Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Off Day - Review of Dellucci Deal

Once again, I’m conflicted after yet another roster move (the team dealt P Robinson Tejeda and minor league OF Jake Blalock to the Texas Rangers for OF David Dellucci.) by this ballclub. I’m about to say something really insightful here so hold onto your hats – there are two ways to consider the good and bad of any trade: 1) judge it by what you got, and 2) judge it by what you gave up. Those considerations will be discussed shortly…yeah, that’s right – this is just a tease until I can come up with the real content....

That was from a few days back, now onto the content...(lucky you!)

Judging this deal based solely on what they got back (that would be Dellucci if you weren’t paying attention the first time) makes me feel pretty good about the whole thing. On his own merits, Dellucci is a good ballplayer capable of helping many a major league franchise; hard to argue about the handiness of a player coming off a .251/.367/.513 season with 29 homeruns with near even home/road splits makes helping out as a bat off the bench. There is a downside to this…there always is. It may or may not be a real downside, but I think there is some validity to it. Adding Dellucci is nice (it never hurts to have as many quality guys on a roster as you can accumulate), but he doesn’t really make for a logical fit. The way the roster was composed just prior to the trade going down did not necessitate the addition of another outfielder. Shane Victorino looked plenty capable of holding down the top backup outfield spot while Chris Coste or Chris Roberson would have made serviceable 25th men at the very least. The upgrade from Coste (great story, great spring, but still 33-years old and without a ML at bat for a reason) or Roberson (no AAA experience, similar skill set to Victorino’s) to Dellucci is significant; the team as it stands right now is better for having added him than they were before.

Of course, trades can not only be viewed as successes or failures when only focusing on the here and now. There is a great deal of risk associated with giving away a talented young pitcher like Robinson Tejeda. I’ve read so much about the good and the bad of Tejeda’s game over the past few days (real quick summary - good: success in bigs last season, plus fastball, strong strikeout rate; bad: poor peripheral numbers may have made his success in the bigs mostly “luck,” high homerun/flyball rate, severe control issues)…those same few points just keep getting brought up over and over again (with good reason – Tejeda is a perplexing talent).

Here is my problem with giving up on Tejeda. He is a 24-year old pitcher who showed he could hang at the major league level last season (I don’t discount the bad control and luck factor…back to that in a second) who is leaving a team that has long had a major issues with quality pitching depth in the organization. Tejeda’s control last season was a problem, no question about it. But, and forgive me for being too cliché-y here, he misses bats when he pitches. I have absolutely no statistical proof currently at my disposal to prove this statement, but I tend to believe pitchers that give up only 531 hits through 597.2 innings in the minors are often somewhat useful players. I’m as big an advocate for the Cory Lidle’s and Carlos Silva’s of the world; watching those guys go out there and not walk a soul is good, clean, efficient baseball. Tejeda does not pitch like those guys (though ironically enough the Phillies have long compared Tejeda to his former organizational teammate Silva) and he may never will – I chalk it up to a style thing more so than anything else. Bottom line, Robinson Tejeda’s low hit rate and high walk rate cancel themselves out to some degree. Compare Tejeda’s minor league WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) with Silva’s – Tejeda’s is 1.32 (597.2 IP), Silva’s was 1.34 (691 IP). Tejeda’s major league sample size isn’t all that huge, but I’ll include it for comparative purposes – Tejeda’s is 1.37 (85.2 IP), Silva’s is 1.33 (562.2 IP), and Cory Lidle’s is 1.32 (1152 IP; it was 1.35 in 184.2 IP in 2005). Lots of numbers, I know, but I think it pays to not obsess over Tejeda’s walk rate as much as some fans have. Although if you happen to believe Tejeda’s control is a sign of bigger problems down the line, well then…truthfully, that’s not a bad argument and one deserving of a closer look on another day. I think Tejeda will be a solid major league pitcher for a long time (though maybe not in Texas) and he would have been a fine, low cost player to have around over the next five seasons for the Phillies. That being said, he isn’t the player one loses all too much sleep over when saying goodbye – the short-term win for the Phillies in this trade help eases the pain.

As far as the third man involved in this trade…it is difficult to assess the pros and cons of Jake Blalock’s inclusion. It is a widely held belief in the scouting community that the jump from A-ball to AA is the biggest single transition year for a young player (especially pitchers, but true for all players); John Sickels of Minor League Ball even runs a regular in-season “Double-A Transition Monitor” feature to highlight this point. Blalock should get his first crack at AA to start his Age-23 season – though he is still young enough to make something of himself no matter what happens this year, but he is undeniably at the crossroads of his young career. I can’t imagine his ceiling is much higher than as a righthanded power hitting backup corner outfielder – sort of like what I think the ceiling is for Phillies OF prospect Josh Kroeger.

All in all, this move illustrates the Phillies desire to win in 2006 while also clearing salary and roster space (more so 40-man roster spots after this year than salary in this instance) for 2007 and beyond. They may someday regret giving up on Tejeda, but his loss would be a small price to pay if Dellucci’s contributions off the bench help get this team into the postseason. Good enough trade for the short-term (I don’t love it, but I can live with it), but rather risky for the long-term (though keep in mind that I’m higher on Tejeda than most).

One last thing…the rumors after this deal were getting out of hand. First, everybody believed this move was the precursor to something bigger – the inevitable Bobby Abreu trade we’ve been hearing about for months. I ain’t buying it. The other hot rumor was less fun (not that an Abreu trade would be fun, of course)…the Phillies added Dellucci to serve as Pat Burrell insurance because they know something we don’t about his injured foot/calf/knee. We’ll see…


Anonymous Pat said...

while i agree that tejed has a live arm that misses bats and has a fairly good amount of potential but one thing you have to consider when your looking at his WHIP from last year is that he had a fairly low BABIP at .270. that can help a great deal in keeping the whip down and probably wasn't going to be duplicated.

with that being said, i agree with your general point.

8:53 PM  
Blogger A. said...

i agree with you as well. I had a hard time seeing Tejeda go. I enjoyed watching him pitch. He reminds me of Ervin Santana. But I am trusting Gillick this year, hopefully it works out. God knows David Dellucci is an upgrade over Michael Tucker.

im new on this thing, check out my blog if you have some time. thanks

2:26 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

mlbtradrumors is proposing this might be a prelude to an Abreu deal in the works.

XXX-It might be time to start up the Abreu thread again.

8:58 AM  
Blogger XXX said...

Excellent point pat, quite frankly smart comments like yours are a big reason why it is so much fun to write this thing - Tejeda's incredibly low BABIP is the one thing people point to more often than anything else when talking about Tejeda's "luck" last season at the ML level. It's a tough position to argue against too...the guy was undeniably lucky when it came to balls put in play. This shouldn't be ignored when talking about the season he had last year. Good call.

a. - Very interesting comparison...your site looks very good by the way, I'll definitely add it to my set of Phillies daily links as soon as I can. Oh, and welcome!

braveswin - Just as we finish up the offseason and get back to real baseball, the Abreu rumors kick back up. Unreal. I was hoping we were past that, but you're right - it looks like the trade talk just won't quit. It may be time for an updated list of Abreu trade possibilities shortly...

12:47 PM  

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