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Giving Away Phillips, Part Two

I’m not done yet. Oh no, I haven’t even gotten started. Before we get into that, I’d just like to congratulate Brad Holland and the USD men’s basketball team on a great, great season. Yeah, they got bounced from the NCAA tourney in the first round but this was their first trip to the dance in 16 years, and they did give the Cardinal a run for their money. Way to go, guys.

Now, back to the topic at hand. I was hoping that after a good night’s sleep, one of two things would happen.

  1. I would wake up and discover it was all a dream.
  2. I would feel better about giving away Mark Phillips for chump change.

Guess what. Neither happened. In fact, now that I’ve had a chance to really think about it, I feel even worse.

In light of current world events, it seems awfully petty to be carrying on about this, but dammit I love baseball and the Padres are my team. And right now they’re killing me.

My good friend Medea’s Child puts it very succinctly when he says, "If you’ve got to give up one of your best prospects to make up for a terrible contract signing, that’s a problem."

It is a problem. A big one. Look, I like Mark Phillips a lot. I actually think he’s got a better shot to succeed than most folks give him credit for. But I want to make perfectly clear that I don’t have a problem trading him in the right deal. This was not such a deal.

What would I have considered reasonable value for Phillips? First off, I would want a young player in return. The only justifiable reason for the Padres to be moving a talent of Phillips’ stature is to get a rougly equal talent at an area of greater need. Because let’s face it, the "upgrade" from Bubba Trammell to Rondell White ain’t gonna take this bunch to the promised land.

The greatest area of the need for the Padres right now is behind the plate. And catching prospects tend to be about as flaky as pitching prospects, so both sides in a potential deal would be assuming a fair share of risk. So the next thing to do would be to figure out which catchers are roughly equivalent to Phillips in terms of future value.

Of course, all we can do is rely on reports and make a good guess. From where I sit, I can do even less. John Sickels rates Phillips a B prospect in his 2003 book. So what we need to do is find some B level catching prospects. Are there any? As it happens, there are two:

  • Miguel Olivo, ChA
  • Kevin Cash, Tor

Both of these guys are closer to the bigs than Phillips is, so they might be a shade much to expect straight up for him. Then again, they might not be. But do you suppose the Rockies could have spared one of J.D. Closser or Garrett Gentry to get a power lefty? How about the Astros and Hector Gimenez? The Dodgers and Koyie Hill? Those are the guys who check in at B minus.

Anyway, I’m just spinning my wheels here. Denial ain’t a river in Egypt, baby. But I keep hoping that, I dunno, White will fail his physical and deal will fall through.

Trade Phillips if you have to; it’s not the end of the world. But make sure you address a need and get value for him. The Padres did neither.

Enough of my whining. Let’s see if we can find any take-home lessons here:

  1. If you believe in your scouts enough to fork over $2.2M for a high school pitcher, don’t give up on the kid after 265 minor league innings, particularly when he has very good stuff and shows flashes of dominance.
  2. If you don’t believe in your scouts, get new ones.
  3. If you’re (justifiably or otherwise) frustrated with a prospect’s progress, take a close look at your player development people; I’m not pointing a finger at anyone here, just saying that it’s something to think about.
  4. If you’re working on a limited budget, don’t overpay for replaceable talent.
  5. If you do overpay for replaceable talent, don’t later attempt to remedy the situation by giving away the guys you should be building your team around for a relatively small amount of money.
  6. Having a surplus of talent at one position doesn’t mean you should value that talent any less. This is the first thing you learn when you play fantasy baseball: "But you already have Sluggy McSluggster at first base" is never a valid negotiating point. If you think it is, you need to find a new job.
  7. When you need to trade someone, don’t panic and take any old deal. If you feel the need to move quickly, try to explain to your employer why maybe now isn’t the best time. If that fails, well then I guess it’s time to panic. But don’t let it happen again.

So how do we apply these lessons to the Padres’ current situation? I can’t really speak to the scouting or player development issues; I simply don’t have enough information. But what about the other stuff? Here are a few suggestions, in no particular order:

  • If you decide to move Wiki Gonzalez and/or Kevin Jarvis, make sure not to give up any of Justin Germano, Javier Martinez, Ben Howard, Dennis Tankersley, Tagg Bozied, Jake Gautreau, Khalil Greene, or Xavier Nady in a deal unless you get something of substantial value in return. Let me rephrase that: unless you get a player of substantial value in return.
  • No matter how well they may do or how much "veteran leadership" they may bring to the clubhouse, do NOT sign Gary Bennett, Mark Loretta, or Luther Hackman to long-term deals. Just don’t do it.
  • If you do decide to trade, say, Tankersley, do it because the Mets are offering you Justin Huber, NOT because you already have Germano and Howard.
  • If one day you wake up and think Jake Peavy stinks, don’t let anyone else know. In fact, keep acting like he’s great. Because if they don’t know you know, chances are they’ll still believe you and you’ll be able to land Victor Martinez instead of settling for Tommy Arko. Who is Tommy Arko? Exactly.

I could go on in this vein for hours, but it probably would get boring (if it hasn’t already). For now, I’ll wrap up by putting the over/under on Rondell White’s plate appearances this year at 425. He’s done it twice in the past five seasons, so what the heck. And his numbers this year will look a lot like Trammell’s 2002. And he won’t be outhit by Deivi Cruz again. I hope…

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