Chances that the Nationals and Reds will complete a deal for veteran second baseman Brandon Phillips appeared to be fading Saturday. Because Phillips has played 10 years in the majors, five with the same team, he must consent to any trade. As of Friday, the Reds had made no progress in convincing him to do so, a person familiar with the situation said, likely leaving the Nationals to pursue other options at second base.
Among the issues the Reds needed to resolve with Phillips was the question of money deferred in the six-year, $72.5 million contract extension he signed in 2012, according to that person. Phillips moved his family to Cincinnati year-round, and has played for the Reds since 2006, though some speculated he might be willing to leave the area to reunite with Dusty Baker, his former manager.
If the deal dies — and no one with the Nationals has confirmed that it is indeed dead — the Nationals will have chased and lost out on another all-star caliber player. The Nationals entered bids for free agent stars Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Darren O’Day, but none of them decided to sign in D.C.
Still, it’s only December, meaning the Nationals have ample time to recalibrate in their pursuit of a second baseman — and the left-handed hitting their right-handed heavy lineup needs. Mets postseason hero Daniel Murphy is a free agent, though he does not seem like a high priority. Veteran Kelly Johnson is also available, a left-handed hitter with a .251 career average who also finished his season with the Mets. Well-respected clubhouse presence Howie Kendrick, 32, is also still available in free agency, though he would cost the Nationals a draft pick to sign because he received and rejected a qualifying offer from the Dodgers.
The Nationals could also pursue options via trade, like they did with Phillips, who was a natural trade candidate given the Reds’ desire to rebuild.