The Angels will sign Brett Phillips to a major league deal
The Angels and the gardener Brett Phillips are reportedly agreeing to a one-year major league deal Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Phillips will reportedly earn $1.2 million Jon Heyman of The New York Post. Phillips has already passed his physical and the deal is official, according to reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today, although a team announcement has yet to be made. The club’s 40-man squad was full prior to this deal, meaning a corresponding move will be required.
Phillips, 29 in May, has seen big league action in each of the last six seasons, spending time with the Brewers, Royals, Rays and Orioles. While he has never been much of a threat at the plate, he has brought value to these clubs with his defense and speed. His best season to date was 2021 with the Rays, where he hit 13 home runs and stole 14 bases. He struck out in a massive 38.7% of his plate appearances, but also walked in 11.3% of them. He finished the year with a .206/.300/.427 batting line and a wRC+ of 103, indicating he was 3% better than league average at the plate. He also earned excellent marks for his glove work and was considered worth 2.3 wins above replacement by FanGraphs.
Unfortunately, the flaws in his game were a bit more exposed in 2022. His already incredibly high strikeout rate climbed north to 41.8%, while his walk rate dropped to 7. 1% His batting line last year was .144/.217/.249, leading to an unsustainable WRC+ of 38. That frustrating season, including being designated for assignment by the Rays August, which led to a trade to the Orioles. He was delisted in August, but Phillips hit free agency at the end of the season.
Phillips certainly has some drawbacks, but there are also many admirable attributes. Statcast puts his sprint speed at the 88th percentile, his field jump at the 99th and his arm strength at the 97th. That speed could be more useful this year with the new rules which are designed to encourage more base stealing. Limits on defensive shifts could also give him a boost at the plate since he was displaced in 88% of his plate appearances last year.
The Angels will likely look to deploy Phillips in a part-time role off the bench, coming in for pinch runs and defensive replacements. The primary outfield should consist of Mike Trout in the center flanked by Hunter Renfroe i Taylor Ward in the corners with Shohei Ohtani serving as designated hitter most nights. The club has them too Mickey Moniak i I Adell as outfield options on their 40-man roster, but both have struggled at the major league level thus far and each has an option year remaining, allowing them to be sent to the minors as depth if they don’t his way bigger roles.
Phillips is the latest in a series of moves the Angels have made to improve the support of their star players. Despite having Trout and Ohtani and other stars over the years, the club has fallen short of expectations due to deficiencies elsewhere on the roster, especially when injuries have tested its depth. The club has signed Tyler Anderson to help their rotation and Carlos Estevez to strengthen the bullpen. On the position player side, they traded for Renfroe and Gio Urshela while signing Brandon Drury and now Phillips.
Phillips does not have an option, meaning he will have to stay on the roster or else be designated for assignment. However, he has just over three years of MLB service left and can be retained for future seasons via arbitration if he has a solid campaign for the Halos. That deal brings his payroll to about $206 million, according to calculations by List resource, and a competitive balance tax calculation of $221 million. This payroll figure would be a franchise record, for Cot Baseball Contracts, eclipsing last year’s $189 million mark. The CBT number puts them about $12 million below the lower luxury tax threshold, which will be $233 million this year.
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