At face value, and under normal circumstances, Jose Bautista would be an absolutely intriguing trade option. Even at 33, he’s still a productive power hitter that can change the course of a game with one swing.
“Game-changer” was tweeted to me by someone named @Beef5669 on twitter this morning when describing Bautista. It’s true, he can be that. But what he isn’t is a “season-changer” or “franchise-changer.” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see Domonic Brown as either one of those. But I do see a 26-year old outfielder finally breaking out, and doing it as cheaply as possible.
The point of his exercise is to say that while Bautista still may have a few productive seasons left at just $14 million per year, the name of the game with the way the Phillies roster is constructed is to stay as young as possible, not get older. With the first signing of the offseason, Marlon Byrd, the Phillies are going in the opposite direction that is needed.
If we’ve learned anything over the past two seasons, it’s that contracts for aging veteran players aren’t the way to build. Adding Bautista, who has missed 114 games the last two years, pushes this franchise closer to the nursing home. The team is already banking that 30-somethings Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, along with Byrd, can keep them afloat for another title run.
Say the Phillies were in a different position, looking for a piece like Bautista to put them over the top. Then, the trade can be spun as a prudent move. Sure, the Phillies need right-handed power, but we also know there aren’t any quick fixes.
Looking at WAR, Bautista was a 4.1 player this year, while Domonic Brown was 2.5 WAR. The odds of Bautista, at 33 surpassing that number a great deal over the next three seasons, seems like a pipe dream. Players at this age rarely show upward spikes in ability and durability. Brown may have plateaued right around 2.5 WAR, but you would take the risk that a 26-year-old would ascend over a 33-year-old who has had his previous two seasons derailed by injury.
Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer rounded out his Wednesday morning article with this:
Could they move Brown for a more proven commodity? Sure. That would require answering this question: Are the odds better of the Phillies winning in 2014 than they are in the subsequent three years before Brown becomes a free agent?
David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News also adds:
While Jose Bautista is obviously a better player than Domonic Brown right now, keep in mind that the Phillies wouldn’t just be trading away Domonic Brown, but they’d be trading away everything else that Domonic Brown could possibly be traded for. And for a team that is a lot more than one player away from serious championship contention, that’s a significant fact to consider.
I would answer Gelb’s question by saying the Phillies are indeed closer to winning this season than they are in 2015, 2016, or 2017 because we have no idea what the future holds. However, you’re banking on the fact that Brown would hopefully get better, while Bautista is more likely to regress. If this trade were to gain more steam, it then becomes more about trying to strike it rich for one more season rather than building back to the spot the Phillies were when their impressive five-season run began.
As for Murphy’s comment, if you’re trading Brown, you have be sure you’re getting a player that changes the course of the franchise, because as we’ve seen over the last two years, the team is indeed a lot more than just one player from a serious run.