The holiday season has arrived, and Brandon Phillips hasn't gone anywhere.
He is still a Cincinnati Red. Odds are he will remain a Cincinnati Red.
So much for the Hot Stove banter.
The Reds are not anxious to move Phillips, despite all the attention given to a possible deal of the three-time All-Star second baseman. They decided in the spring of 2012 that Phillips and first baseman Joey Votto were the foundation of the franchise, signing both to long-term deals to underscore the commitment.
Nothing has changed.
Well, almost nothing.
There was a bit of a furor in the first half of last season when a Cincinnati Magazine article came out portraying Phillips as feeling betrayed by things he was told during the negotiations of his six-year, $72.5 million deal, going so far as to indicate he was a bit miffed by Votto getting a 10-year, $225 million deal. But it wasn't like Phillips could have been surprised by the contract differential.
For one, Votto's deal was done before ACES, which represents Phillips, came to an agreement with the Reds on the second baseman's new deal. And there is market value.
At the time of his signing, Phillips' annual average value of $12,083,333 was the third highest ever for a second baseman. Dan Uggla's AAV was $12.4 million and Chase Utley's was $12,142,857. Votto's deal, meanwhile, was driven by the nine-year, $214 million free-agent deal Prince Fielder received from Detroit after the 2011 season.
With reports that president/CEO Bob Castellini was upset at the accusation of the team having not been above board with Phillips, the media jumped on the idea that the Reds would be looking to unload the second baseman. And then came a second-half struggle for Phillips, which made other teams think that the Reds might be willing to sell cheap.
Oh, the Reds did have some discussions with the New York Yankees about a deal that would have sent Phillips to the Bronx for outfielder Brett Gardner, but they never got past the talking stages. The Yankees actually made initial contact before the season even ended, a part of their due diligence in determining who might be available to step in at second base if they failed to re-sign Robinson Cano.
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty wasn't about to slam the door. Anybody, on any team, is available for the right price.
And so when Cano took the 10-year, $240 million deal from the Mariners, the Yankees and Reds had some much-publicized conversations that didn't lead to anything.
The Reds know what they have in Phillips, and they like him.
Oh, he is a bit of a free spirit, willing to speak his mind when maybe he shouldn't, which was a part of why the Montreal Expos and Cleveland Indians both dealt him. The Reds don't seem to mind. They like the trade off.
They like the way Phillips plays. They like his commitment to the team. They like his ability to ignore the distractions once he walks into the clubhouse.
And the Reds aren't buying on the idea that Phillips' second-half troubles in 2013 are a sign of diminishing skills.
Not at all.
Why? Because they know that Phillips played the final four months with a nagging left wrist injury that took a toll on his ability to produce. Phillips did miss four consecutive games early in June and three more later that month, but he was in the lineup for all but three games the final three months of the season.
After putting Phillips into the cleanup spot following Ryan Ludwick's shoulder injury on Opening Day, the Reds eventually moved Phillips back into his usual two-hole in the order after the All-Star break.
Phillips, however, couldn't hide the wrist problem. After hitting .291 with nine home runs and 44 RBIs in 213 at-bats the first two months of the season, earning a starting assignment in the All-Star Game, Phillips hit only .244 with nine home runs and 59 RBIs in his final 393 at-bats.
And the Reds are convinced that with an offseason to rest and rehab the wrist, Phillips will be back to being Phillips, a player who has been an All-Star and won three Gold Glove Awards and one Silver Slugger in three of the past four seasons.
Rest, after all, was the only way Phillips could cure the problem, and as long as the Reds had a shot at the postseason, he wasn't about to come out of the lineup for long.
That's part of Phillips' DNA. He says what he believes. He plays every day. No excuses.
That's what the Reds like about him.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less