Talks between the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds about a deal for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips were at a standstill Friday because Phillips had not yet agreed to waive his no-trade clause.
The Nationals would likely send prospects to the Reds for Phillips, who would fill the Nationals’ hole at second base and provide them with a top-of-the-order hitter.
But because Phillips, a three-time all-star who is due to make $13 million in 2016 and $14 million in 2017, has played 10 years in the majors and five for the same team, he has the ability to void any trade.
The onus is on the Reds, not the Nationals, to persuade Phillips to consent to a deal, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations said. As of late Friday, Phillips and the Reds had made no progress toward that agreement, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Phillips accepted deferred compensation from the Reds when he signed a six-year contract extension in 2012, presumably so as not to handcuff the Reds financially as they tried to build a roster around him.
That money is now an issue between Phillips and the Reds that must be resolved before Phillips would agree to a trade to Washington. Under his current deal, Phillips is owed $27 million over the next two seasons.
What happens in these situations can be complex. It is the responsibility of the team that currently controls the player — in this case, the Reds — to make the new situation enticing. They can do that by offering more money to the existing years of the contract, or even extending it. It is unlikely Phillips would just waive his no-trade clause and keep the current terms of his deal.
Phillips ignited speculation that an agreement was nearing completion Thursday night when he tweeted “513 to 202” -- the area codes for Cincinnati and Washington — with an airplane emoji next to the numbers. He then tweeted that he had landed in Washington and included the hashtag for Under Armour, the sport apparel manufacturer that sponsors Phillips and is headquartered in Baltimore. Phillips was meeting with Under Armour on this trip, according to a person familiar with the situation. It was not known whether he also met with the Nationals.
Phillips has played in Cincinnati since 2006 and moved his family to the area year round. Most players make their offseason homes elsewhere, but Phillips is entrenched in the Cincinnati community. Some thought the chance to play for a contender and reunite with his former manager Dusty Baker may entice him to come to Washington.
Though he would not provide the left-handed hitting the Nationals want to balance their lineup, Phillips does provide above-average speed and defense, assets Mike Rizzo, Washington’s general manager, and Baker have said were keys for the team moving forward.
Phillips hit at least 17 home runs in every season from 2006 to 2013, and stole 20 bases in four of those seasons. A sprained thumb and other injuries troubled him in 2014, but he reemerged in 2015 when he stole 23 bases, his highest total since 2009, and hit .294 in 148 games, his highest average since 2011.
If the Reds cannot persuade Phillips to accept the trade, the Nationals would have to add Phillips’s name to a growing list of players they have pursued but not been able to obtain this offseason. The Nationals offered competitive deals to free agents Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Darren O’Day, and each took less money to sign with other teams.
James Wagner and Barry Svrluga contributed to this report.