The Rays designated outfielder Brett Phillips for assignment yesterday in acquiring outfielder Joseph Sirio of the Astros, and while a team normally has a week to trade a player after a DFA, that’s not the case with today’s 6:00 PM ET deadline. It looks like Phillips will change hands today as he is already sparking interest at several clubs. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox have reached the Rays, while Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that the Phillies have also expressed interest in adding some defense in the center. Brendan Kuty from NJ.com adds the Yankees as another interested club.
It’s been a bleak season at the plate for Phillips, who batted just .147/.225/.250 through 208 plate appearances and has fueled a whopping 40.9%. He’s never been one to bat off the bat much, but this year’s struggles still represent a marked departure from last year’s .206/.300/.427 output and .201/.291/ career .381 Phillips going into the season.
Despite all of Phillips’ struggles with the bat, he has long been one of the game’s foremost defenders. In addition to being able to play in all three outfield spots, he is a plus-defender across the board, judging by his career stats of 38 defensive points saved, 31 outs above average and a 25.3 Ultimate Zone score in only 2100 innings of outfield work in his career. The left-handed Phillips has also shown a lot of pop and was an excellent base stealer ahead of the season. In 675 previous at bats, he had hit 23 homeruns and went 29-for-34 in stolen base attempts.
Phillips will earn $1.4 million this season and be verifiable via arbitration for another two years, though this year’s struggles at the plate make him an obvious no-tender candidate. Still, as a reserve outfielder with strength, speed and an elite glove, he was able to offer a lot of value to a contender off the bench in the final few months of the season. He has no more minor league options, so he will have to stay on the roster of the club that may take him on.
Speculatively speaking, there are plenty of other possible attacks, even beyond the three teams that have reportedly requested. The Marlins and Astros have been known to look for potential midfield upgrades, and Phillips is, of course, a former Astros farmhand. The Twins’ outfield is now beyond recognition and Phillips would give them a cheap stopgap with elite defense to keep things going. The Blue Jays could see Phillips as a more attractive version of the same skills as the current fourth outfielder Bradley Zimmer offers.
Despite the lack of offensive value, past defense, speed and power production could land Phillips with another team at some point today.