This insanely slow offseason for major league free agency has spread into Spring Training. According to the list, there are still 69 major league Type 20-B free agents still available to sign a contract. That number is astounding, considering there are still top quality free agents on that list. There are two major names left for second basemen. Those are Brandon Phillips and Neil Walker. Walker’s lost a lot of his markets and Phillips’ seems colder.
Brandon Phillips is 36 years old. There is no denying that. At the same time, his numbers are still within his normal averages. A career 96 OPS+ player, Phillips hit at an 93 OPS+ last season (below average). That batting line includes 13 home runs, 60 RBI, 11 stolen bases with a .285/.319/.416 batting line for Anaheim and Atlanta. Last season in Atlanta, he showed some versatility and played third base on 25 occasions. He was traded to Anaheim, but replaced by Ian Kinsler this season. Phillips had a .984 fielding percentage in 2017, below his career average, but still reasonable.
Kinsler and Anaheim basically comes out in the trash in terms of replacing Phillips. He hit .236/.313/.412 with a 90 OPS+. Kinsler hit 22 home runs and stole 14 bases. That represented enough to replace Phillips, who provided better numbers. Regardless, his old team in Atlanta has Ozzie Albies as their second baseman of the future. At most, he would be a good backup utility infielder for Atlanta. Phillips also could be the insurance for Albies, if the kid stunk or got injured.
Brandon Phillips would probably want to sign with a contender. That said, there are not many contenders who do not have a great second baseman. The only one who could represent an upgrade would be the Arizona Diamondbacks. Chris Owings is their second baseman for another year. In 2017, Owings hit 12 home runs and a battling line of .268/.299/.442 with 893 OPS+. He is a career 79 OPS+ player in five seasons. The performance has not lived up to the hype. A replacement might be possible, even on a one year deal. Owings projects to hit .265/.307/.423 with 13 home runs and 20 stolen bases. That is still below average.
The Diamondbacks could use a new second baseman. Daniel Descalso is their backup. Does anyone believe Daniel Descalso as a starter if Owings continues to suck? This writer does not. He is a bench bat at this point in his career. He projects to hit .245/.321/.383 as a bench bat with five home runs and two stolen bases. Brandon Phillips projects to hit 13 home runs with 60 RBIs and a .277/.314/.406 batting line. Knocking Owings out of the organization or to the bench would be best for the team. If Owings knocks the cover off the ball in 2018, Phillips can go to the bench or be traded at the deadline.
There is no reason for Brandon Phillips to still be a free agent or for the Diamondbacks, a contender, to really keep running Chris Owings out there. The Diamondbacks and Phillips fit perfectly.