I'm doing my utmost right now to write this up without sounding like a knee jerk. To be honest, I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now. The recent injuries to Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips give this whole thing a totally different feel, but I'm gonna really try to think past that feel. Even if they were healthy and producing, I'd be making the case for a trade.
The Reds are just 2½ games behind the Brewers right now. When I started thinking about this, they were like 6½ back. The prognosis on the rest of this season has gotten a good bit more positive in recent days. But even if they were 2½ games ahead of the Brewers, I'd be making the case for a trade.
We are all really impressed with what Simon has accomplished thus far. He is leading the majors in wins and has posted an impressive 2.70 ERA. He is mostly accomplishing all this by limiting walks (2.2 per 9) and getting hitters to roll up ground balls to his best-in-the-biz defense. He is basically what Bronson Arroyo was before he left. And that's good.
I don't wanna make the case that he is a big regression candidate. His BABIP is .232, which will likely tick up over the second half. But his HR/FB is 14%, which will likely tick down. I think he will probably regress a bit, but even if I think he wouldn't, I'd be making the case for a trade.
I blame The Genius of Billy Beane. With the Samardzija/Hammel trade, he upgraded the A's rotation. Which, I mean, sure, I guess that's important. He paid a lot to do it though, so I'm really ambivalent about the value. The real genius, I think, is in how he set the market for starting pitchers. By scooping up two of the best available, he dramatically changed the opportunity landscape for all of his competitors. That's Wall Street-level evil genius.
I hate the traditional dichotomy of the "buyer/seller" dynamic at the trade deadline. It's the answer to the wrong question. Teams should not be asking themselves if they are still going for it. Rather, they should be asking how they can positively impact the future of the franchise, both short and long term. Of course, that's a more complicated question with more nuanced answers. So regarding Simon, the question we need to ask is whether the team is better both short and long term with him or whether they can possibly extract more value from him by trading him.
The acquisition of Simon has been one of the best moves Jocketty has made with the Reds. He was basically had for free, and he has since been a valuable asset in the bullpen. And this season, he has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball as a stalwart in the rotation. He is only making $1.5 million this season and will be arbitration-eligible for the last time next season before he can reach free agency. That makes him one of the most valuable per-dollar pitchers in baseball. It's like a never-ending pasta bowl with free soup, salad, and breadsticks kinda value.
This is pretty much peak value for him right now, though. He can't get any more valuable. It's not like he can pitch better than he has so far this season. He is never going to be any cheaper. And on top of all that, the market for starting pitchers can't really get any more seller-friendly. So rather than debate whether the Reds should be buyers or sellers over the next few weeks, we need to be asking if it's time to cash in some chips.
There is basically no way Simon should be considered a long-term asset for this team. He will be a free agent after next season, just like Mike Leake, Mat Latos, and Johnny Cueto. 80% of the current rotation is only signed up through next season, and it is impossible for the Reds to keep all of them. Simon is the clear #4 in that group, and thus the most expendable. Fortunately, he might also be the most attractive to a contending team looking for a rotation upgrade.
It's also worth mentioning that even if the Reds consider themselves contenders this season (they do and they should), they would be just fine minus Simon. The rotation has been just fine without him the past few years and the bullpen has been just fine without him this year. (I'm fully aware how tautological that is, but instead of criticizing it you should just check out that pig thing again.)
Considering the kind of value the Cubs got last week, it's reasonable to think the Reds could acquire some really good long-term pieces in exchange for Simon. Turning his new-found short-term value into something more long-lasting is precisely the kind of move this team needs to make if they want to give it one more go in 2015 without really giving up on 2014.