Second baseman Brandon Phillips agreed to a four-year, $27-million US deal on Friday, settling the Cincinnati Reds' final arbitration case and satisfying a player who doesn't want to leave.
The 26-year-old infielder had a breakout season last year, when he joined Alfonso Soriano as the only second basemen in major league history to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases.
Agents Sam and Seth Levinson negotiated the deal for Phillips, who wanted to stay with the team that gave him a second chance by getting him from Cleveland in a trade. Phillips had asked for $4.2 million in arbitration, and the Reds had offered $2.7 million.
The new contract includes a club option for a fifth season. If Phillips is traded, it becomes a mutual option, and the total value of the contract increases to $43.25 million over five years.
'Only team I want to play for'
"To tell you the truth, I wanted to get a contract that would let me be with the Cincinnati Reds for a long time," Phillips said in a conference call. "This is the one team I want to play for.
"Barry Larkin played for this team. He's one person I've looked up to. Another reason is that the Reds gave me a second chance. They opened up the door to me. The city welcomed me with open arms. I just want to make sure I give back to them from what they gave to me."
Phillips made $407,500 last season, when he finally met the high expectations set for him early in his career.
The Indians considered him one of their top prospects, but he struggled when promoted to the majors and fell out of favour with the organization. By opening day 2006, the Indians were out of options and patience with Phillips, who traded him to the Reds for a player to be named.
The move shocked Phillips, who realized he was getting a second and perhaps final chance in Cincinnati. He hit .276 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs that season, taking over as the starting second baseman along the way.
Last year, he emerged as one of the team's up-and-coming stars. He joined outfielder Eric Davis and Larkin as the only Reds players to have 30 homers and steals in a season. He also broke Joe Morgan's team record for homers by a second baseman.
He had a 22-game hitting streak early in the season, the best of his career. Phillips also led NL second basemen in fielding percentage, committing only eight errors.
Surprised at own performance
Even Phillips was surprised by how well he did, especially with home runs. He, Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. all hit 30.
"Griffey told me, 'Don't limit yourself because you don't know how good you are,"' Phillips said. "Honestly, I didn't know I was capable of doing things like that.
"I know I can play this game. I never doubted myself. My goal was to be 20-20. I didn't think I would exceed my goal by that much. I knew I could hit 30 homers, I knew I was capable, but I didn't think I was going to do it last year."
Phillips plans to join the team for spring training in Sarasota, Fla., over the weekend. Reds pitchers and catchers open camp with their first workout on Sunday afternoon.