Adams

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