Scuttlebutt is that the Phillies and Orioles are talking about a trade involving Juan Pierre. But those talks have hit a snag. Such news could prompt any number of reactions, but my favorite is this one.
Irresistible “HUH?” meets immovable “WTF??”: “The Orioles have interest in trading for Juan Pierre, but Phillies aren’t eager to trade him”
— Productive Outs (@ProductiveOuts) September 10, 2012
“Immovable WTF??” indeed.
When the Phillies signed Pierre in the offseason, then started playing him, I envisioned something worse than what he’s become. Specifically, I imagined a formidable volcano, its base somewhere in short left field at Citizens Bank Park, that was home to an angry and vengeful god. Except this volcano god would subsist not on the sacrifice of virgins, as the volcano gods of old did, but instead on outs. I imagined Juan Pierre, holding a spear and dressed in traditional Maori warrior garb, dragging bushel after bushel of outs up the mountain and tossing them into the caldera. Dozens, hundreds of outs. Enough outs to satisfy the hunger of ten angry volcano gods.
But you know what? He hasn’t been that bad. He’s blooped, bleeped and BABIPed his way to a 92 OPS+ and a 104 wRC+. Even as a bad defensive corner outfielder, both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference have him at 1.2 WAR this season. Now, no one’s going to confuse him with Rickey Henderson (or even Ricky Ledee) with those numbers, but for less than a million dollars on a one-year contract? That’s a bargain.
Now, August 31 is not actually the trade deadline. July 31 is the non-waiver trade deadline, but after that date, anyone who clears waivers can still be moved. No player acquired after August 31, however, can be added to the postseason roster, so September trades, particularly for free agents-to-be like Pierre, are rare.
But the Orioles, who are, somewhat inexplicably, very much in contention for a division title, need outfield depth. For a team with designs on winning the toughest division in baseball, the Orioles have seen an awful lot of the likes of Steve Pearce and Nate McLouth. With the expanded rosters, Pierre is probably worth a stab if the price is right. I don’t think I’d give up an asset for 3 weeks of Juan Pierre, but depending on the asset, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world.
So it was probably the Phillies who shot this deal down. According to the rumor, the Phillies didn’t trade Pierre because they “wouldn’t get much in return.”
I’m sorry, what?
Juan Pierre has 3 weeks left on his contract. He will generate no draft pick compensation as a free agent. The Phillies, in Domonic Brown and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Darin Ruf, have two guys who could use at-bats in left field far more than Pierre. Going into tonight’s games, the Phillies had a 0.7 percent chance of even making the play-in game (though as the Phillies are up 3-1 through 6 1/2 innings as this is posted, that number will probably go up some if the score holds). Nevertheless, they’ll need to stage a comeback on the order of the 2007 Colorado Rockies to even get into a one-game playoff to get to a playoff series where they’ll be handed every disadvantage. If you go back to their lowest point, a Phillies playoff appearance would mark the second-greatest comeback in baseball history. Hold that thought–we’ll come back to it.
Let’s assume the Phillies aren’t going to make the playoffs. If Pierre walks, the Phillies get nothing. If they trade him, they get a minor leaguer, albeit likely one whose odds of making a major-league impact are just as long as the Phillies’ odds of making the playoffs this season. The Orioles ain’t trading Dylan Bundy for a three-week rental on a fourth outfielder.
But still, something, literally anything, is better than nothing. Pierre has zero long-term future in Philadelphia, so if the Phillies get back a sixer of Natty Bo and the a copy of the fifth season of The Wire on DVD, the Phillies win the trade. There is literally no reason for the Phillies to hang on to Pierre. Even if they want him back next season, he’ll be a free agent, and if he refuses to re-sign, who cares? There will be other free-agent outfielders this winter, the vast majority of whom will be better than Pierre. Could they be holding out for a better org guy in return? Maybe, but there’s a pretty good chance the Orioles either trade for a different outfielder or stand pat entirely. Better to take an offer while you know one is on the table.
So the only possible reason to keep Juan Pierre is to help the team this season. I gave up on the Phillies’ playoff chances months ago, but maybe Ruben Amaro isn’t so easily convinced. Fair enough–he runs the team, so if he wants to be optimistic, that’s his prerogative.
So let’s think about what that says: that someone in the Phillies’ front office believes that the difference between staging the second-greatest comeback in major league history and not staging the second-greatest comeback in major league history is Juan Pierre.
For God’s sake–just get rid of him already.