Ok, it's been a bit, and I've digested the Casey for Williams deal, and ... I like it. A lot.
There's a ton going on here, and I'm probably going to be prone to rambling tonight, so bear with me.
Anyone who reads this site on a regular basis knows that I'm pretty critical of Dan O'Brien. Some poster on ESPN's message board recently called me "a 25 year old guy who mostly rants", which is actually pretty dead on lately. Except that I'm 24, but whatever. I've simply reached the point in my life where I'm not satisfied with my favorite teams rebuilding or building, or whatever the hell you want to call it. If five years of losing happen then it's past time to blow up the ship. The Bengals of the 1990's showed me what can happen when you trust in status quo. Every year you feel like you get a little closer, but in reality you're just spinning your tires. Lately we haven't even had that in Reds land, as it feels like the franchise has gone backwards under Dan O'Brien.
There's been a culture with the Reds for years now where losing is okay as long as the team is cuddly and lovable. Everyone was best buds, and yeah the Reds only won 75 games a year, but hey they tried hard and ... well they were lovable. Danny Graves, Sean Casey, Paul Wilson, Jason LaRue, Aaron Boone, even Barry Larkin to an extent, all of these guys put their friendships ahead of their jobs. That's endearing, it really is. But it doesn't lead to success. If you can gather a group of 25 good players who love each other then that's awesome. But that's not going to happen very often. The Reds of recent years have disagreed, often holding on to players well past their expiration date.
Sean Casey is a great example of this. He clearly should have been dealt after his excellent 2004 season. This isn't the benefit of hindsight, many people thought that Casey should go to alleviate the logjam in the outfield, myself included. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back; it's simply not rocket science to be able to figure out that your sub .800 OPS first baseman might be the odd man out when your outfielders consist of Dunn/Griffey/Kearns/Pena.
But DanO didn't trade him. He does this all the time, holding onto players a beat too long, never maximizing his return.
That brings us to our present day situation. Many people upset at this trade seem to think that DanO could have gotten better, a claim that I find dubious. How many teams could have really been that interested in a light hitting, slow as molasses first basemen? The Pirates may have been it. The Red Sox and Dodgers both need first basemen, but the Red Sox would be better off going after Lyle Overbay, and the Dodgers have Choi as well as better internal options. You also have to remember that Casey has been good for the Reds franchise when it comes to a lot of things that GM's care about. He's been good in the community, he's clearly a fan favorite, etc. etc. And even if there were other offers on the table, DanO probably wanted to make a deal with Pittsburgh as a courtesy to Sean. And you know what? There's not a damn thing wrong with that. Casey deserves to go home if he has to go anywhere.
A lot of the other criticism of the deal that I'm seeing revolves around Dave Williams. I've seen him compared in various places as another Luke Hudson or Josh Hancock. That's absolutely absurd. The last time I checked neither Hudson or Hancock has ever pitched more than 10-50 innings of decent baseball at the major league level. Williams pitched 138.7 innings of league average baseball last season. In the major leagues, not at AAA. At the age of 26, an age that is just before a pitcher's traditional peak. The Reds have exactly two guys who are anywhere near as good as this guy, and their names are Aaron Harang and Brandon Claussen.
Williams is an upgrade for the starting rotation. Period. That might be a sad commentary on the Reds starters, blah, blah, blah, but what I see is the starting rotation being improved without a corresponding knock to the Reds offense. If no outfielders are traded then Cincinnati probably just traded Sean Casey's nine homeruns for 30+ Wily Mo Pena homeruns. I'll take that.
I like it. I'll like it even better if the new owners come in, immediately fire Dan O'Brien, and then sign Adam Dunn to a long term deal with some of the money that's been saved.
And hey, maybe Griffey will finally consider moving to first so that he can stay healthy for a few more years. This is pie in the sky stuff, but a guy can dream.