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I play sports video games a lot. Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become truly great at something, and I think I’m there with EA’s FIFA series. But what I like more than the gameplay itself is managing the team and making roster moves.

With all this Ryan Howard-to-the-Cardinals-for-Albert Pujols nonsense going on this week, I think it’d be fun to ask for some submissions from the audience on the following: Let’s say you suddenly become empowered with the ability to possess (like a demon) another human being’s body, and you now control Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s consciousness. I wouldn’t stay long because he’s a pescatarian and I’d need to stop out for a burger, but you get the idea. What trades do you pull off? Here are some ground rules:

1) It has to be something that would actually be accepted by the other team. Much as I’d like to trade Kyle Kendrick and Juan Castro to the Nationals for Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg, the Nats wouldn’t accept that trade.

2) It has to keep the Phillies competitive in 2010 without completely blowing up the future, and vice-versa.

3) Salary matters. You can get a big contract, but you have to dump some salary in return or get someone who would sell enough jerseys to pay for an eight-figure salary.

4) No one’s untouchable. Now’s the time to indulge those Utley-for-David Wright fantasies you’ve always had.

5) And before some smartass thinks this up, no undoing the Cliff Lee trade.

My suggestions, if you care, are after the jump.

OF Shane Victorino to the Nationals for OF Nyjer Morgan and SS Danny Espinosa

I love to fantasize about trading Shane Victorino, but this trade isn’t just about getting rid of a certain center fielder. Nyjer Morgan is a pretty darn good player, and he’s flown under the radar. He plays mid-bendingly good defense—one gets the impression that Morgan obviates the need for at least one, if not both, of the corner outfielders. And maybe the second baseman, too. Among people who know a lot more about advanced defensive metrics than I do, Morgan ranks second only to Franklin Gutierrez in breathless exultations of praise.

And while he doesn’t walk much or hit for any power, Morgan hits .300 and almost never strikes out. The only worrying bit about him is his basestealing. Morgan swiped 42 bases last year, but it took him 59 attempts to get there, a rate every bit as bad as Victorino’s, and just staggeringly bad. Morgan’s 71 percent is right around the break-even point for basestealers—he’d almost be better off not running at all.

Espinosa is a high-A shortstop with decent speed and power. I’d ask for him because the Phillies might need an heir presumptive to J-Roll in about two years, and the Nationals are higher on Ian Desmond as a shortstop prospect.

So why would the Nats give Morgan up for Victorino? Victorino, as I’ve said, is the test case for being overrated. He’s a flamboyant, charismatic specialist who plays for a good team in a big market. Ask about his speed—people will ignore his inability to read fly balls in the outfield and his alarming propensity to get thrown out stealing. All people know about his defense is his spate of diving catches and his rocket throwing arm.

Morgan has also, at age 30, never played a full major league season. His reputation as a career minor leaguer/journeyman (he was, after all, deemed so special that both the A’s and Pirates cashiered him last year) doesn’t make him seem as valuable to the Nats as, say, Adam Dunn or Ryan Zimmerman.

I’d take Morgan’s under-the-radar effectiveness, but a team as badly-managed over the years as the Nationals might not.

1B Ryan Howard, OF Jayson Werth, RHP Trevor May, and OF Anthony Gose to St. Louis for 1B Albert Pujols and 2B/OF Skip Schumaker

The trade rumor that inspired this would-be deal (Howard-for-Pujols straight up) is ridiculous. In fact, I think this trade would piss off both fan bases. Howard and Werth are two of the Phillies’ most popular players, and the Phillies would hate to lose them, even considering their impending free agency.

But Albert Pujols literally puts up the production of two all-stars. Let’s couch this in terms of WAR, my new favorite statistic. For a baseline, replacement-level players (interchangeable AAA homunculi) get 0 WAR, competent full-time players get about 1.5 or 2, good players get 3, All-Stars usually get close to 5, and anyone who gets 6 or more is usually in the MVP discussion.

Pujols has been in the league since 2001. FanGraphs has data for WAR back to 2002. Pujols’ worst season since 2002 was 6.1 WAR, an MVP-quality season. Last year he posted 8.5. Howard’s career-high was that ridiculous 2006 season, a 7-win season that was worthy of the MVP he won. That would have been Pujols’ second-worst season ever.

Werth and Howard were both rather uncontroversial All-Star picks last year and they combined for 9.5 WAR. So let’s say you lose the combined production of Werth and Howard, both excellent players, and replace them with Pujols and another right fielder. The new right fielder would need to be worth 1 WAR in order for the Phillies to break even. Here are some of the outfielders who posted 1 WAR last year: Cody Ross, Randy Winn, Chase Headley, and Jack Cust. I’m sure Disco Francisco or Greg Dobbs could handle that, and if not, 1 WAR outfielders almost literally grow on trees.

Ideally, the Phils would get back Skip Schumaker, a player with two employable skills: hitting for average and the ability to play multiple positions. He could fill the void until Dom Brown was ready to take over in right and be Chase Utley insurance once the Domonator takes over.

As for Gose and May, no prospect short of Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, or Jesus Montero ought to keep a team from trading for a plalyer like Pujols. That’s why this package works for Philadelphia.

From the Cardinals’ side, I asked PN’s Paul Boye what he thought, and he said, “The Cardinals wouldn’t even listen to you without Howard and Dom Brown.”

Then, I asked my buddy Klump (yes, that’s his real name), the only Cardinals fan I know, what Phillies he’d want in return. I expected something like Utley, Hamels, Howard, and prospects. Here’s his response (via text): “He’s not tradeable to the Phillies. Albert is ours :)”

Ok. Well, then, I’d up the offer. There are three players in the Phillies’ organization I would not include in a package for Pujols: Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels (at least not with another regular contributor). So if the Cards want the longer-term cost control of Victorino, plus another top prospect, instead of Werth? Fine. Want Brown instead of Gose? Fine, I’ll hope that one of him or Tyson Gillies pans out. Want to replace Schumaker with another throw-in player? Go ahead.

For Pujols and, let’s say, David Freese, here’s the maximum that I’d offer the Cardinals: Howard, Werth, Brown, their choice of May or J.C. Ramirez, and their choice of Joe Blanton or J.A. Happ.

With two top-line starters and Pujols, you can contend for and win pennants with little else—the Cardinals have proven that. With another MVP-level player (Utley) and the rest of the Phillies’ parts, you can do more.

LHP J.A. Happ to San Diego for 3B James Darnell and OF Jaff Decker

Full disclosure on this one. The first trade would be feasible, the second would be exciting, and this one I just came up with because I was bored and needed a third.

While the value on most Phillies position players will never be higher, Happ is probably the only pitcher who’s overrated even a little. His BABIP and numbers with runners on base last year suggest that he’ll be an average to above-average pitcher going forward, not the 2.90 ERA, rookie-of-the-year-runner-up we saw last year. That’s fine. For the next three years, he’ll never have to be anything more than a No. 4 starter anyway, with Halladay, Hamels, and Blanton all wrapped up for the foreseeable future.

But if you can get a decent haul for him, why not?

Darnell’s a big-hitting third baseman who won the Padres’ minor league player of the year award last year. He’s probably due to start this year at AA.

The Padres would let him go because of their surfeit of minor league third basemen, and the Phillies would want him because he plays a position they’re going to need to fill in a couple seasons, as well as second base and the corner outfield positions. In a year and change in the minors, Darnell’s OPS is .970.

Darnell played his college ball at the University of South Carolina, on a team with Phillies pitching prospect Mike Cisco and eventual first-round picks Justin Smoak and Reese Havens, at the same time I was going to school there.

Now I find college baseball tremendously boring (during my time as a student reporter and fan mostly attending soccer and football games), but the one time I actually went to a game (I was a freshman and I didn’t know any better) a skinny, 19-year-old version of Darnell started at second and gave a thoroughly Dan Uggla-like performance in the field and booted pretty much everything that came to him.

I’m not sure what this says, except bully for Darnell that he learned how to field his position and hit well enough to be in a good position make it as a pro at age 23. Though he did make 30 errors at third base last year in A-ball.

I don’t know much about Jaff Decker, and neither do the Padres. He’s a fire hydrant-shaped outfielder who turned 20 last month who has decent (but not great) speed and phenomenal plate discipline (142 walks in 683 minor-league plate appearances). All signs point to a corner outfielder who doesn’t wow you in the field but is constantly on base. But going into his age-20 season, it’s impossible to know anything for sure about the guy.

Here’s what I do know about Jaff Decker. If I had a name like his, I’d have artfully-tousled hair, a five-o’clock shadow, and work as either a private eye or a bounty hunter. Why, Jaff Decker, would you waste a name like your own on a baseball player? Shouldn’t you be exploring the Serengetti with a horse, a fedora, and an elephant gun? Or chasing mob snitches through post-apocalyptic Glasgow with a stogie between your teeth and a crotch rocket between your legs?

I’d kill for a name like Jaff Decker. And I’d trade J.A. Happ for an outfielder like Jaff Decker.

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Phylan

    March 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I can honestly say I’ve never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever had a Chase Utley for David Wright fantasy

  2. Phylan

    March 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Also I’m appropriating “interchangeable AAA homunculi” to refer to Cody Ransom. Thanks.

  3. BurrGundy

    March 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    s

  4. BurrGundy

    March 17, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Are we turning this blog into “Dungeons and Dragons”? I thinks we might be getting really horny for the season to start, I know I am. Keep up the good work. Creativity is always good.

  5. George

    March 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    I hope you NEVER control Amaro’s consciousness. Youd trade away half the farm system, and all of its best prospects to get one exteremly high priced player, who may not even resign with the Phils. And you seem to regard one of the Phils’ better pitchers as a worse option than San Diego’s question marks, and other marginal or unproven players as equal to Victorino, who has at least batted in the .290’s twice, and plays above average defense despite a few bad reads. I think a zombie would be better at taking over Amaro’s brain.

  6. George

    March 17, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Another thing or two: Trading Happ would certainly put a dent in the Phil’s ability to compete this year, and trading May, Gillies, Gose, Werth, J.C. Ramirez, Blanton, Happ and/or any of the others mentioned for Pujols could ruin the Phils’ chances this year as well as in the future. You’ve violated your own ground rules.

  7. Phylan

    March 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Since I looked it up, I was surprised to find that, despite a nearly 50 point edge in OPS, Victorino ended up being worth 1.5 less wins due to Morgan’s excellent defense. I still think that’s a poor return for Victorino, but instead of flaming you about it like everyone else will, I’ll just politely say so.

  8. NC Jason

    March 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    I am dumber from reading this

  9. The Ed 2

    March 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Trade Moyer to the AARP…they might even throw in some cash because of their possibility of selling more magazines and his sponsorship of the medicaid friendly hover-round.

    Lets also trade The Dypsy to about 300 years ago when passing off the overuse of words as vocabulary was common place.

    Lastly, trade this column’s thesis and anything else that trades away Howard and Brown for Puljols to the NY Mets front office…only Omar would do something like that

  10. Bob79

    March 17, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    This post = Fail.

  11. Corey Seidman

    March 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    You had me at Outliers.

  12. Corey Seidman

    March 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    BTW, kudos to Ed 2 for posting the funniest comment I’ve seen on here in ages.

  13. Number 47

    March 17, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Trade Werth for good relief pitching, probably. We have enough outfield talent to lose Werth, and the bullpen is the question mark, especially long relief.
    Don’t know enough about who’s decent and in the range of what could be had for Werth to specify a reliever, though.

  14. Phylan

    March 17, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    The Phillies bullpen is grim outside of Madson, and far and away the weakest link on the 2010 Phillies. Joakim Soria is 25 years old, isn’t overwhelmingly expensive, and has been posting sub 3.00 ERAs and FIPs in the American League for a few years now. So how about this: Trevor May, Jiwan James, and Shane Victorino for Soria. Not a good trade for the Royals really, but let’s face it, Dayton Moore is not smart, and they need another outfielder that isn’t completely terrible.

  15. Phylan

    March 17, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Guess I should have hit refresh. Yeah, Werth is a better idea for that trade.

  16. Chuck

    March 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    There’s really NOTHING else to post but this???

    A game ended 3 hrs ago and there’s nothing about that on here….but instead there’s a post about stupid trades…..all because of some ridiculous story.

    Sad.

  17. Phylan

    March 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Oh no not Phillies talk on my Phillies blog get it offffff

  18. Chuck

    March 17, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    It figures that you would have a website entitled “fire ruben amaro”.

  19. John

    March 17, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    If I were going to try and move anyone in the Phils line-up it would have to be Ibanez. Don’t get me wrong, I like Raul and think he’s a good player and a stand-up guy, but, it seems to me his 2012 sallary is one of the major hold-ups in being able to resign Werth. I would suggest, trading Raul for some durable pen arms (maybe even chipping in some ’10 salary), and going with a combo of Fransisco and Mayberry Jr. in left, and hope little Brown is ready for the bigs in ’11. Of course, this only makes sense if it enables RAJ to resign Jayson to a 3 or so year deal.

  20. Phylan

    March 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Ibanez’s contract is going to be nigh impossible to move though. Maybe Dayton Moore would do it (I’m trying for a theme here).

  21. George

    March 17, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    I heard a rumor that Minaya has his own website, stupidtrades.com, and that it was the inspiration for several of this week’s items.

  22. John

    March 17, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Ageed Phylan, that’s why I would only expect a pen arm and maybe chipping in some salary. If it enables us to resign Werth and create a spot for Domonic, I personally pull the trigger.

  23. Phylan

    March 17, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Yeah, that’s absolutely the ideal thing to do. I just don’t even think anybody would take it on, even for very little return. Maybe to an AL team that needs a DH for one or two non-prospects. I love Raul and all but it would still be worth it to clear the salary to extend Werth, and unblock Brown in 2011.

  24. John

    March 17, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    The two teams that come to mind that are desperate for a run creating bat are the M’s, and the Giants. Both are teams that are on the cusp of making the playoffs, and both could use some pop. Ibanez has a manageable contract of a little over $7 mil this year, it’s next years salary jump that really makes it tough. Paying a chunk of his salary this year may be enough to convince someone to take on next years salary. Another hitch in that, however is Raul’s no-trade clause. Although, I did spend time living in Seattle while Raul was there, and I know he really liked it, (in spite of the losing) so a return might not be out of the question.

  25. derekcarstairs

    March 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    First of all, I would try to keep all of my core players (Werth, Howard, Rollins, Utley, Halladay, Hamels) through 2014. I think this can be done with a $140-150 million payroll by trading or letting go Ibanez, Lidge, Victorino, Romero, and Polanco in 2011 and 2012 and bringing up guys like Brown, Gillies, Aumont, May, Gose, Bastardo, Mathieson, Rosenberg, and Schwimer in 2010-2012.

    If I thought that I couldn’t keep Howard, I would trade him to the Giants for Matt Cain and Buster Posey after this season (allowing the Giants first to negotiate a multi-year extension with Howard). I would also sign Adam Dunn to replace Howard at first and in the lineup.

  26. Matt

    March 17, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    I would trade put together a package of Chase Utley and Ryan Madson and send them to the Nats in exchange for Eric Bruntlett and Tyler Walker.

  27. Phillygirl17

    March 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Matt, that might be the funniest trade ever!

  28. Blaise

    March 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    As if Adam Dunn is going to come cheap

  29. Jeff of Nova

    March 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    um you say
    “2) It has to keep the Phillies competitive in 2010 without completely blowing up the future, and vice-versa.”

    But every trade you posted does exactly that. Especially the Howard- Pujos one does, so does Happ.

    Wow I am dumber for reading this!!

    I need to go read a good nonfiction so I can regain some brain power.

  30. John

    March 17, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Dunn may be a bit of an upgrade from Howard in OBP and BB, but other than that I’d take Howard every time given the choice between those two. Especially when considering Dunn’s less than stellar medical history.

  31. derekcarstairs

    March 17, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Admittedly, Dunn is an overall offensive and defensive downgrade from Howard. He does give us a good OBP and 40 HRs, though, and his annual salary would be $7-10 million lower than Howard’s.

    The deal with the Giants is what makes the combined transactions look good. Posey is a good offensive player who would be our future catcher. In addition, our rotation would be Halladay, Hamels, Cain, Blanton and Happ, one of the top rotations in baseball. I doubt the Giants would make this trade without some additional pieces.

  32. Phylan

    March 18, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    There is no way they pony up Posey and Cain for Howard. That would be awesome though.

  33. Matt Kwasiborski

    March 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Lincecum for Hamels.

  34. knock it off

    March 18, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Holy . . . did you use your real name when you posted this? I get it – you’re on meds, aren’t you? Maybe you should, uh, check the levels on those things. God I wish someone with a brain in that front office would just freaking sign Werth so at least some of this nonsense would stop already.

  35. Chris

    March 19, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Buster Olney controls us all….

  36. Matt r

    March 19, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I am also dumber from reading this. Only one point because multiple seems to be pointless. Anyone not named Zimmerman or strasburg is in Washington because no one else wanted them. Done.

  37. bs

    March 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    You are stupid and made me stupider for reading your arguments. Lets trade Howard/Werth/Brown/May or Ramirez/Happ or Blanton. So who is gonna replace Weth in Right without Brown being there? Who’s gonna fill the rotation spot left open by Happ or Blanton. You can keep your WAR and shove them where the sun don’t shine. Howard Clutch, Werth Clutch, Brown big prospect, Happ under 3 era last year. Pujols best player in baseball but gonna command $250+ million not worth the risk.

  38. Lanidrac

    March 19, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Any Cardinals GM who would even try to trade Pujols would be run out of town.

  39. Yankees Fan, Phillies Phriend

    March 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    God you Phillies fans have no imagination. So afraid of change/different ideas.

  40. Will

    March 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Someone needs to look up “literally” in the dictionary. I literally vomited after seeing you try to use that word. I’m not cleanin’ it up, either. You owe me a new keyboard.

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