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Charging the Mound: What Didn't Happen At the Trade Deadline

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 1:41pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Charging - Post Trade-Deadline Edition


Chris, there's plenty of analysis out there on all the trade deadline deals, so for the most part, I'm going to avoid doing that here, though if there's a trade that happened in the last two weeks that caught your eye, by all means, bring it up. But instead I'm going to focus on what did not happen, and see if we can tie that to our fantasy leagues.

Breaking Bad once taught us to take Full-Measures, not Half-Measures. Often that lesson is looked over in keeper leagues. If you're going to sell, you should sell anything not nailed down. Sell early, sell often, but don't just give up your own big sellable asset and call it a day. It's more true on the buyer side. It's one thing to believe that your team is strong enough to win right now and not make a big move, but it's another thing if you're in fifth place and all you do is make one tiny trade that might just get you into fourth. What's the point? If you're in a win-now mode, then throw you're hat into the ring and go all-in.

To that end, I'm surprised at the following:

- Why didn't the Reds trade for a left-handed bat? Right now, their only left-handed hitter off the bench is Xavier Paul, and their only two lefties in the lineup are Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. While playing the lefty-righty game can be overrated at times, I cringe to think about the Reds trotting out Paul, Miguel Cairo or Wilson Valdez in a big pinch-hitting situation in September or in the playoffs. It shouldn't have been that difficult to address.

- As you and Jonah discussed last week, if Andrew Friedman has a fault, it's that he's too patient/cautious, particularly at the trade deadline. Thus, it wasn't really a surprise that the Rays were silent at the deadline this year. I suppose getting Evan Longoria back at some point is their big acquisition, but this offense was in desperate need of a boost. It's been a great run for the Rays, and they still might get there, but they look to be stuck with the status quo.

- On the flip side, what are the Twins doing? Sure, they traded away Francisco Liriano - a lot cheaper than they could have a year-and-a-half ago, but where were all the other moves? You can't tell me that there wasn't a market for Justin Morneau or especially Josh Willingham. Maybe they think that they'll get more for each, as well as Denard Span, in the offseason. But their pitching now is terrible, and there's not much hope at the upper levels of their farm system.

- The Yankees got Ichiro last week, which is fine, I guess - I'm not sure how badly they needed him, though I agree with both you and Jonah for last week that the move out of Seattle could be big for him. But they didn't add Chase Headley and they fell short of Ryan Dempster. Clearly making the playoffs and winning the division don't seem at risk, but will they be vulnerable at all in October?

I'm not including Baltimore on this list. Yes, their record is what it is - you can't take that away. But I'm still not a believer, especially in their pitching staff, and the addition of Joe Blanton would have been a cosmetic improvement at best. You compared him to Tommy Hunter on the show, and while that might be undershooting, it's only by a small amount. No, they need multiple front-line starting pitchers, and that just wasn't available to them. They're better off not doing anything, which is what they did.

Boston, too, seems to me to have done the right thing in standing pat. Joe Sheehan's newsletter on Monday broke that down pretty well, so I won't belabor the point. They aren't going to win if they don't get Josh Beckett and Jon Lester going, but they're not so bad that they need to retool. If they choose to sell Beckett off in the offseason, I could see it - but there's a pretty good chance that he could go A.J. Burnett on them and thrive in a new locale.

What else stands out to you? Anything surprise you in its inaction?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 5:15pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging - Post Trade-Deadline Edition


It's worth pointing out you're taking your lessons from 'Mike," a serial murderer, on that show.

I think the bigger question is why the Reds need both Cairo and Valdez on the roster in the first place. Isn't one utility guy enough? If one gets hurt, can't you easily find a replacement? The Reds might be a victim of their own success, though, having gone on a huge run approaching the deadline and feeling like they didn't need to take a lot of risk. They've by no means locked up a postseason berth, but once you get there it's mostly luck anyway. Put differently, the better team will usually win over the long haul, and so if you need to make a run to get into the playoffs, you might want to add some star players for two-plus months. But once you're in, the difference between having a scrub pinch hitter and a good one is probably something like one tenth of one game. After all, the scrub might get the hit and the better reserve might strike out, too.

I don't see why the Yanks would need to get Chase Headley, either. ARod is due back in September, and Eric Chavez has been fine, albeit in a limited role. Maybe Headley plays some outfield, but they addressed that with Ichiro who fills the Brett Gardner role. And I'm not sure Dempster is even an upgrade over Hiroki Kuroda or Phil Hughes. Yes, he's better than Freddy Garcia and possibly Ivan Nova, but in the postseason, the difference between the odd start Dempster or Nova would get is slim. And that's not even mentioning Andy Pettitte who might be ready by then. The guys for the Yankees to get were Zack Greinke (maybe they had "make-up" concerns) or Cole Hamels who re-upped with the Phillies. Barring that, I don't think they should have traded for a middle-tier guy with such a big lead in the AL East.

The Twins probably should have traded Morneau, it's true, but I think you're right that he'll fetch as much or more in the offseason or next year when he's even more himself. He's crushed righties but has been terrible against lefties, and that seems like it's a function of rust.

Finally, I'm a little sick of all the adulation the Rays get. For a team that's never won a World Series, it's a little much. I realize the postseason is mostly a crap shoot, and they did a great job in robbing Evan Longoria of probably $100 million, but what's the point of having a World Series if the losers are given so much credit?

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 6:48pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Re: Charging - Post Trade-Deadline Edition


Dude, Mike rules. Yeah, so he's not exactly the moral center of the show (though really, who is? Jesse? It's certainly not Walt or Skyler). But he's competent down to the letter, loyal (perhaps to a fault) both to his employer and to his people, and has some of the best lines on the show. I find myself rooting for him, insomuch as one roots for a character on a show where nearly everyone is at best compromised in one way or another. Without revealing too much of what's happened this season, I find it interesting that one of the measures taken by the DEA this season to prevent wrong-doers is actually pushing Mike and crew back into the business.

I agree with your analysis about the Reds, and I worry some that they might be reading too much into the last two weeks, when they faced the Cardinals, Brewers, Astros, Rockies and Padres - just one good team among them. Maybe it's not a left-handed bat off the bench that they needed, but a good bat period. The trouble is finding who to replace in the lineup - if they landed Pence, yeah, he would have been superior to the Reds' collection of left fielders, though Ryan Ludwick certainly hasn't been bad lately. There's no good shortstop that was out there on the market, so while Zack Cozart is misplaced in the top of the lineup, it wouldn't have been easy to find an improvement.

I think I like Headley more than you. There's a consistently huge gap in his home and road splits (.392 OBP on the road this year), and while he wouldn't hit for a ton of power, his defense and on-base skills are strong. A-Rod hasn't been a plus-defender in years, so he's really better off DH'ing in the near future. Headley wouldn't have been a one-year rental, but a multi-year acquisition.

The Rays get the credit they do because they have to compete in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox while doing so with considerably fewer resources. If you want to argue that's their own choice, I wouldn't disagree with you, but that's at the ownership level. Why do we have 30 teams and play out a long 162-game season if your only barometer of success (defined as "adulation received") is the playoffs? They deserve some criticism for not going all-in when they've had chances to win (not trading at the deadline, waiting too long to call up Matt Moore and David Price before that), but they've earned the adulation they've received. I don't think it's particularly close.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 10:30pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging - Post Trade-Deadline Edition


There is no moral center of the show, but if there's a conscience it's Jesse. While Walt has gotten more comfortable with his choices as time goes on, Jesse is still conflicted. But Mike just does what needs to be done. He's loyal to his guys, but that's because it's better business. If he thought they would talk, they'd already be dead. He has a code, it seems, but he's a pretty ruthless character. And I think Walt and Jesse were back in business with or without Mike, just not as competently.

Moving A-Rod to permanent DH isn't a great solution as it clogs up the spot and makes him nearly worthless. Who needs an .807 OPS DH? Granted that's an ARod and not a Headley problem, but now you're giving up flexibility there to add a player for whom you don't have an urgent need given their big lead. On the other hand, Headley's road splits the last two years are better than I realized, and maybe they should have acquired him more for his overall value. ARod better play decently at third for a couple more years or hit a lot better because he's heading toward Gary Sheffield-in-his last year on the Tigers territory, albeit one who's chasing the home run record. (Not that anyone cares about that anymore now that Bud Selig turned a blind eye to roids, and the magic numbers of the past century like "714" and "755" have been all but stripped of their former significance).

As for the Rays, they deserve some credit for outperforming their payroll consistently, but they're treated as though their the model franchise in the entire league, despite never having won a title. If 162 games is enough to determine success, why not just have a bunch of coin flips in lieu of the playoffs to determine who wins the World Series? Why actually play it out when we know a short series is indicative of almost nothing. Maybe we shouldn't even count games won but run differential, or OPS differential or net WAR, divide it by payroll, and calculate the winner? It would really show the skill of management in assembling a team and take out much of the luck involved. Or we could just leave it as is and care a lot about who actually wins the World Series.