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Yankees potential trade target: Brandon Phillips

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Should the Yankees consider upgrading second base by trading for Brandon Phillips?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In December 2013, rumors circulated that the Reds wanted to trade Brandon Phillips for Brett Gardner. This was following the departure of Robinson Cano, but the Yankees turned down the offer, even though they were in the market for a new second baseman. A few months later, they signed Gardner to a four-year contract extension and that was the end of that. Recently, the idea of trading for Phillips has been floating around again because the Yankees still don't have a solution to the problem that is second base. Should they consider trading for Phillips?

To say that Stephen Drew is having a bad season is an understatement. At this point, it's more like a bad year because his 2014 season was awful too. In past seasons, his glove might have made up for his underwhelming bat, but even his defense has slipped this year (-5.1 UZR/150 and -5 defensive runs saved at second base). That could be because his natural position is shortstop, and the Yankees forced him to play second base for the first time when they acquired him last season. Either way, Drew's glove no longer justifies keeping him in the lineup. Other than hitting the occasional home run, it's like he's lost the ability to hit. He's slashing just .179/.254/.375 with 70 wRC+ on the season and has been the Yankees' worst hitter, yet they continue to play him and talk about how hard he's hitting the ball. While it's true that his BABIP is a bizarrely low .166, which means he's been terribly unlucky, it's also true that we're halfway through the season, and it doesn't show any signs of bouncing back. Also, for all this talk of hard hit balls, only 21.4% of the balls in play have been classified as hit with hard speed. That's actually the lowest of Drew's career, and significantly down from his career average of 30.5%.

Clearly, playing Drew at second base has not worked out for the Yankees, and they should be considering other options. Phillips is one such option, and it appears that he would be an upgrade both at the plate and on the field. In terms of his defense, this season Phillips has five defensive runs saved at second base along with 2.5 UZR/150. Through 296 plate appearances, Phillips is hitting .277/.315/.371 with five home runs and 89 wRC+. He's been worth 1.0 fWAR, as opposed to Drew who's been worth -0.3. The only real advantage that Drew has over Phillips (besides more home runs) is his walk percentage. Phillips rarely works a walk, and has just walked just 14 times all season to give him a walk percentage of 4.7%, compared to Drew's 9.3%. Phillips might not be considered a huge upgrade, but in a tight AL East race, the Yankees' lineup could use all the help it can get. The Yankees did call up Rob Refsnyder today, but it's too soon to determine if they'll actually play him and bench Drew, or if they're trying to show him off for a trade.

It shouldn't be that difficult to find a baseball player who is better than Drew, at least in theory. The main hang-up on any trade involving Phillips is the fact that he's signed through 2017 and is owed $27 million total for the last two years of his contract. He only recently turned 34, but do the Yankees really want to take on a large contract for another aging player (and likely lose prospects in the package)? Probably not. Trading for Phillips might only be feasible if he were a throw-in for a trade for Johnny Cueto. It would be mighty risky to take on Phillips' contract for a few months of Cueto though, since he's set to become a free agent at the end of the season. In all likelihood, the Yankees aren't going to make a move for a second baseman, since there are so few non-mediocre options out there, but Phillips would be an improvement at the plate.

Should the Yankees make a move for a second baseman before the trade deadline? Would you like to see the Yankees trade for Brandon Phillips or do you think they should stick with Stephen Drew?