Monday, May 12, 2008

Steve Phillips is a trading savant

I do not know how I missed this gloriously hysterical ESPN the Magazine article by former Mets GM Steve Phillips, in which he "advises" Walt Jocketty on ways to rebuild the Cincinnati Reds. Before I talk about the inanity of his suggestions, let me first note that the irony of Steve Phillips offering advice to Walt Jocketty is so delicious I'm at a loss for words.

Let's look at Phillips's suggestions:

1. TRADE JUNIOR Yes, Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the few reasons to visit Great American Ball Park, but it's time to make the tough decisions. Griffey is signed only through this year, with a club option for 2009. As a 10-and-five player, he can veto any deal, but Chicago is a popular destination, so call White Sox GM Ken Williams, who's tried to get Griffey in the past, and ask for Josh Fields or Carlos Quentin. The Sox have a shot, and Griffey would be huge in Chi-Town. Then call up top prospect Jay Bruce, and put him in center for the next 10 years.

Why would Chicago trade Carlos "steal of the year" Quentin -- a young, affordable, OF commodity -- for one year of brittle Ken Griffey Jr.? Even for one year, I wouldn't do that deal in any fantasy league. Plus, why would Cincinnati want to trade an OF to get one in return? They have too many already! Fields is only in the minors because Chicago couldn't move Joe Crede. He is, like Quentin, far cheaper, far younger, and won't be a free agent next year.

This isn't bad advice from Phillips, it's just completely impossible. While he's at it, why not go ahead and trade Corey Patterson for Javiar Vazquez and Bobby Jenks. That should be just as doable.

2. DUNN DEAL Use Adam Dunn's power as a chip to get pitchers. The Reds have a limited budget and an even smaller ballpark, so they must deal for arms and develop them. Dunn is in the last year of his deal, so maximize the return by giving an interested team a 72-hour window to negotiate an extension. Go to the Giants, who need offense to replace Barry Bonds, and ask for Matt Cain. Go to Toronto and request a package that includes Adam Lind and Dustin McGowan or Shawn Marcum. Call Cleveland, which is desperate for bats, and ask for Cliff Lee and one of these three: OF Franklin Gutiérrez and lefties Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey.

The thought of the Giants being willing to trade Matt Cain, who is signed through his arbitration years for pennies on the dollar, for one year of Adam Dunn, is preposterous. Nevertheless, it's more believable than thinking that Cleveland would trade Cliff Lee and Gutierrez/Sowers/Laffey for Dunn. How could anyone ever involved in any MLB front office think such a trade would be possible? If Cleveland really wanted Dunn, they could just sign him this offseason without giving up good young talent.

The Toronto Lind and McGowan/Marcum deal seems more plausible now versus last winter, when Lind still looked like a major-league regular with the Blue Jays. Still, that's a pretty hefty price for half a season of Dunn.

3. BYE, BYE BRONSON In 2006, Bronson Arroyo was a great acquisition by Krivsky, but at age 31, and after throwing 656µ innings the previous three years, he's not the same pitcher. Get what you can, and get out from under his contract, because financial flexibility is critical for a small-market franchise. There are plenty of teams dying for starting pitching: Texas, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee and Baltimore come to mind. After trading Arroyo, bring up Homer Bailey, and give him the ball every fifth day. Scouts think he can be special; let's see if they're right.

Umm, Steve, if you want Cincinnati to follow your "trade Arroyo" advice, you might want to actually explain to them who might want Arroyo. If Cincy is to get out from under Bronson's contract, you must know some team that would want to give Arroyo a lot of money to pitch for them. I posit to you that such a team does not exist, except in your imagination.

4. CALL HANK Have owner Bob Castellini ring Hank Steinbrenner and tell him you've got a way to move Joba Chamberlain into the Yankees' rotation. Offer Jared Burton, who's whiffing hitters in bunches, and Jeremy Affeldt for Phil Hughes. Sell Burton as Chamberlain's eighth-inning replacement and Affeldt as the situational lefty the Yanks lack. Throw in Arroyo if they want. Make it an owners deal. Castellini and Hank will love it; GM Brian Cashman will hate it. The bottom line is that Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Vólquez and Hughes would give Cincy four very different looks.


Trading crappy role players and marginally useful cogs for other team's premier prospects (even though they're struggling at the moment) is fun on message boards, but doesn't usually happen in real life. Unless you're dealing with Dan Duquette, Wayne Krivsky, or Brian Sabean.

5. SHORT CUT The Reds have a tough decision when Álex González returns from his left-knee injury in a few weeks, because Jeff Keppinger has proved he can play shortstop every day. What to do? Trade utility man Ryan Freel to the Dodgers for Scott Proctor. LA can use a supersub, and Proctor can pitch the eighth inning if Burton is traded. Then Keppinger stays put and González becomes a defensive specialist—one with a lot of value if another club loses its starting shortstop.

You have got to be kidding me. One of the key components of trading is to understand what another team needs. The Dodgers need another oft-injured utility player with little power and above average speed like they need a bullet to their head. They can't find playing time for Delwyn Young, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier in the outfield, so basically Phillips is saying that Freel's going to fill in for Furcal, Kent, and Nomar in the infield when they need days off. Wow. That's a real pressing team need the Dodgers surely can't address internally. Proctor was a good reliever in 2006 and 2007, though he's sucked thus far in 2008. He's not an eminent player by any means, but the Dodgers aren't just going to give him away (I hope).

No wonder Phillips was run out of New York. He has no idea how to judge trades (and he kept having affairs with multiple [female] members of the Mets front office). IIRC, didn't he sign Mo Vaughn to a gigantic, long term deal? Didn't he approve the Kazmir for Zambrano trade?

This man is being paid to offer his opinions on the subject of baseball management?


Anonymous said...

If former Mets' Genereal Manager Steve Phillips had his way, he would have traded away not one but both of the young cornerstones of this franchise.

Last July, Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun offered up this piece of information:

In late July of 2002 the Blue Jays were nearing the end of the line with outfielder Jose Cruz Jr.

Cruz owned a .227 batting average at the break with 13 homers and 45 RBIs.

Finally, they found someone with interest in Cruz.

The New York Mets said they would take Cruz, offering a minor-leaguer playing his first full season at class-A.

Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi decided against taking the minor-leaguer for Cruz...

The Jays held on to Cruz, who finished the 2002 season with a .245 average, 18 homers and 70 RBIs. After the season the Jays decided not to tender Cruz a contract and he signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants.

That class-A kid? ... You may have seen him at Tuesday's all-star game -- and on a hundred or so highlight clips -- as he grew up to be all-star third baseman David Wright.

Steve PhillipsJust in case you think this was some sort of aberration on Phillips' part, check out this item from Joel Sherman in today's New York Post:

If you think the Roberto Alomar trade was a disaster for the Mets, you should know it could have been worse. Far, far worse.

An official who was involved in the discussions that led to that Dec. 11, 2001 deal said that one of the players the Mets made available to Cleveland was a Low-A shortstop named Jose Reyes. The official said the Indians liked Reyes, but simply did not have enough information from their South Atlantic League scouts to make an 18-year-old with just two pro seasons the key player in the deal rather than Alex Escobar.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to credit the above post...
Mike Steffanos:

O.C. Mike said...

Oh. My. God.