Reds, Brandon Phillips OK contract
CINCINNATI -- With every big deal, the small-market Cincinnati Reds show they're serious about winning.
The Reds made another significant financial commitment on Tuesday, giving All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips a six-year, $72.5 million contract. That came only five days after former NL MVP Joey Votto got 10 years and $225 million added to his deal.
They're all in for a run of playoff appearances.
"I think this puts us in a pretty good position to build around two premier players on the everyday side, and with some of the pitchers we have to be a contending club for years to come, hopefully," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "It's not easy. A lot of things have to go right for you.
"But we're getting deeper and deeper in talent. That's what it's going to take in a small market."
Phillips' deal, in the works since last year, is the last major one for a while.
The Reds couldn't agree on the length of a new deal with Phillips, so they exercised the 2012 option on his old contract worth $12.5 million. They remained at odds until the Reds agreed to a longer deal.
"We originally had a certain number of years in mind that we were going to do the deal," Jocketty said. "Then we realized that we'd probably have to extend another year, and that's what we did. We went another year on the contract. We were able to get the deal done rather quick after that."
The new deal adds salaries of $10 million for next year, $11 million in 2014, $12 million in 2015, $13 million in 2016 and $14 million in 2017.
The Reds have gone on a spending spree to try to turn themselves into an annual contender. They gave right fielder Jay Bruce a six-year, $51 million deal after the 2010 season, when the Reds won the NL Central and got swept by Philadelphia in the playoffs.
Since then, they've given left-hander Aroldis Chapman a six-year, $20.25 million contract, Johnny Cueto a four-year, $27 million deal, and left-hander Sean Marshall a three-year, $16.5 million agreement.
Owner Bob Castellini concluded the only way to make the Reds a consistent contender is to spend to keep the team together rather than losing players through free agency.
"You do that to build a franchise and a foundation for years to come," Castellini said. "So I don't anticipate to continue to have all these huge contracts. But you build your franchise on the people that are in that dugout and on that field."
Phillips blossomed in Cincinnati, which got him from Cleveland for right-hander Jeff Stevens at the start of the 2006 season. Phillips made it clear he wanted to stay in Cincinnati and began negotiating a new deal last season.
When the club gave in, the deal was struck. Phillips would become the first 36-year-old second baseman to make $12 million or more.
Phillips was so thrilled that he had to keep himself from crying at a news conference to announce the deal. He said he had implored his agents to find a way to keep him in Cincinnati.
"I cried about this. This is where I wanted to be," Phillips said. "I'm still ... you know ... loss of words right now, for me to play in the city I really love. The fans have embraced me and they love me and I love them back."
Phillips is one of the team's most popular players. His following grew quickly after he started a Twitter account last year, regularly engaging fans. He's also a regular on the team's annual winter caravan bus trips to outlying cities, staying to sign autographs for as long as needed.
"Brandon is one of the great second basemen in baseball," Castellini said. "He's also fantastic off the field, represents this franchise with a big smile all the time. He really relates to the fans, and vice versa."
Manager Dusty Baker thinks a small-market club -- Cincinnati's payroll of $82.2 million ranks 17th in the majors -- can afford what the Reds are trying to do.
"Hopefully, the size of the market won't matter," Baker said. "Hopefully, we'll win a lot of games and draw fans. (Owners) are depending on the fans to offset these commitments. Evidently, they're not afraid of commitment. Those are some big commitments."
Phillips got his new deal a day after he left a 7-1 loss to St. Louis because of a cramp in his left hamstring. Baker said Phillips will probably need a few days to recover.
"You don't want it to become something that bothers him all year, especially with him batting leadoff and with how acrobatic he has to be in the field," Baker said. "I think (he needs) at least three or four days. He may not like it, but this isn't the time to be a hero. If it was August or September, it would be a different story."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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