Strange Days

I was thinking about writing some general draft and in-season strategy today, since there didn't seem to be a lot of news regarding the players on my Tout team this week.  But I know never to underestimate the power of real life to come up with something interesting to consider.  And today, I wasn't disappointed.

The Oakland A's traded Jeremy Giambi to the Philadelphia Phillies for John Mabry.  This has to be one of the most bizarre trades in recent memory.  The 27-year old Giambi was the A's second leading home run hitter and 4th on the club in RBI despite having spent much of the year in the lead-off spot.  Granted, the A's have several outfielder/DH types who appear to be ready to play everyday - Adam Piatt and Eric Byrnes being the most obvious - but to trade one of your team's best players for a 31-year old career part-time player and pinch hitter, who before this season hadn't played in the majors since 1999... well, that makes absolutely no sense.  The A's don't substantially save any salary: Giambi makes just a shade over a million a year and Mabry is making $500,000 with incentives that could raise it to $750,000.  If salary were the issue, then they would have traded David Justice, who makes $7 million a year and isn't a significantly different player than Giambi.  The A's are already loaded with too many first base/DH types (which Mabry is) and have plenty of other weaknesses that needed addressing - namely depth in the bullpen.  Trading Giambi makes sense; trading him for nothing useful, doesn't.

Beane was quoted as saying, "Jeremy was off to a good start but we were concerned he was too one-dimensional."  Yes, but if you're only gonna have one dimension, that one - creating runs - appeared to be a pretty good one to have.  I assume that Beane was referring to Giambi's lack of defensive ability, but trading him for Mabry, who's an older, far less talented hitter and just as "dimensionally"-challenged, doesn't really hold much water either.  Beane went further saying, "This isn't a drastic thing.  We're not looking to do anything drastic. We just have players we need to take a look at.''  Maybe I need to rethink my definition of 'drastic', but when you trade one of your best players for a guy who'd have trouble finding regular playing time on your AAA club, I'd call that drastic.

Here's the kicker: Beane finished by saying, "It was apparent we needed to improve our defense."  So what happened in the first game after the trade?  Despite opening up a regular job for Byrnes (who's a pretty good defender) and/or Piatt, Howe decided that 32-year old first baseman Larry Sutton should man one of the outfield corners this afternoon, despite the fact that both of the eventual successors were in uniform in Oakland.  Beane also suggested that getting David Justice more opportunities to play outfield would upgrade the A's defense.  I'm not sure which player he has been watching the last 5 years, but David Justice, when he's not spending time on the DL, probably has less range than 95% of the outfielders in baseball.  Between Beane's comments and Howe's actions, one has to wonder if the water in Oak-town has been checked recently for an unusually high lead content.

And while one should never look a gift horse in the mouth, the deal doesn't make much sense from the Phillies side either.  Yes, they're getting a very good player for basically nothing, but unless the Phillies are committed to trading Travis Lee, without the DH Giambi really doesn't have a place to play.  Bobby Abreu is entrenched in right and if/until Lee gets moved, Pat Burrell is in left.  Maybe they plan on putting Giambi in center?  If they plan on trading Lee and playing him at first, the difference between Giambi and Lee doesn't appear that great.  Giambi is the better offensive player - a little more power, slightly better eye at the plate - but Lee is much better defensively.  There is the possibility that the Phillies will trade free-agent-to-be Scott Rolen and move Pat Burrell back to third, the position he played in college.  But Burrell has never been highly regarded with the glove, which was one of the reasons the Phillies moved him to left field in the first place.  So all this trade does is give the Phillies nothing more than a million-dollar pinch hitter.  At least for now.

Strange indeed.

OK, so enough real-life analysis... how does this deal affect my Tout team?  Or for that matter, any other AL-only roto-team that had Giambi.  Fortunately, the rule in Tout is that if a guy gets traded to the opposite league, he still accumulates stats.  So once the Phillies figure out what to do with Giambi, production should be about what it was.  There's a chance that it could be even better because they would probably move him from the top of the line-up to a more RBI-intense spot.  But that may take some time as the trade deadline is still two months away and the Phillies are still in the race for the East, despite being 6 games under .500.  And given the current state of the labor negotiations, there might not be a lot of player movement until things get a little more settled.

For now, the trade will probably put a damper on my overall production.  Of course, the deal in real life opens up more opportunities for Eric Byrnes to produce so the drop in production might not be that significant.  It depends on who ends up with playing time in Oakland and in Philly.

As a side note, Joe Borchard is hitting pretty well in AAA Charlotte (.271, 6 homers, 16 RBI, .361 on base) so he might get the call to Chicago if Jeff Liefer (.222) and Carlos Lee (.241) continue to struggle.  If that happens, then he would likely move onto the active roster in some capacity and there wouldn't be much, if any drop in produciton.