CINCINNATI -- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips has worked with over 20 double-play partners at shortstop since joining the Reds in 2006. The latest one, rookie Zack Cozart, stopped over at Phillips' locker on Tuesday to shake his hand and offer a hug of congratulations. Phillips and Cozart should be paired for quite a while, after Phillips signed to a six-year, $72.5 million contract extension. "That's what's cool about it," Cozart said. "Brandon has worked with a lot of guys. He's been accepting to everybody. He's been good to me and makes it easy on me out there. I look forward to playing with him as long as I can."
The Phillips signing is the second giant contract the Reds have inked in the past week. Last Wednesday, first baseman Joey Votto signed a 10-year, $225 million contract. The two deals are the cornerstones of the long-term outlook for the Reds. Last winter, right fielder Jay Bruce was signed to a six-year contract worth $51 million and rotation ace Johnny Cueto signed a four-year, $27 million deal. This spring, newly-acquired reliever Sean Marshall signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract extension that takes him through the 2015 season. "It just reiterates what they've set out to do, with me and with Johnny and with Joey and Brandon now," Bruce said. "It's huge. I would consider us part of the core of the team. They've done a good job really grooming us from the beginning. They took a flier on Brandon that really paid off, obviously. I'm really happy for him, and that he has that peace of mind now and can focus on playing baseball." Now only one major contract question mark remains, with manager Dusty Baker signed through the end of this season. When Votto was signed, Reds CEO Bob Castellini remarked the huge finances of the deal had no bearings on conversations the club hoped to have toward keeping Baker. Baker was extremely pleased that Phillips, who sat out Tuesday night against the Cardinals with a sore hamstring, was rewarded with a new deal. "In all my years of baseball, I've been around a lot of good players and great players," Baker said. "None work any harder or exert more energy and effort than Brandon Phillips. He comes to play every day. You can count on him. He hustles and tries hard during the game. It's been a thrill and an honor and a privilege to manage Brandon and be around Brandon." "Thank you Dusty, I love you too," Phillips responded during his press conference. Phillips believed that the Reds' commitments to him and his teammates show that the club is committed to trying to win championships. "That's what it's about," Phillips said. "I'm thankful and glad that they picked me and Joey to be here and make things happen and try to build around us. We're not trying to rebuild. We're trying to win." "All around the league, if you've got guys that perform like they do and have, they get good contracts," Cozart said. "It shows that the Reds are serious about winning in the long term as much as the short term." How players like Votto and Phillips handle the pressure and responsibility that comes with large contracts remains to be seen. Baker, a former player in his 19th season as a manager, had advice. "You be careful not to let it put more pressure on you to try and do more than what you're capable of doing," Baker said. "You can only be yourself. You can't eat that money like Popeye eats spinach because you think it will give you some more. It doesn't work." If Baker does stay beyond 2012, he can expect a large nucleus to remain for quite a while. Besides the veterans that have been locked up long term, several young players are under club control for many years to come, including Cozart, Devin Mesoraco, Drew Stubbs, Chris Heisey and Mike Leake. "The thing I hate the most as a manager is saying goodbye. I enjoy saying hello," Baker said. "When you have high turnover and personnel and guys coming in and out, it's not easier on you, period, when you're a guy that gets close to your players in order to get the max out of them. You have to learn your players. If I was a coldhearted dude that didn't care, it wouldn't be a problem. I'm not like that. "You see girlfriends turn into wives, wives turn into mothers and see the kids grow up. That's pretty cool."