Wednesday, March 08, 2006
1. Bobby makes too much money. The Phillies have the fourth largest payroll in the MLB at $92 million. Only the Mets, Yankees and Red Sox have larger payrolls. Of that, Bobby is by far the Phillies largest salary for 2006: at $13.1 million, he's paid nearly twice that of Mike Lieberthal, at $7.5 million. Bobby's salary is about 14% of the Phillies total salary.
Naturally the Phillies need to pare their roster and Bobby's $13.1 mil needs to go. The Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005 with a payroll nearly $20 million lower. This team cannot continue to spend as much money as it has without getting better results. Additionally, the Phils need to think about contract extensions. Chase Utley is due to make $345,000 this season. Ryan Madson is going to make $350,000. Brett Myers will make $445,000. These are key players to the Phillies future and their salaries have to be increased if the Phillies are going to lock them up to long-term deals. The Phillies need to take Bobby's salary and the $4.7 million they are wasting on David Bell and give Ryan Howard (who's salary information I cannot find), Utley, Madson and Myers long-term deals for 2007 and beyond.
2. Bobby is getting older. Okay, he's only 31, but he's played 150+ games for eight straight years. There has to be some wear-and-tear on his knees. The nice thing about trading Bobby now is that his trade value is at its zenith: since he began playing for the Phillies in 1998, his worst OBP was .393 in 2001. His worst SLG was .468 in '03. He's been a remarkably consistent player. Scope out his Gross Productive Average (GPA) stats with the Phils:
True, last year was his career-low in GPA, but he really doesn't show much signs of slowing down. Bobby has been a remarkably consistent player and teams know that. Teams in possible playoff contention know that and would pay dearly to have someone like Bobby on their team. If Bobby has an off-year, then his trade value is going to diminish rapidly.
3. Bobby is a defensive liability. Fielding isn't a huge deal usually, but I sense that MLB teams are begining to recognize good gloves as a low-cost means of improving rosters. The Oakland A's are pioneers in this respect, bringing aboard Mark Kotsay, a so-so bat, in center to improve their outfield defense. (By the way, Oakland's strategy of improving by defense helps them compete with the 21st largest payroll in the MLB, $40 million lighter than the Phillies.)
The Phillies pay Bobby his $13.1 mil because of his bat. Frankly, Bobby is a lousy defensive player. Out of eight regular NL rightfielders, Bobby ranked 7th of eight RFs in Zone Rating. (A stat I follow because it measures a player's ability to get to the ball and make an out in his defensive "zone".) (Click here.) Bobby also ranks 7th of 8 in Range Factor. (Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.) (Click here.) George Will once asked why terrific defensive players weren't recognized for their contributions to their teams by asking why a double denied on defense didn't count as much as a double a player gets at the plate. Bobby is great at the plate, but his defensive miscues must cost the Phillies a few runs every now an again and that has to be considered when determining his value to the team.
4. It's not a bad thing to get younger. The Phils aren't exactly a team full of gray-beards - Pat Burrell is 29, Aaron Rowland is 28, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are 27, Ryan Howard is 26, Brett Myers and Ryan Madson are 25. We do have a young nucleus, but the team needs to get a little younger and look for additional help. Specifically, the Phillies need to look at some replacements for catcher (Lieberthal is 34) and third base (Bell is 33). Any deal that helps bring some younger players at those positions onto the team is a good thing.
5. Bobby is already alienated. It has kind of been a hard offseason for Bobby. The fact that the Phillies were interested in dealing him was the worst-kept secret in baseball and his best friend, who joined the team last year, is on trial in Venezuela on attempted murder charges. Bobby has denied being bothered, but I bet that he'd enjoy a change of scenery right about now.
For all of those reasons, this will be Bobby Abreu's final season. I anticipate seeing him with an AL team- maybe the Angels -before the trading deadline in late July.
* The news about Barry Bonds and Steroids caught me by surprise: I heard something on the news yesterday, but I didn't really read or hear about it until last night. I'll have some comments for Friday.
My main question is can the Phillies get sufficient value for him? A trade to the Angels makes sense because of their rich farm system, but could we also get a Major League bat to replace his in right? There's no one on the farm who can do a good job over there.
I like the ideas of getting younger and cheaper, but if we have any shot at all this year, Bobby's just going to be too big a part of it to trade, IMHO.
However I think the big obstacle for trading will be the limited market for Bobby's skills - to my mind it's either a team that wants to rebuild around a solid performer and will throw a lot our way because they've given up for this season OR (my preference) a braves-type-team who have good major-league ability players they can afford to lose because they can plug the gaps from the minors. The second type of team will be trading for the once piece which they can't get from the minors - proven consistency.
All very hypothetical. This year, more than ever, I'll be keeping an eye on the likes of the A's - teams that value bobby's production and speed and have the depth to trade for decent talent. And let's be honest - there's not many of those in the majors.
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