Outfielder Brett Phillips went unclaimed on outright waivers and has been assigned to Triple-A Norfolk, the Orioles announced late last night. Phillips was designated for assignment last week when Baltimore called outfield prospect Kyle Stowers up to the big leagues.
Phillips has the three-plus years of service time needed to reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency, but he does not have the five-plus years needed to reject the assignment while retaining the remainder of his salary. There’s about $346K to be paid out on this year’s $1.4MM salary; he’d earn half that much were he to reject and sign elsewhere for the prorated league minimum.
That Phillips went unclaimed is at least somewhat of a surprise, even given his struggles at the plate in 2022. He’s hitting just .144/.217/.249 in 225 plate appearances this year, but Phillips is a dynamic defender — one of the game’s best, regardless of position — and possesses plus speed and power. Major strikeout issues (career 37.8%) and dismal splits against lefties limit his overall offensive output, but Phillips is still the type of fleet-footed, lights-out defender that many clubs like to carry down the stretch — both when September rosters expand to 28 players and, in some cases, into the postseason.
Prior to the 2022 campaign, Phillips carried a .203/.291/.381 slash in 675 MLB plate appearances — still well below par but far closer to passable than this year’s output, particularly when considering his 23 home runs, 29 steals (in 34 tries) and elite defensive marks. In 2136 career innings in the outfield, he has 39 Defensive Runs Saved, 31 Outs Above Average and a 25.5 Ultimate Zone Rating.
For now, assuming he accepts the outright assignment, he’ll remain with the Orioles but won’t count against their 40-man roster while playing in Norfolk. If Phillips isn’t added back to the 40-man roster before season’s end, he’ll become a free agent this offseason (as is the right of all outrighted players with at least three years of Major League service time).