August 12, 2008

Dunn and Done

Let me be the first to say that I have no problem with the Adam Dunn trade, but I have to ask. Why wasn't this trade done years ago?? The Reds have had a decade to evaluate Adam Dunn. If he wasn't going to be a part of the long-term solution, shouldn't they have known this several years ago?? Why wait to trade the guy in the last year of his deal when he has virtually no trade value?? The Reds received a single A pitcher for Dunn and had to pay half his salary. Heck, they probably would have been better off just letting him walk in free agency and picking up the two first round picks as compensation.

The Dunn trade symbolizes exactly what has ailed the Reds for a decade. They have no plan to win. Unlike teams like the Twins and Rays and A's that are proactive in making trades and retooling their organizations, the Reds cling to players and trade them when they are at their lowest value. It would be like buying into the stock market at an all-time high and then selling at a low. Teams like the A's and Twins have been selling off their players at peak value and getting quality players in return to use for rebuilding purposes. The Reds have never understood this concept. They talk every year about wanting to rebuild but don't seem to want to pull the trigger on a full rebuild project. They tend to fall in love with their own players a little too much even though they haven't won with these players. What we are left with is a half-rebuild/half-compete plan that gets them nowhere year after year after year.

I don't have a problem with trading Dunn, but the same reasons that made it obvious that he wasn't going to be the primary catalyst for a winning team were readily apparent four or five years ago. Dunn has never been a good fielder, he's never been a consistent hitter, he strikes out way too much, he can't be a reliable #3-4 hitter, he was never good in the clutch (.224 BA with RISP) and he doesn't have the leadership skills to drive his teammates to be better. We knew these things about Dunn long ago. Dunn was a very productive player with two elite skills (power and walks), but every other aspect of his game was below average. Don't get me wrong, Dunn was the best offensive player on the Reds for the last eight years, and I think the Reds offense will be among the very worst in the major leagues without him. He was a guy who would get unbeliveably hot for about 3 two-week stretches a year but would be equally cold immediately after. He's a perfect complementary player--maybe a DH on a good AL team who can hit #5-6 in a lineup and hit bombs and draw walks. I think that Jocketty wants to rebuild the Reds in a different way, and Dunn was not a part of that plan. I'm perfectly fine with that.

Dunn was never the kind of guy who you could plug in as your #3 hitter for 162 games and build around him. Small market teams need guys like that. The Twins have built around Morneau and Mauer. The Rays have built around guys like Longoria, Crawford, and Upton. Dunn never really could be that guy, and he was a major defensive liability. The Reds watched Dunn for eight years and knew what he did and didn't bring to the table, and yet it took them until the very last year of his contract to make a decision on him and move him for a low minors prospect.

Walt Jocketty gets a pass since he just came to this organization this year, and I do like that he is going to start fresh with this team and build it with his own vision. Jay Bruce will be playing right field and hitting 3rd for the next five years, and that's literally all I know about this team going forward. I think Brandon Phillips could be moved to shortstop, but that's far from certain. As much as I like Brandon Phillips, I would probably consider dealing him for the right return as well. Joey Votto is going to play somewhere, but I would not be surprised to see him end up in left field next year with Encarnacion moving to first base until first round draft pick Yadier Alonso is ready to come up to the bigs. Cueto and Volquez will be in the rotation, but I wouldn't be opposed to shopping Arroyo and Harang (assuming that Harang can straighten himself out and get his trade value back). Every other spot on the roster is up for grabs if you ask me.

Another decision that will have to be made by Walt Jocketty is whether to even bother with bringing back Dusty Baker for the remainder of his contract. Dusty Baker has predictably been an absolute DISASTER with the Reds this year (even worse than anyone could have imagined), and he is already starting to make excuses and complain about some of the roster moves.

I literally broke out in a cold sweat when I read this quote this morning from Dusty Baker on what he'll need to do with this roster of young players:

"I'll probably have to teach more - how to be a big leaguer, how to perform like a big leaguer and how to carry yourself like a big leaguer," Baker said. "That's part of the job."

Dear god, that is terrifying. I want absolutely no part of Dusty teaching anyone how to "perform like a big leaguer" if that means bad fundamentals, not giving a darn, and swinging at the first pitch every time you come up because "you can't walk around the bases" as Dusty likes to say. Reds owner Bob Castellini was the person who wanted Dusty, so hopefully he will realize the error of his ways and come to his senses on Dusty Baker as manager of this club going forward. The Reds have basically quit on Dusty in the last month, and it is only going to get worse. Dusty has proven that he has no idea how to construct a lineup properly or when to employ any type of baseball strategies. He's like the anti-Piniella (the best strategic manager in the game if you ask me). He needs to be purged from this franchise before he does any additional long term damage. Dusty is the closest sports figure to Ty Willingham I have observed in my lifetime -- lazy, stubborn, loves speaking in cliches, blames everyone else when things go wrong (even if self-inflicted), clings to doing things "his way" even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he is wrong. He's everything you don't want in a manager, and yet he's the face of the franchise. When you consider that he's being paid $3+ million a year as the "big name manager" that Castellini wanted, it makes it even worse to swallow. That money would be much better spent on scouts and the farm system.

Either way, the 2008 offseason will be a big opportunity for Jocketty to put his stamp on the franchise, so I expect to see some deals and some roster turnover. I am more than willing to be patient if a plan to be real contenders (not "we hope to finish .500") appears to be in place. I don't expect this club to contend for several years, and I think the franchise should be acting with a three year plan instead of this "we think we can compete next year" farce that they have been throwing out there for the last decade.


Mike said...

"Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open and remove all doubt"

-Mark Twain

Every time I think of Dusty Baker, this quotation springs to mind. I have no idea how he keeps managing to find work as a manager, when it is patently obvious that he doesn't understand anything about baseball.

As bad as Mets management has been, I pity teams like the Reds and Pirates because they can't just throw money at the problem. Like you said, they need minor (and major) league managers, scouts and executives who are on the same page and, of course, competent. Maybe Jocketty can help bring about some meaningful change, although I thought Krivsky was on the right track and now he's gone.

kevin said...

Color me embarrased, but can someone explain the trade deadline to me? What is all the hype about if pretty damn big names like Adam Dunn (and, to a lesser extent, Paul Byrd) can still be traded?

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