Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I like it!

For the first time in a long time, we're actually having an argument on the argument blog! Even better, good points are being made like fucking crazy. Word.

Pepe, I do see some of what you're saying, and you've made enough good points that I'll admit to saying there's some possibility this could end up working in the Phillies' favor. And I don't think anyone has to be worried that either Bourn or Costanza will one day make this look like a Larry Andersen/Jeff Bagwell deal.

However, that doesn't mean I agree with you ...

The reason I didn't mention Victorino is because I think he's got a capable — not great, but capable — bat for a corner outfield spot, whereas Bourn clearly didn't and Werth does only against southpaws (more on that in a second). You're right that Victorino is a better defensive outfielder than Bourn, but the FH's main advantage is his arm strength, which is better utilized in right field. Furthermore, the combination of Bourn and Victorino out there would probably be worth at least one win, if not two, defensively, since Bourn is a vastly better defensive outfielder than Rowand was last season (desire to run into fences notwithstanding) and all of the Phillies' pitchers are flyball pitchers, if memory serves.

Werth is as "perfect" a platoon player as you'll find these days. He absolutely kills lefties, but is right around replacement level for an outfielder against righties (here are the actual numbers). I love guys like Werth, because when properly utilized they're fantastic, low-cost weapons. He and Bourn would have been perfect platoon partners, as the latter evidenced a huge platoon split himself in 2007, albeit over a smaller sample size. In my idealization, Bourn plays CF against righties, while Victorino starts in CF against lefties with Werth slipping into RF. That's a very favorable situation for any team, and also gives the Phils the opportunity to rest the perpetually ailing Burrell whenever needed, since they'll have four OFs getting regular PT.

I guess the argument, at least to me, doesn't really rest on whether Lidge is good, great or otherwise. It rests on the relative costs and availability of replacements. Bourn may not be a great player, but he's a good player — think a younger Dave Roberts — who's essentially free for the next four years. Costanza is, as you suggested, a Kouzmanoff in a perfect world, which has value but perhaps not as much as the prospect freaks like myself would like to believe. Furthermore, the Phillies have a very real need for OFs, since Rowand most certainly is not coming back, nor should he be pined over at the price he's asking for. I see a ton of value in Bourn, not all of which is directly tied into pure performance. Costanza's potential value — even if it's moderate at best — only serves to tip the scales a little more in the direction of this being a bad trade.

Relievers can be had in this market, and can be had for better prices relative to their actual value, than equivalent OFs. I'm not sure Cordero is worth $40 million — actually, I know he's not — but Gagne is probably worth about $6 million a year, which is very affordable when you consider that Bourn costs virtually nothing. And I think that's the point Nate Silver was driving at — if the Phillies were going to spend an additional $15 million (I'm just throwing that number out) this offseason, there are probably better ways it could have been allotted. And, at the end of the day, the more major-league caliber players you have under your control for league minimum, the better off you are. Every one you trade away costs you not only that player but also the payroll and roster flexibility they afford (you could send down Bourn in a pinch, because he still has options left, for instance).

As for Romero, you're quite right to think that the Phillies needed to retain the best available left-handed reliever on the market. And had they signed him to a one-year, $5 million deal with performance-vested options in 2009 & 2010, we wouldn't be having an argument at all. But the chances of Romero giving the Phillies even one great year — and $4 million for a situational/one-inning reliever should pretty much guarantee "great" — are pretty marginal already (again ... he was waived twice last year! He did not turn into Mike Morgan in 33 innings, at the age of 31), which means the chances of the Phillies even getting a moderate return on those three years at $4 million per annum is a longshot at best. Is it the worst contract of all-time? No. It's not even the worst contract on that team. But I see it as more of the same from a front office that has consistently overpaid for average pitching, and paid for it almost every time. And that's why, in particular, news of the deal was received with much hyperbole on my end.

Stepping back from the specifics, part of the reason I am willing to afford a little leeway to the Phils here is because we've yet to see the extent of their offseason, which could end up providing a much more flattering context for these two early salvos. If they are making a real push at a title, then a wasted $10 million here or there is understandable, if not advisable considering the revenue that kind of success can generate. The timing would appear right, as well; the team's troika of superstars are all in their prime and fast approaching the period where diminishing returns are to be expected from all. If the Phillies follow this up with a deal for a good-to-great outfielder — I don't think such a being exists on the free agent market, unless Mike Cameron's drug suspension seriously impedes his ability to be as overpaid as his contemporaries — then it could possibly reap dividends. But make no mistake, there's no way the Phillies can come into this year with two legitimate OFs with past injury problems and one marginal OF who can't hit righties, and expect to be considered favorites in the NL East, not to mention NL.

Furthermore, the reaction from these two early moves must be to put Myers back in the starting rotation, because it's asinine not to. I don't care what he prefers, he's a legitimate No. 2 starter on a team that needs as many good starting pitchers as it can find right now. Go make a move for another reliever if need be — hell, if they're serious about making a run, I go get Gagne if he'll accept a two-year deal at $6 million per — but whatever you do, make it clear to Myers that he's expected to give his team 200 innings this year. I promise you, if Myers is still in the bullpen when the season rolls around, this team will not make the playoffs, because N.Y. and Atlanta are going to be better, and the Phils simply can't afford to keep that kind of asset in a diminished role.

If I'm the GM, I like my position better with Bourn (and potentially Costanza) and the saved cash than I do with Lidge, and I certainly would have done everything in my power to keep Romero's deal within two years — or three years if the third is a performance-based vested option — even if it meant losing him. I would have taken that money and taken a flier on guys like Gagne, Garcia and perhaps even Colon since it's possible all three will accept one- or two-year deals in return for the opportunity to re-establish their value on the market. Hell, I even strongly consider Cordero, but the apparent necessity of giving him at least four years probably scares me off. Then, I go after guys like Mike Lamb and Morgan Ensberg — both of whom fill needs while hitting, at the least, for better-than-average OBPs — because they'll come cheap and will appreciate the opportunity to play half their games in a hitter's paradise.

But perhaps Gillick has something else planned that will make his first two moves of the offseason make a little more sense. And, saying that, I'll save further criticism until Spring Training.

Though, that's not really a promise.

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