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Other perspectives

This is good for a snicker: 2 years ago, Jeff Sackman put together an article over at THT called "Is Adam Kennedy the steal of the offseason?" I’m not trying to pick on Jeff – I, too, thought it was a pretty good signing and God knows I'm prone to a clunker (some of you will agree with that after finishing this post). I’m only trying to point out that even the best get it wrong every now and then. Albert strikes out looking horribly every once in a while as well.

I’ve yet to read a review that is critical of the Khalil Greene trade from the Cards’ standpoint. Sure, forests have been destroyed and the Earth’s temperature has been raised 5 degrees w/ the amount of electricity burned discussing Greene’s low OBP, horrendous offensive season last year, and his home/road splits over his career. There is little doubt in my mind that Busch will be friendlier to him than PetCo. How could it not be? Therefore, it’s probably with good reason that the deal appears to be a winner for the Cards.

Here’s what Dave Cameron over at fangraphs has to say:

So, Cardinals fans should expect Greene to be something like a league average defensive shortstop or maybe a tick above. Toss in enough gap power to overcome his low OBP, and St. Louis just picked up a +2 win player for 2009. Considering his salary only values him at just over 1.25 wins, the Cardinals are getting a bargain for their money. Unless the PTBNL in the day is a significant prospect, we’d have to call this a good move for St. Louis – even w/ Greene’s -4 +/- score from 2008.

Here’s Christina Kahrl from Baseball Prospectus:

at $6.5 million for this single season, he's considerably cheaper and potentially significantly better than, say, Jack Wilson, and if he gets hurt (again), you can part company after taking just a single-season flyer on a player who has occasionally been star-worthy.

And R.J. Anderson from BtB:

Greene should be entering his prime, and coming off of a weak season it's possible he's more likely to ink an extension than he was just 12 months ago. If Greene matches his Marcel projection, he'll be worth -15.3 runs offensively, and if he matches his Chone defensive projection he'll be worth 5 runs defensively. Add in the aforementioned positional and replacement level adjustments and Greene is a 1.97 WAR player, that would make him worth nearly 10 million next season. If Greene were to lose 0.3 WAR each season thereafter, he'd be worth roughly 35 million through 2012. And to think, we haven't even addressed moving from PetCo to someplace that almost certainly will make his raw statistics look better. …Odds are, whatever team acquires Greene won't regret it.
And R.J.’s buddy, Sky Kalkman – also from BtB – spent a lot of time typing himself hoarse here Thursday arguing the merits of the deal.

To be honest, I have nothing against any of their arguments. To me, there’s not a lot of doubt that Greene is an improvement over Izturis – albeit a relatively small one. I truly believe that Greene will hit better as a Card than he did last year as a Padre. There’s also little doubt in my mind that Greene is at least an average defensive SS and probably slightly above average – despite the -4 he posted last season for John Dewan. Is he worth the $6.5 M the Cards will pay him next season? Almost certainly. Some have bemoaned the transaction by calling him "only average" or complaining that he’s not Rollins, Reyes, Hanley, etc. No, he isn’t any of those things but league-average shortstops have a lot of value in the big leagues and, barring injury, he should solidify the position at least for 2009.

Most believe Greene to be a +2 WAR, or maybe slightly better, for 2009. If so, that puts him in the $9 - $10 M category of value to the team. If we’re getting a $10 M player and paying him $6.5 M – we’re ahead by $3.5 M. It’s hard to argue with that. I should point out, however, that Justin Inaz’s numbers had Izturis as a +2 WAR player last year. If that’s right, and Greene’s a +2 player in 2009, we’ve added more than $3 M to the payroll and added 0 wins to the bottom line. Well-run organizations don’t do that.

Now, I’m a little skeptical that Izturis truly was +2 and as for Greene – well, he’s in his contract year w/ free agency approaching and may be able to get to +3 WAR. Even so, we’re adding at most 2 wins to the team through this deal. It’s unlikely that either Worrell or the other player involved in the deal would have materially impacted the team in ’09 so we’re looking at a 1-2 win improvement (probably) with this deal. Are we now a playoff team? No. I’m not trying to pee in anyone’s Post Toasties this morning, but the improvement – though it’s there – probably isn’t substantial. The good news is that Greene probably bottomed out last year and can’t possibly play any worse. This deal, therefore, is unlikely to hurt us. And, of course, he’s only signed for 1 more year and we can let him move on at the end of the season.

All in all, it’s tough to evaluate this deal until we know who the PTBNL is. Towers says they believe he’s probably better than Worrell but what else is he going to say? -- "We got a reliever who pitched at AAA and who stunk during the cup of coffee he had in the majors and another guy worse than him!" -- I don’t think so. Still, it’s tough to call this a win or a great deal for Mo w/o knowing who the other guy is. But I do believe we’re better off in ’09 at SS w/ Greene than we were w/ Izturis or would’ve been w/ Jack Wilson or Renteria. BTW, for those complaining about the $6.5 M we owe Greene for 1 season – did you see that the Giants gave Renteria $18.5 M for 2 years? Which deal would you rather have? I’ll take Greene, thanks.

My real problem w/ the Greene deal is what we gave up – and I’m not talking about Mark Worrell or the PTBNL. This was a safe move for Mo – not a bold one – and I wanted to see a bold move. We have another 1 year stopgap at short. Kozma and/or Vazquez are still at least 2, and probably 3 years away, from taking the major league SS job. Having Greene for 1 year – which, I’ll acknowledge, is better than Reneteria for 2 – puts another band-aid on the gaping wound that is our SS position. I wanted a bolder move – trading Ankiel or someone else for a young SS. It’s a move for 2009 and, while it doesn’t hurt us beyond ’09 even if Greene fails miserably, it doesn’t help us beyond ’09 either.

As I said, it’s a safe, short-term move and does nothing to answer the question as to who will play shortstop after the ’09 season. That means that we’ll be doing the same thing next offseason -- deciding whether to trade potentially valuable assets for another 1 year stopgap, to sign an Izturis/Adam Everett-type, or to sign an aging vet like Greene to a 4 year deal worth $40M. I have every confidence that Mo won’t get us a lemon again next year, but some teams take chances and make bold moves and the Cards seem to be a team whose front office is afraid to make a mistake, so we end up w/ OK/pretty good players when we could be trying to acquire really good players. It looks we’ll lose Ankiel to free agency when we could have traded this asset for another this offseason. Next offseason will probably be the right time to trade Ludwick for a younger, cheaper, more valuable asset. Will we take advantage of that asset and sell high for a younger, cheaper asset w/ a higher upside or at a more premium position? If the pattern holds, we won’t. We’ll still have a pretty good player but we will have passed on the opportunity – though risky, I’ll admit – to acquire a potentially great player.

The best-run organizations take chances and make bold moves and sometimes they don’t work out. Offering arbitration to Springer and Looper might not have worked out, but they were opportunities whose costs were very low and benefits very high. The Cards were too risk-averse there and missed an opportunity. Will the decision materially hurt the team? No, but they missed out on an opportunity to materially improve the team. Same thing here. We’ve got a pretty good SS for ’09 signed to a pretty good contract and we can probably do the same thing next offseason. But we’ve got assets we could have tried to trade for Reid Brignac or Brandon Wood or Yunel Escobar. It might not have happened or those players might eventually fail or maybe end up being no better than Khalil Greene. But they’re all younger and cheaper and have more upside, and instead of having 1 of them in ’09 and 2010 and 2011 we’ll have Greene or his clone for those years at a much higher salary. It’s ok. He’s better than Izturis. He’ll add a win or two to the bottom line and that’s not nothing. He’ll be more than worth his salary. To me, though, it’s just underwhelming.