Rumored Phils Trade Would Be Big Mistake

With major league general managers meeting in Arizona this week, you had to know there would be lots of rumors that would come flying out of the desert sun – or in Wednesday's case, the desert rain – and with the Phillies looking to add pitching you had to figure that they might be mentioned in one or two of those whispers. The only Phillies rumor so far, would be a bad move for the Phillies to make.

There were reports Wednesday that a deal was brewing between the Cleveland Indians and the Phillies. The intensity of the reports differed from "discussions" to "could happen very soon" depending on who you listened to.

The supposed focus of the Phillies is Indians reliever Danys Baez. Notice the word "reliever" and not "closer". That's because there is no way a closer should blow almost 30 percent of his save opportunities even if he's on a shaky team. That premise becomes especially true when he is making $5 million. The Indians are faced with a decision to either pick up his $5 million option for 2004 or decline the option and go to arbitration with Baez. If they decline the option, they must then decide if they want to offer arbitration or allow Baez to become a non-tendered free agent in December.

Other than defecting from Cuba, Baez has done nothing to warrant the big payday. In three seasons, the 26 year old right-hander has saved 31 games and blown 13. In all fairness, he spent most of 2002 in a failed attempt to become a starter for Cleveland. That attempt didn't go well and Baez was back in the bullpen before the end of the season.

The Phillies have talked to Cleveland about Baez. In exchange, the Indians are looking to finally land Placido Polanco, a player that they have long had interest in bringing to Cleveland. They are not interested in paying any portion of Baez' salary, unless the Phillies would throw in prospects in exchange for the financial concession.

Danys Baez has a career record of 17-23, 3.92 in three seasons with Cleveland. He has also saved 31 games in 44 chances. The Phillies are rumored to be interested in the 26 year old Cuban right-hander.

If Ed Wade makes a move to deal for Baez, he should be immediately relieved of his duties. First of all, with Billy Wagner in town, Baez wouldn't be closing games, which is good considering his track record in Clevaland. That means Baez would simply be a setup man, which he is pretty good at doing, but not at $5 million per year. Setup men simply don't get that kind of money and obviously, if the Phillies deal for Baez that's the kind of money they would be looking at shelling out. Even if the Phillies decided to go to arbitration, they would only be able to cut Baez contract by 20 percent, which would still make him a $4 million setup man and that's only if they get an agreeable arbitrator. Otherwise, the gamble could backfire and cost the Phillies even more money.

Besides the cost, the Phillies deal for Baez would be flat out stupid because of the situation that the Indians are facing. Right now, the clock is ticking on the Indians to do something with Baez' option. They're the ones on the clock needing to make a decision on how they want to play this and whether to take the gamble on arbitration. The Indians aren't likely to keep Baez around unless he agrees to a much smaller contract than what he had and that isn't at all likely. All of that means that in a little over a month, Baez will likely be non-tendered and the Phillies can pursue him at whatever price.

If and when Baez hits the open market, it won't be easy for him to get $5 million from anybody. The only way would be for him to sign with a team that is in desparate need of a closer and with his high amount of blown saves, teams may shy away from signing Baez as their savior. That, plus the fact that there are a good amount of closers on the free agent and trade market, means that the price for Baez will go down. That's when the Phillies should enter the sweepstakes and look to sign Baez as a setup man for Wagner at a much lower price.

As if you need another reason to be convinced of the stupidity of this deal, giving up Placido Polanco would be a bad move. Nobody knows for sure if David Bell is healthy, which means Polanco could become a very important part of the Phillies roster. Yes, Polanco will likely get pretty big money in arbitration, but the Phillies may need to bite the bullet on that one. With a gimpy David Bell and an unproven, although likely to be successful, Chase Utley, Polanco is needed.

Remember, GM meetings always bring out a plethora of rumors. For baseball fans, they're all worth listening to because many of them come with a grain of truth. Many times, trades that are finished later in the offseason have their conception at the GM meetings. You can never know for sure which carry that grain of truth and which aren't worth the cyber-space they're printed on, but sometimes, reading between the lines can help you to tell the difference. Giving up an important piece of the Phillies infield for a high-priced reliever doesn't make a lot of sense, especially when you might be able to get the same guy at a lower price and without giving up anything in return.

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