Thursday, November 08, 2007

Transaction Recap: Phillies, Astros

I'm going to try this feature again this year. Who needs readers when your blog has pizzazz?

Phillies: Traded OF Michael Bourn, RP Geoff Geary, and 3B Mike Costanzo to Astros for RP Brad Lidge and IF Eric Bruntlett (Rating: 6/10)

Astros: Same trade (Rating: 7)

This is a polarizing deal. Nate Silver loves it for the Astros, while Keith Law is stunned they didn't get more for Lidge.

I'll come down in my usual spot, in between. Bourn does not look set to become an everyday center fielder, though he makes an excellent fourth outfielder. In any case, the combination of Bourn in center and Hunter Pence in right does not look like an overall improvement from Pence and Luke Scott.

Costanzo's stats and scouting reports indicate that he is not ready to be a major league average third baseman right now, even though Nate may think so. He has the potential to get there at his peak, but for now he looks like a fringe starter, certainly not someone the Phillies are eager to throw out there every day as a 2008 contender.

The centerpiece, of course, is Lidge, an interesting case study in how DIPS can fool the best of us. Even some intelligent analysts were taken in by Lidge's 2006, when he posted his usual dominant rate stats, but some terrible luck sabotaged his ERA. Lidge has settled in as a 3.25 ERA pitcher, short of his dominant 2004-05, but still easily good enough to close in the NL.

As for the psychological damage from the Pujols home run, I'm not buying it. If giving up a homer to Albert can turn one of my pitchers into a 12 K/9, 3 K/BB machine, I'm sending my whole staff out there to throw BP for the Cardinals.

I do have a bone to pick with Nate's method of valuing Lidge's 2008 season. He says that if Francisco Cordero--a good comp for Lidge--receives four years and $40 million on the open market, we should fairly value Lidge at $10 million for 2008. This is flatly incorrect. If a team had the choice to sign Coco for 4 years/$40MM or 1 year/$10MM, they take the one-year deal all day. In fact, most teams would rather shell out $15 million for one year. The short-term deal serves these functions:

- Reduces the risk of injuries or performance decline
- Provides a higher likelihood of draft pick compensation at the end of the contract
- Provides compensation picks three years sooner

Furthermore, signing Cordero would cost the Phillies their first-round draft pick, while trading for Lidge does not. Thus, I think it's more accurate to say that Lidge is saving the Phillies $9 million (or more) and a first-round pick. That's a hell of a lot better than it looks from Nate's perspective, though it still may not justify giving up three useful young players.

However, the trade has a big fringe benefit for the Phillies, in that they can now move Brett Myers back to the rotation. Since Myers was about as good in relief as Lidge, they're essentially trading for a number 2 starter, which makes the deal look a lot better for them. It's not exactly fair to credit this move to the trade, since it was the correct move anyway, but c'est la vie.

What do you get when you put all that together? I call it a push for the Phils, and a win for the Astros. The Phillies probably added two 2008 wins in this deal, which is a big boost for an NL contender. The Astros got a good return and showed that their franchise is moving in the right direction, rather than trading a bounty of young players for one year of Jason Jennings.

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