Monday, November 12, 2007

Worst-case scenarios

Well, Week 1 of Diesel's Vegas Blitz has revealed this idea to be as foolhardy as it appeared it might be in my most pessimistic moments. I got killed, lost my iPod, and realized as I sat getting drunk in the terminal while waiting for my delayed plane that the percentage of me that was really looking forward to coming back in five days was roughly the same percentage of my original stake still available for gambling.

Fear not: I'm not going to bore you with more details. Instead, I'm going to bore you with commentary about the only group able to boast having a worse go of it than my foursome of friends in Vegas last weekend: Pepe's beloved Philadelphia Phillies.

Any good Civil War buff knows you can't half-ass historical re-enactments. Sure, most of those pansies out there at Antietam don't know a Parrot Rifle from a Blakely Rifle, but the real enthusiasts know that the different between a lame re-enactor and a great re-enactor is the willingness to contract dysentery. Needless to say, the Phillies' re-enactment of Wade's Lost Cause is proving that one can never take too many steps to feign authenticity.

First, they trade away a legitimate leadoff hitter/very good defensive CF in Michael Bourn and a decent power-hitting 3B prospect in Michael Costanzo for Brad Lidge. Yes, Lidge is still a good pitcher, and he automatically becomes the best reliever on the team, regardless of Brett Myers' future role. But being the best reliever on the Phillies right now is not quite a compliment, either, and this isn't the same Brad Lidge that once belonged in the same class as Billy Wagner, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera and John Smoltz. Furthermore, Lidge can become a free agent next season, which means that even if the Phillies could convince him to come back to Citizen's for another tour — which could be a tough feat after he gives up 15+ HR this season — they won't be able to do so without paying him well above what he's actually worth.

What's interesting about a trade like this one is that both teams probably "lost." The Phillies had their CF replacement in Bourn, and the potential cure to a perpetual black hole at 3B in Costanza. Both of these players would have controlled salaries for the next 4+ years as well, which means that they were essentially free talent that would enable the team to be more aggressive in the free agent market. As BP's Nate Silver pointed out, wouldn't the Phillies have been much better off keeping their two players and getting an "overpaid" free agent like Coco Cordero to step in as closer? That works out to three positions taken care of for less money — even if they gave Cordero something like $10 milly a year — than the Phillies will spend on Lidge and a free-agent CF, which they now have a pronounced need for, unless they really think Jason Werth is capable of being an everyday player (hint: He's not). As for the Astros, a team that is completely irrelevant, it's hard to believe that they couldn't have done more for Lidge, as ESPN's Keith Law has pointed out. But that's neither here nor there.

Then, the Phils went and re-upped JC Romero for $12 million. It being over three seasons diminishes the insanity a little, but that's still $12 million for a guy who was waived by two teams last season. Yes, Romero's campaign with the Phillies was impressive, and it would have made total sense to pay him $4 million next season to see if his performance was the sign of an actual career turnaround or simply an aberration. But to lock in 32-year-old reliever to a three-year deal on the strength of a 33-inning performance last season is, at best, a panic move and at worst an admission by Pat Gillick that he doesn't give two shits about this franchise's future beyond next season (he's already said this will be his last season).

I know some people disagree with me on this point, and I'm not saying that this deal is without merit. Romero was by far the best left-handed reliever in the free agent market, and he's proven to be more durable than the average bear. But unless you're of an unlimited budget, these are the kinds of deals that teams almost always end up regretting two years in.

p.s. — Anyone willing to lend the Diesel $300?

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