Brandon Phillips put up reserve level numbers last year, with an 0.8 WAR. Sean Rodriguez’s WAR was nearly starter level, at 1.9, despite only 300 ABs. He had an .859 OPS, some .120 points higher than Phillips, who turns 36 in June. Rodriguez is four years younger and coming off his best season by far. Maybe it was a blip. Or maybe he was going to become the next Justin Turner.
We won’t find out this year, with Rodriguez expected to miss 3-to-5 months, though that’s probably optimistic. Look at Michael Brantley, who missed all but 11 games in 2016.
So Rodriguez was trending up. Phillips is trending down. More than that, Rodriguez could play third base, where I envisioned him settling in as the everyday starter around May, with Ozzie Albies taking over at second. Now the only other option to Adonis Garcia (0.2 WAR in ’16) is Jace Peterson.
And, unless Phillips turns into Erick Aybar, Albies will be blocked. Benching Phillips won’t be easy, if reports from Cincy are to be believed.
“You can’t tell by Brandon’s face whether we won or lost, but you can tell if he went 0 for 4 or 2 for 4 no matter if we won or lost.”
So he’s not even a “good clubhouse guy,” something the Braves supposedly treasure. Why in the hell else would you bring back Jeff Francoeur?
All told, I’m less hopeful than I was 24 hours ago.