MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Atlanta Braves acquired a second baseman on Sunday – for free. Well, basically, it was for nothing.
The Cincinnati Reds didn’t need Brandon Phillips, but the Braves did. After a traffic accident a few weeks ago, Sean Rodriguez is now going to be out for a while. The Braves had him penciled in to start at second, but now he may miss the entire season with a shoulder issue.
So, Braves general manager John Coppolella quickly called the Reds and revisited the deal that had first been talked about in November. It didn’t take long to get the deal done. Phillips is in the last year of his contract, and the Reds have young players to take over at second base.
So, the Braves had all the leverage, and that’s why the Reds will pay all but one million of Phillips’ salary and the Braves only had to give up two trash minor league relievers to get the deal done.
And, it’s a perfect fit. The Braves have their own young second baseman – Ozzie Albies. But he’s only 20 years old, so it won’t hurt him to get more seasoning in the minor leagues this year. The Braves now don’t have to rush Albies, and at the same time, they can use Phillips to be a mentor for Albies and Travis Demeritte, another second base prospect. Phillips is a good veteran who is good with young players.
But the main reason this deal made so much sense is it makes the Braves better. Atlanta’s lineup is – all of a sudden – pretty good. Ender Inciarte will lead off, followed by Dansby Swanson, then Freddie Freeman will hit third. Matt Kemp, who is slimmed down a bit, will hit cleanup. Nick Markakis hits fifth. Then Phillips sixth, and Adonis Garcia and Tyler Flowers round it out. That’s not bad. Remember how great the Braves did at the plate after Kemp joined the team in early August and then Swanson joined two weeks later? Well, how are they going to do for the entire season?
Last year, it was a revolving door at second base, shortstop, third base, left field and at catcher. Now, new manager Brian Snitker might actually have stability in his lineup. Combine that with an improved starting rotation and this Braves team might actually be pretty good this season.
Remember, they won only 68 games last year, so we want to have realistic expectations, but forgive Braves fans if they are excited about the addition of Phillips and the start of a season that should be much better than the last two.
Pitchers and catchers have reported. The Braves are on the field. Baseball is back, and this year the Braves will be worth watching.