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Red Sox sign Brandon Phillips to minor-league deal

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This could actually be a bad sign

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Second base has been an issue for the Red Sox all year. Dustin Pedroia hasn’t been able to recover from his offseason knee surgery, playing in only three games before going back on the disabled list after his initial stint off the roster. Eduardo Núñez has been the most common fill-in, and not only has he been a disaster in the field but he’s hitting worse than he ever has at any other point in his career on top of that. Beyond those two, the team has Brock Holt and Tzu-Wei Lin, who are both fine but not players you want in anything more than a depth role. On Wednesday, they added a little more depth to the position, signing Brandon Phillips to a minor-league deal.

Not all that long ago, this signing would have made much bigger headlines than it does at this point in the second baseman’s career. Although he was always a bit overrated by some, he’s long been a stellar defensive second baseman while providing solid-average production at the plate. Those days are behind the three-time All-Star, but the former Red split last season between the Braves and Angels and still finished the year with a respectable 94 OPS+ in 604 plate appearances. He hasn’t played at all this season, however, so the soon-to-be 37-year-old (his birthday is Thursday) will certainly need some time to tune-up in Pawtucket.

More than anything, this could be an indication that the Red Sox aren’t sure what they can expect from Pedroia this season. There haven’t really been any reports of progress on the veteran’s knee since he returned to the disabled list. Instead, we’ve simply gotten updates that indicate he is still feeling some pain and discomfort in the knee. Núñez is simply untenable as an everyday option there, so Phillips adds a bit of possible stability. It’s unclear what he has left in the tank, but at the very least he will be an upgrade defensively and if he can hit like he did in 2017 that’s actually a solid everyday option. Pedroia returning at full capacity is still, of course, the goal, but Phillips adds a nice piece of emergency depth.

Update: Brandon Phillips is apparently going to be playing third base.