Is this for real?

Please pardon me; I am going to try to do this gently. There was an article posted on Baseball Think Factory written by Delco Times writer Jack McCaffery. This was the first time I’ve read his work. No particular reason why—his columns never crossed my monitor before.

Therefore, I have no preconceived notion of who he is or the general quality of his writing or his opinions. I have no axe to grind and he hasn’t hit on a hot button such as stumping for half a billion dollars of public money to be given to billionaire interests in hopes that they might deign to put a decent product on the field. Do that and you get what you deserve for prostituting your talents and swallowing the lies that come from team offices. You should be called out for being a whore—we’re writers, not corporate errand boys.

People should know better than that. Do your homework—these people don’t need your tax dollars, our next generation does. They’re rich already, they don’t need free money from our pockets to become wealthier.

But I digress.

Mr. McCaffery has not done that. What he seems to have done is fall into the trap of trading players as you would baseball cards. Either that, or it’s an attempt to be controversial or possibly, he’s having a dispute with his ISP and wishes to crash the server to make his point. At any rate, here’s the statement that made me do the first recorded octuple-take:

“They can exchange Howard, Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels or Brett Myers for maximum value in trade.”

Whoa.

As a recent convert to Phillie phan-dom, my first thoughts were not polite ones. I ran through my personal lexicon of handy-dandy synonymic insults usually reserved for the likes of David Samson.

Later, McCaffery suggests maybe dealing Howard for Johan Santana. Now that might make some sense as long as the Twins ace is willing to sign an extension. The Twins are a small-revenue team. The Phillies play in one of the biggest single team markets in the game and enjoy the revenues from a new stadium.

Fair enough.

From a talent standpoint, getting rid of Myers when you’re in desperate need of pitchers to begin with makes no sense but I’ll give him a semi-pass, since right-hander Myers is a knuckle-dragging, drooling, testiculacking coward who hurts women when he promised to love, honor and cherish (of course, any and all such abuse is a deal-breaker).

And that’s it.

“Maximum value in trade?”

OK, folks talk about the importance of defense up the middle and Rollins and Utley do pretty well in that regard. Now toss this into the mix:

Player           BA  OBP  SLG Runs 2B 3B HR RBI
Chase Utley    .339 .419 .568  85  43  3 18  92
Jimmy Rollins  .296 .347 .530 124  35 17 26  81

Rollins has also swiped 30 of 36 bases.

Cost to the Phillies this year? Less than what the Yankees are paying Jason Giambi. Vernon Wells will be paid more than the duo combined (in 2007) every year from 2011-2014. It’s probably less than 60% of what the New York Yankees will be paying for a 32-year-old third baseman in 2008.

Rollins and Utley are both just 28, have reasonably priced contracts and star both offensively and defensively. Their value is so high that it would be impossible for the Phillies to replace. That kind of production from your keystone is very, very rare. They compare favorably to Robbie Cano and Derek Jeter. The Yankee duo both sport OPS+ of 122 while Utley weighs in at 150 OPS+ and Rollins is just a whisker behind Cano and Jeter at 121 OPS+. Toss in the fact that Jeter is 33, is not as good a defender as Rollins, and that Jeter will make about as much as Utley/Rollins this year, next year, 2009 and 2010…

Starting to get the picture?

Any trade you make has a far, far, far better chance of being a complete, total and unmitigated disaster than a plus for the Phillies.

“Maximum value in trade?”

The Phillies need pitching—big time. Nothing has more value than top-shelf pitching with several years until free agency. They have a 23-year-old, hard-throwing (slightly over 9 K/9) lefty with surprising command for a flame thrower that age (2.61 BB/9) who gives up fewer hits than innings pitched. Hamels has a career ERA (3.75) well below league average (4.58) and has a 23-13 record and does it all in a park built for offense.

He has four years before free agency. They have a pitcher who, were he a free agent, could command $16-20 million a year but due to the collective bargaining agreement is making 2 to 2.5 % of his value on the open market.

Is there any way you could get equivalent value in a trade for Hamels? It’s the same thing as Utley and Rollins; again you have a far, far, far better chance of a complete, total and unmitigated disaster trade than something that would be a plus for the Phillies.

Here’s what the Phillies have on hand:

Player           BA  OBP  SLG Runs 2B 3B HR RBI
Chase Utley    .339 .419 .568  85  43  3 18  92
Jimmy Rollins  .296 .347 .530 124  35 17 26  81
Ryan Howard    .266 .382 .565  79  24  0 38 115

Pitcher     AGE  W  L SV   ERA  IP   BB/9  K/9
Cole Hamels  23 23 13  0  3.75 299.7 2.61  9.04
Brett Myers  26 25 15  0  3.81 413.3 2.85  8.64
Brett Myers* 26  4  4 15  3.10  40.7 3.54 11.06 
(Last two full seasons as starters)

*as a closer in 2007

Total cost in 2007? $17.8 million. (Not a misprint.)

Think of how many players make more than that but don’t play as well? Yes, some of those totals will go up next year, but it will still be less than what Alex Rodriguez will make in one season. To trade away that level of cost-effective talent and think that what you will get back will be better is something you can conceive only under the influence of street chemicals.

These five bona fide big league stars will still improve. Does Mr. McCaffery think that when all the trading is done the Phillies will end up with five players who will project to that level of talent? If a team thinks it has a future Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels or Brett Myers in its system, he will simply not be on the trading block. Any attempt to get anything resembling genuine major league talent of that level will require that the Phillies absorb huge amounts of salary, since young players of that caliber are deemed untouchable by the teams holding their rights.

What he’s advocating is the new millennia version of the Rape of the Red Sox Phillies.

What the Phillies have in these five is what every team aspires to have: a cost-effective core of experienced, high-ceiling talent. All Pat Gillick has to do is find the right pieces to surround the core. These players aren’t the reason the Phillies haven’t locked up a playoff berth—it’s players like Abraham Nunez, Wes Helms, Adam Eaton, Antonio Alfonseca, Jose Mesa, Francisco Rosario and Tom Gordon. It’s Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber being hurt—the fact is that the Phillies haven’t fallen off the map because of that core of talent.

If you’re getting mixed results as a team, you don’t part with your top talent and build around the league average players with expensive veterans (the only top talent teams would be willing to part with in a trade) who are closer to losing their teeth than to getting them. There’s no logical reason for replacing star players with a future with star players with a past and still expect to contend on an annual basis.

I really hope he was simply trying to be controversial or provocative; or maybe he was just in a mischievous mood and was yanking somebody’s chain. Maybe he was having some fun with the front office, seeing if he could get a response—I really, honestly don’t know since I have no idea what kind of relationship Jack McCaffery has with the Phillies.

However, if this is a serious column, it is probably the stupidest, most asinine piece of baseball writing I’ve ever read—and that includes the clunkers I’ve written over the years. If this is the real deal, then I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if this article will cause the adipoceral remains of Fred Lieb to emerge from his grave and terrorize the folks in Cooperstown until they are appeased in some manner. (I guess I watched too many B-horror movies as a kid.)

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