St. Louis Cardinals: Brandon Phillips Leaves the National League Central

Brandon Phillips has been an easy target for hostility among St. Louis Cardinals fans ever since his role in the 2010 brawl between the Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. On Saturday, the Atlanta Braves acquired the second baseman in a trade, sending two minor league pitchers to Cincinnati in return.

Ken Rosenthal initially reported Saturday night that a deal between the Reds and Braves involving second baseman Brandon Phillips was in the works, and it was finalized a short while later. This means the St. Louis Cardinals will not see Phillips this season as much as they’re accustomed to.

Phillips blocked a trade to his hometown Atlanta in November. This time, he waived his no-trade rights.

The Reds are set to pay $13M of Phillips’ $14M contract in 2017, and receive Minor League pitchers Andrew McKirahan and Carlos Portuondo from the Braves.

The saga between Phillips and the Cardinals began in August 2010, when the Cardinals rolled into Great American Ballpark for a critical three game series, trailing the Reds by one game in the Central Division. Prior to the first game, Phillips had some strong words for the Cardinals, adding fuel to the fire of a heated race for the division crown.

In the second game of the series, when Phillips came to the dish for his first at-bat, Yadier Molina fired right back, the benches cleared, and the rest is history. Ever since, Cardinals fans have greeted Phillips with a chorus of boos every time he strides to the plate at Busch Stadium.

He has stated in the past that he loves to be hated by Cardinals fans. Now that he’s gone from the division, they’ll have to decide if he’s still worth being public enemy number one.

The Cardinals lost the division to the Reds in 2010, but went 12-6 against Cincinnati head-to-head that season, and have owned the Reds the past seven years, especially at Busch Stadium.

Since joining the Reds in 2006, Phillips has hit .273 against St. Louis pitching. That’s solid for a player who sees a team more than a dozen times a year, but it’s not like he was absolutely lethal against the Cardinals. However, he has had some big hits in his career vs. St. Louis.

The Reds getting rid of Phillips is just another step along the arduous path that is Cincinnati’s rebuilding process. St. Louis must take advantage of the Reds’ inferiority in the division this season if they want to compete for the National League Central title.

In a division where the Chicago Cubs aren’t going anywhere and the Pittsburgh Pirates figure to be relevant again, it is imperative that the Cardinals make the most of their 19 meetings with the Reds. They will get their shot early, hosting two series vs. the Reds in the opening month of the season.

Cincinnati will likely lean on Jose Peraza at second base in 2017. He hit .324 and stole 21 bases in 72 games with the team last season.

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The Cardinals haven’t seen their last of Phillips. The Redbirds will play at brand-new SunTrust Park May 5-7 in Atlanta for a weekend series. The first time Phillips will visit Busch Stadium this season as a member of the Braves? August 11, the seven-year anniversary of the brawl in Cincinnati.

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