Mailbag: Adam Dunn, A clean-up replacement, and Prospects

I'm not always the best at keeping in touch with people. Actually, let's be honest: the only person worse at responding to e-mail is Ted Kaczynski. But I get a lot of good letters each week, some of which don't even compare my writing ability to a third-grader. So today, I thought I'd comb through my inbox and answer some of them in a public forum. After all, there is no such thing as a dumb question (although some big league managers might disagree).

We'll start with three:

Q (from Keith): "I heard on ESPN last night that Washington put Adam Dunn on waivers; are the Phillies interested in him? If it's possible, he would be a good rent-a -player; If Howard's ankle is more serious than thought, or if he will be out longer than 3 weeks, it makes sense to me, anyway, to have a player of that caliber to fill-in at first base. he could also pinch hit; and if the Fightins' make it back to the WS, he could DH. What do you think?"

A: Even if the Phillies are interested, they probably aren't in a position to make such a move. First, one of the big reasons Dunn wasn't traded before the non-waiver deadline was the Nationals' asking price. They don't have much flexibility to trade more prospects, or take on more salary. Besides, it's hard to imagine any other NL competitor allowing Dunn to fall to the Phils (any team higher on the waiver priority order, which is in reverse order of record, could put a claim in on Dunn and block a trade). That said, the Phils aren't interested. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday further trades are unlikely. My personal opinion is that the Phillies would still be better off getting a replacement for Chase Utley than Howard. Howard isn't expected to miss as much time as Utley, and the Phillies have a better offensive option at first base in Ross Gload than they do at second base.

Q: (From Paul): Ryan Howard gets hurt. Statistically, who is the last guy on the team who should bat cleanup. Jayson Werth. So Manuel bats Werth cleanup and he goes 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts. If you look at their numbers this year, Werth is your ideal leadoff man and Rollins is your ideal number 5 or 6 hitter.  Here are some interesting numbers: With nobody on base Werth bats .324 and Rollins bats .198.

Runners on base: Werth .260, Rollins .308

Runners in scoring position: Werth .157, Rollins .361

Leading off an inning: Werth .341, Rollins .152

Runners in scoring position and 2 outs: Werth .104, Rollins .500

A: This wasn't really a question, so there really isn't an answer. But Paul brings up a valid point, at least based on the numbers. The first caveat, though, is that Rollins' numbers stem from a pretty small sample size. Werth has had 129 plate apperances with RISP. Rollins has had just 47. The second caveat is that Manuel likes pure speed at the top of the order. If not Rollins, then Victorino. And Victorino is hurt. I asked Manuel yesterday who else he might consider at clean-up, and he mentioned Raul Ibanez, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Ibanez there today. In 119 plate appearances with RISP, Ibanez is hitting .290 with a .395 OBP and .890 OPS.

Replacing Howard's run-producing potential is difficult. He has driven in 17.4 percent of runners on base this season, which ranks 14th in the NL. Werth ranks 52nd at 14.1 percent. Ibanez ranks 33rd at 15.2 percent.

Q: (From Michael): ". . .Don't lose sight of the fact that the young talent traded away has yet to pitch their new teams into the playoffs. May never. If you remember, Floyd, when here, pitched like a deer caught in the headlights. He also has been up and down for the Whire Sox, with only one outstanding season. He's been more down than up. We essentially never saw Gonzalez, Outman or Maloney, so it's hard to say what we lost. In the long run, perhaps nothing. Who knows? Happ has the potential, but do we get back to the playoffs with him this year? Hard to say, just like it's hard to say if we get to the playoffs with/because of Oswalt. . .I would like say to the media, stop complaining and enjoy it. It must be fun to always be able to take the opposite position no matter what the Phillies do. As a result you guys are never wrong. If they make no moves and miss the playoffs, you guys are on them like white on rice. If they don't make the playoffs this year, well, they're financially cooked for next year. If they make the playoffs this year, well, they're still financially cooked next year. I mean, where does it end for you guys? Can't we fans have some fun for a change? Look at the history of this franchise. What they're doing now is great. As a 30 year season ticket holder, I've been enjoying the heck out of them for last several years. We're entitled. Just give it a rest."

A: There are some valid points in this e-mail, which came as a repsonse to an article I wrote looking at some of the young pitching talent the Phillies have sacrificed while trading for Freddy Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. The story wasn't meant to argue against the Phillies' decision to trade Oswalt for a package fronted by J.A. Happ. More than anything, it was meant to show that while the Phillies have reaped a considerable reward with their philosophy, they have reached a point where they will likely be relying heavily on homegrown players to augment the star power they have.

The question isn't whether Oswalt will be a better pitcher than Happ over the next year-and-a-half. The question is, are the Phillies better with Oswalt and without Happ, or would they have been better off keeping Happ and spending the $10.25 million they will now pay Oswalt through 2011 somewhere else: On a lower-cost starter who would leave the system with an extra arm in case somebody gets hurt, on upgrades to the bullpen, on a right-handed hitting outfielder (either Werth or his replacement), on a back-up infielder with better offensive track records than Wilson Valdez or Juan Castro?