I apologize for the dual subjects of this post, especially given the importance of each individual one. However, both are timely, and neither should be ignored.
There were a lot of relevant comments following the Brian Giles post, so I wanted to respond. There are a lot of reasons why we chose to pick up Brian's option for the 2009 season, three of which I'll outline below. I'm not going to get into our nitty-gritty evaluation of Brian as a player. Rather, just take a look here in Baseball Prospectus where Brian ranks as one of the best offensive players in the game and as the 2nd best RF in 2008, and let's assume that he's still very productive.
Reason #1: We're always trying to win. In fact, I can't stand the term "rebuilding". The nature of MLB today is that every team is reloading all the time. That doesn't mean we aren't trying to win concurrently. Do we have different expectations from year-to-year based on personnel? Sure. Are we going to have more inexperienced players on our roster going forward than we have had over the past four years? Yes. Do we expect to lose? No.
I hate losing. Kevin Towers hates losing. Nobody in the organization enjoys it, and we know our fans don't either. That's exactly why we've tried to win at the big league level while simultaneously restocking the farm system over the past four seasons - a tenuous balancing act. We're not going to be a bunch of pollyannas running around expecting to win 115 games in 2009, but if you go into anything with the expectation of failure, then you're well on your way to fulfilling that expectation. We're not waiving the white flag in November.
Reason #2: We've already talked about this in other posts, probably ad nauseum, but Brian is precisely the type of player we want our younger guys to emulate. He never gives away an at-bat, controls the strike zone, plays every day, and was still breaking up double plays late in September when we were way out of the race. If our inexperienced players pick up any of those traits, we'll be better off both in the short-term and the long-term.
Reason #3: This is the one that has been touched on, but not fully explored. This is the raw business end of the deal. If we had not picked up Brian's option, we would have had to pay a $3 million buyout, and it would not have made sense to offer him arbitration. Therefore, declining the option would mean: $3 million and nothing in return.
By picking up the option, however, we gave ourselves the chance at upside. The 2009 season can unfold two ways, roughly speaking. The first scenario, the one everyone wants, is that we play well in the first half of next season - we get into July and we're in the race. Brian certainly gives us a better chance of that happening, and if it does happen, we'll be happy to have him.
The second scenario is that we don't play well, and we're out of contention. In this instance, we have the chance of trading Brian (a reader already posted a link to an article that mentions Brian's willingness to be traded under those circumstances) and getting some prospects in return. Should we trade him in the middle of July, our total payment would be about $5.25 million.
So, rather than paying $3 million for nothing, we could pay $5.25 million for 3 1/2 months of Brian's productive play, his mentoring of our younger players, and either possible contention or prospects in return. There is the possibility of injury or reduced production, but that is a risk with every player, and given Brian's track record that is a very acceptable risk given the upside potential.
On to Trevor...
This is an intensely personal situation for Trevor, the Padres, and the fans. I haven't been here that long, but even I have a connection - my oldest son's favorite player is Trevor Hoffman. Trevor is the all-time saves leader, an organizational icon, and a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. This isn't easy.
The emotion in all of this overwhelms the facts, but I'll present the facts anyway just as background.
Due to Trevor's standing in the organization, Kevin had an extended private conversation with him prior to the end of the season regarding the organization's intentions. We followed up with a contract offer in early October, at which time Kevin requested that the negotiations remain private, feeling that it was the best way for all of us to get a deal done and to do so quickly.
After a couple of weeks passed without contact, Trevor's representatives did request a meeting with Kevin, Sandy, and John Moores. Kevin responded to this request directly to Trevor saying that he and Sandy would be happy to meet with Trevor. We did not hear back regarding a possible meeting. After one month had passed, it was clear that our offer was not sufficient, so we officially withdrew it.
Again I'll say that I don't think the above facts are all that important. The reason is that there is simply no graceful way to handle this situation. Trevor has meant too much to this franchise for any kind of separation to be seamless. No matter how the situation is handled, if Trevor pitches elsewhere in 2009, it will be deemed to have been handled poorly. We know that.
These dealings blur the line between business and personal, which makes everything more delicate. In fact, when a player has been around as long as Trevor has, it is like dealing with family. It's not easy for us, it's not easy for Trevor, and we know it's not easy for the fans.
I'm not going to try to defend what we've done, how we've done or write about why this might make sense for us organizationally.
Instead, I'll share something a little more genuine - these types of decisions are pure agony.