Dat Dude and the Cuban Missile

Various news organizations have used the slogan “Tomorrow’s News Today” over the years. When you pick up a newspaper in print, however, what you’re really getting is “Yesterday’s News Tomorrow.” That’s a big part of why print publications struggle to compete in the Internet age. The 24-hour news cycle leaves them behind.

But I love newspapers; nothing starts my day out right like a few ink stains on my fingers and a little knowledge in my brain. So today, I’m going to make like a newspaper and discuss a couple of topics that everyone else covered yesterday.

Brandon Phillips

When Joey Votto inked his humongous new contract last week, the Reds send out an email with “JOEY VOTTO, REDS AGREE TO CONTRACT EXTENSION” in the subject line. When Brandon Phillips followed suit and signed his smaller-but-still-huge deal yesterday, the Reds sent an email titled “Brandon Phillips, Reds Agree To New Contract.” The difference in capitalization seems appropriate.

A couple of weeks ago, C.G. Hudson wrote a compelling post for this blog about why Phillips isn’t worth such a bank-breaking contract. Here’s the cliff notes version: Advanced stats (along with some not-so-advanced stats) show that Phillips is a good but not quite great player. His .322 career on-base percentage (the most important statistic in baseball) is average. Dat Dude will turn 31 in June, and middle infielders don’t age well, which means Phillips will likely be past his prime for a good chunk of his contract. Paying him $12 million a year in the decline phase of his career is less than ideal.

Here’s the silver lining: In a few years, these deals might not seem so outrageous. Baseball’s national TV agreement expires after the 2013 season, and the new one will likely give teams a big revenue boost. Many clubs, including the Reds, are also banking on higher attendance and increased local TV revenue. If owners are willing to reinvest that money, more small market teams might give big contracts to their star players. (Joe Mauer’s mega-deal with the Twins is another example.) The Reds are just making the risky move of spending the money before they have it.

Chapman vs. Bailey

After Homer Bailey surrendered three home runs in the first inning (insert “Homer” joke here) of a loss to the Cardinals on Monday, fans were clamoring for Aroldis Chapman, who has been lights-out in his three innings of work this season, to replace Bailey in the rotation.

The fans are half right. Bailey deserves another chance. But Chapman needs to be in the rotation. I wrote about this before, but it boils down to this: An effective starter has much more impact on the success of a team than a successful reliever. And it’s easier to succeed as a reliever than as a starter, making effective starters that much more valuable. In their 162 games this season, the Reds will pitch a minimum of 1,458 innings. If Aroldis Chapman is one of their best pitchers, wouldn’t they rather have him throw 150 of those innings than 60 of them?

Look, maybe Chapman will fail as a starter. In that case, move him back to the bullpen for good. But he’s making starter money, and he’s got starter-quality stuff. The Reds need to at least give him that chance.

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