Jim Bowden is doin’ some spitballin’ this week at ESPN.com, suggesting one move that he thinks each club should make this off-season, and… um… I don’t think we should take any of it particularly seriously– after all, he’s suggesting the Tigers pay Joe Nathan 24-million goddamn dollars over two years, and that Cleveland should go for Fernando Rodney for two and $18-million– but his work isn’t entirely without value, either. He’s been spot on when it comes to free agent values in the past and, well… who doesn’t love a good hypothetical trade? (Non-Ian Kinsler division, of course).
That’s what he proposed for the Jays in today’s AL-focussed One Move piece at ESPN.com (Insider only), putting this one together:
Trade Brett Cecil, Ryan Goins, Matt Dean and Anthony Gose to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for second baseman Brandon Phillips and backup catcher Ryan Hanigan.
On the surface I’d think that the names make a whole lot of sense. The Reds are looking to move Hanigan anyway, and they’re reportedly listening on Phillips, mostly for the sake of salary relief, while the Jays wouldn’t be moving any of their high-end pitching prospects, or anything terribly significant off of their big league roster.
However, there are some pretty major issues I’d have with this particular idea, coming from both ends of it.
For starters, Billy Hamilton exists. He moved to centre last season, which would kinda make Anthony Gose redundant.
Speaking of Gose, dealing him while taking on the kind of salary Phillips is still owed ($50-million over four years) creates an even bigger money issue for the club a year down the road by removing the cheap, natural replacement for Colby Rasmus. That’s not to say that I necessarily think the Jays should be banking on Gose, but it’s nice for now that they can hedge– and nicer still that they’re not locked into adding as much as $25-million in terms of 2015 payroll on just Phillips and Rasmus alone, which they may well be, in one fell swoop, were Bowden’s hypothetical deal ever actually come to fruition.
There is also the issue of Phillips’ performance, and his age. His defence has been consistently excellent by UZR (by DRS he’s alternated between slightly above average and excellent), which is what continues to drive his impressive fWAR numbers, but he’s firmly on the wrong side of 30 and could be into his decline years at the plate. His walk rate bounced back in 2013, but is still down over the last two years compared to his already below-average peak from 2008 to 2011. And in terms of wRC+, his 2013 was more in line with 2006 and 2008 than it was with even his 100-ish wRC+ years in 2007, ’09, ’10, and ’12– and certainly not the 122 wRC+ 2011 season that looks rather clearly to be an outlier.
That year no longer carries enough predictive value, even, to make the Steamer projection on his FanGraphs page look palatable. It pegs him for .266/.317/.408, a wRC+ of 99, and a WAR of 2.4. Sure, he’s shown he can do better than that, but it’s not exactly a thrilling amount of production for the salary, even if the cost in terms of players– with apologies to Matt Dean fans (though, I mean, sure, Dean had a very good repeat year at Bluefield, but he’s still a long way away from the Majors, and is probably behind Mitch Nay on the organizational depth chart)– isn’t even a whole hell of a lot (at least by my estimation).
Yeah, Phillips is a recognizable name– which, as with Ian Kinsler, is I think the primary reason we hear so many people spitballing about him– and a good defender and maybe not even so dramatically overpaid, given the way that salaries appear to be going, but… I don’t see it. Not in a deal like this. Now… if, instead of Gose, the Reds liked Kevin Pillar?