The Phillies “rebuild” (or lack thereof) is a common source of scorn around these parts, but there’s a method to their madness. Interim team president Pat Gillick spoke with reporters on Monday about the club’s plans, and his comments resonated with me. The Phillies are in the same position as I was in ottoneu last offseason – few real assets with a need to get younger and cheaper. And so, today’s topic is about being methodical.
Let’s start with the Phillies plans. We know they have a couple good players like Cole Hamels and Marlon Byrd who should return something. In the case of Hamels, the club probably wants an advanced, top 25 prospect plus some pieces with upside. We at FanGraphs may find that to be a bit of an overpay based on our metrics, but that’s generally in line with what players like Hamels cost. Byrd is worth quite a bit less than Hamels, but the club should be able to find some actual prospects as a return. Last season, the team acquired two real, live prospects for a couple months of Roberto Hernandez (Jesmuel Valentin and Victor Arano). Byrd should command at least as much in return.
They also have players they want to get rid of but just can’t dump for free – namely Domonic Brown and Jonathan Papelbon. In the case of the closer, we know he’s costly, and there’s still plenty of relief help on the market. His peripherals continue to creep the wrong way even as his numbers remain strong. Teams are understandably worried. Brown is the kind of young, high upside player they can afford to play, but his recent failures make a change of scenery seem necessary. The club has others on the trade block too like Antonio Bastardo, but those are probably the most notable.
So what did Gillick say about these trade targets (emphasis mine)?
It’s challenging. It isn’t really like you implode something. But you have to kind of disassemble piece by piece. This isn’t ‘boom.’ You have to try to get where you want to be, but you do it in a patient, methodical way. You try to do it as much as you can in a planned fashion, piece by piece. You know it can’t happen like that all the time, but that’s what your desire is, your challenge is.
Put another way, it’s not enough to identify that you need to rebuild. Then you need to carefully make the right trades to fix your future. Just as Gillick says, it will usual behoove a fantasy owner to approach trade season in a methodical matter. That means developing a process to hunt for the right fits.
In ottoneu, the starting point is the roster organizer page. Decide which players are part of your core and unlikely to be dealt (but remain open-minded). Then take stock of your needs and compile a list of targets. If you need a couple outfielders but expect a ton to be available in the draft, then you can focus your trade assets on another position. By contrast, if you’re worried about the third base market on draft day, it may be worth acquiring some kind of plan at the position.
In the league FanGraphs Staff Two, I identified third base and catcher as the problem areas on my roster. At the start of the offseason, my in-house options were $6 Evan Gattis (not bad), $3 Alex Rodriguez (ugh), and $30 David Wright (woof). I’ve solved catcher by adding a $14 Jonathan Lucroy. He was at the top of my target list.
Third base has proven stickier. After inquiring on my top four targets, I learned that other owners are loath to trade third basemen. The asking prices were roughly double my valuations. This is where “methodical” comes into play. With a pre-draft trade for one of my third base targets unlikely, I looked at the market for backups. Conor Gillaspie cost $3, puts up replacement quality numbers, and has a good team situation. I still need to address the position, but at least I won’t be completely desperate.
I’ll continue to participate in the third base market. It remains the top hole on my roster. By taking a methodical approach, I’ve reduced the problems on my team from “anything except Adam Wainwright” to second, third, and a sixth starter. Find your needs, build out a list of targets, and conduct negotiations. Do your best to avoid a desperate situation so you can afford to walk away. You might not accomplish everything you want to this offseason, but you should be proud of what does get done. Happy hunting.
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