My Email to Lonnie Wheeler

This morning, I read Lonnie Wheeler's article on the criticism Krivsky has received for his handling of the last 2 trade deadlines.  I fired him off an email around lunchtime, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a reply in my inbox by 5pm.  Boohiss linked to the article in a diary below.  I would have just put this in his diary, but I told Lonnie I was posting the email, and wanted to make it easy to find if he was so inclined.

Mr. Wheeler-

After reading your column regarding Wayne Krivsky's handling of the trade deadline, I felt compelled to respond.  I am one who holds the seemingly contradictory views that Krivsky accepted far too little for Kearns and Lopez last season, and did not do enough at the deadline this season.  I post on several Reds' message boards, and can tell you that there are many people who agree with me on both counts.  Hopefully, I can speak generally enough to accurately represent the views of a significant portion of your readership.

There is an important distinction that you failed to address when comparing the nature of the objections to Krvisky's handling of the two deadlines.  In 2006, the Reds were very much in the pennant race, and made a misguided attempt to fill one hole on the team by creating two others.  In 2007, the Reds are very much out of the pennant race, and failed to unload assets that held little or no value to them for 2008 and beyond.

Krivsky failed in 2006 in two ways; he completely misjudged the market for relief pitching, and traded away two valuable and productive players without finding adequate replacements.  The Braves needed bullpen help last season, and got it for the price of a C-level prospect.  The White Sox needed bullpen help last season, and got it for the price of two C-level prospects.  The Reds traded young, productive, everyday players still in arbitration straight up for bullpen arms.  That's a severe overpayment given what those other teams gave up.  Following The Trade, the Reds employed the worst offensive SS in the majors (though, in fairness, he was only the 2nd worst defensively), and a hodgepodge of AAAA-types in RF.  The offense went from 3rd in the NL in Runs pre-trade, to 15th after.  Though there were other reasons for the collapse, the loss of offensive production in SS and RF cannot be overlooked.

Krivsky's failing in 2007 is entirely different.  He held onto several assets which could have been valuable for a team in the 2007 race, but had zero value for the Reds in 2008.  Obviously, trading Lohse was the right thing to do.  He was going to free agency, and was extremely unlikely to sign with Cincinnati.  Anything you could get for him was gravy.  However, the Reds sat on Hatteberg and Conine despite the fact that these two were far more valuable to teams in a pennant race this year than to the Reds in 2008.  Conine has already said he's retiring at season's end, and Hatteberg's a bench guy with Votto coming up next year (assuming that they'd pick up his option).  You're guaranteed nothing for Conine if you hang onto him, so why not get anything you can for him?  Somebody would have taken a veteran righty bat with postseason experience off your hands.  Hatteberg is doing nothing but taking AB's that should be going to Joey Votto right now.  He'd be a decent bench guy for the Reds next season, but he's limited to 1B defensively, and doesn't really give you anything that Votto won't.  Maybe Krivsky explored it, but nobody was biting.  However, with his history of preferring mediocre veterans to talented youngsters, I can't give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.  Krivsky had to get rid of Conine, should have gotten rid of Hatteberg, and did neither.

If you've made it this far, I hope I've done enough to convince you that the criticism directed at Krivsky is more nuanced and more valid than "He didn't ask for enough last year, and asked for too much this year."  If you're interested in hearing what others have to say on the topic, I'll be posting this email (and, hopefully, a response from you) on this evening.

Go Reds!

Lonnie wrote back, and offered the following on my two main points:

I'd have to differ on the specifics that you offer. While Royce Clayton provided nothing, Lopez was perhaps the worst major-league shortstop I've seen, defensively. This year, the National tried to move him to second base until Guzman became unavailable. And offensively, his place was ultimately taken by Aurilia, who was the Reds' best hitter over the latter portion of the season. As for Kearns, yes, he is a nice all-around player, and the Reds miss a right-handed bat. But he has never been particularly productive for any extended period. You could easily argue that the Reds' lack of offense late last year was owing not to the absence of Kearns, but to the absence of Griffey and the horrible slump of Dunn. Meanwhile, there is no denying that Majewski and Bray were busts, for varying reasons. But their track records suggested otherwise, to the extent that, while the trade was surprising, it was not indefensible. So my point is not that the trade was terrific, but that excoriating Krivsky for it is grossly one-sided. It simply not fair to do it without crediting him for Phillips, Arroyo, Hatteberg, Ross (at least last year), etc.

Sure, Conine should have been traded, although there wouldn't have been much return. Hatteberg too, probably, to make room for Votto, as you say. Perhaps they will be still. It could easily happen. I'd go further and say that it would have been helpful to trade Dunn and especially Griffey. But again, we simply don't know what kind of deals were available. Yes, I'm disappointed that moves were not made. But I believe the objections are overstated and perhaps premature. And again, if you are going to put Krivsky's feet to the fire for his failings, you simply have to credit his successes -- some of which (Phillips, Hamilton, arguably Arroyo and maybe even Keppinger) have been close to spectacular.

Thanks for your even, sensible explanations. For the most part, I don't disagree. I just believe that there's a substantial other side to it.

I'm composing my email back to him right now.

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