I try to base most of my opinions about the Reds and their potential personnel moves on the economics of the game. Whether we like it or not, the Reds are not a high payroll team. That's the way the collective bargaining agreement is setup and that's the nature of the beast. The Reds can cry and complain about it or they can accept it and try to work within its framework.
There are undoubtedly some changes that need to be made to equalize the financial playing field of the game, but there is a part of me that enjoys the way it is now. Personally, I couldn't be a Yankee fan. The Yankees win because they have more money than everyone else and a bit of intelligence to go with it. Period. Buying the best talent year after year isn't fun or impressive. I like being the underdog. It'll make winning that much sweeter.
When evaluating potential moves, I look at production. Production is what determines wins and losses. You have to get a certain amount of production on offense, defense, and pitching to win ballgames. It is often times more important to look at aggregate production provided by a roster as a whole than the individual players who comprise the roster. Everyone, myself included, can get caught up in the players themselves (personalities, reputations, etc), but in reality it is the production they provide (HRs, Walks, etc) that really matters.
The key to being successful as a small/mid-market organization is simple: Get more production per dollar spent than the larger market teams. That's the whole deal. If you can't do that, then the larger budget teams will beat you. If you only get as much production per dollar spent as the large market teams, you will lose because they have more money to spend. That's why the Reds have to be innovative and try new things. They have to be SMARTER when they spend the money.
What it means, in essence, is that the mid-market Reds CAN'T AFFORD to sign players at their fair market value. The Reds can't pay players what they are "worth". They can pay one or two the going rate and build around them, but they can't just go out and acquire players who are at their peak earning power.
As such, the Reds have to exploit the collective bargaining agreement in order to be competitive. They need to use it, not curse its existence! Find the loopholes and exploit them. Seek out the inefficiencies. And, the inefficiency that the Reds need to exploit in this instance is the first 6 years of a players MLB career. The three when the team owns the rights and the three arbitration years. Those are the years the Reds can afford. After that, the player's cost skyrockets.
The Reds HAVE TO MAXIMIZE their talent/assets. They have to make sure that they squeeze every last drop of production out of every asset. That goes for trades, minor leaguers, draft picks, Rule 5 picks, and free agent signings.
Which brings us back to Kearns for Clement. The reason I don't like the deal is the same reason I don't like signing free agent pitching. Clement is getting what he is "worth". He's already reached his peak earning power. As such, he's not a player the Reds should target.
In fact, trading Kearns for Clement would be even worse than signing Clement as a free agent. Signing him as a free agent would only cost us cash. Trading Kearns for him would cost us cash and talent. That's a double negative. We would be trading Kearns for the right to pay Clement what he is "worth" on the open market. How does that make sense? And, personally, I think Clement is overrated, so in my mind he's getting much more than he is worth. So, I REALLY don't like the trade. The Reds have to choose wisely when handing out big money contracts. That's why I'd love for them to lock up Dunn, because I think he's worth it. I have no problem with paying big bucks to the guys who are worth it, but Clement clearly isn't one of them.
But, if you really think that acquiring Clement for $9.5M plus possible incentives is a good idea, why not just sign Jeff Weaver?
Here are Clement's career stats:
Here are Weaver's career stats:
Weaver and Clement are comparable pitchers. Weaver would likely sign for what Clement is making and wouldn't cost us Kearns in the process. So, why trade for Clement? Why not keep Kearns and sign Weaver? I find it hard to believe that Jeff Weaver would pass up a 2/3 year deal worth ~$10M per season, which is essentially what Clement earns.
Here's an example that may illustrate the point. Which of the following packages is preferable?
A) Matt Clement
B) Austin Kearns + Jeff Weaver
C) David Bush + Zach Jackson + Jeff Weaver
I'm not sure if it's B or C, but I know it isn't A.
Now, as I've stated before, I think the Reds could've gotten a David Bush & Zach Jackson package for Austin Kearns. But, I'm just using that as an example to put some names in the deal. It's a deal that is in the ballpark, if not totally agreeable to both sides.
The point is if you want to bring in another $9M pitcher, which I don't, there are better ways to go about doing it. I don't want to do it, because it isn't the best way to maximize production per dollar spent. If you bring in Clement and the payroll is around $65M, then in 2006 the salaries of Clement and Weaver combined will make up about 28% of the Reds payroll. That's a lot of money for two pitchers who will post league average production at best.
The Reds can utilize Kearns in a different manner to increase the amount of production on the team. Trade him for young talent and use the savings to sign free agents. Trading him for Clement doesn't even come close to maximizing the aggregate production of the team's assets. You can get Clement's production from Weaver, while keeping Kearns' production in the lineup. Or, you can get Clement's production from Weaver and use Kearns to bring in young talent in another trade. Either way is preferable to me, because either scenario brings in more talent than Kearns for Clement straight up.
You can say that the Reds need to boost payroll to $100M, but that's not overly realistic. Even if it was, it would STILL be advantageous to maximize the production per dollar spent. Personally, I think the Reds can go to $70-75M in payroll by making a few wise business decisions to increase revenue, but $100M isn't realistic.
So, they aren't likely going to be a top payroll team. Which means, they have to be one of the smartest teams, because they won't ever be one of the richest teams.
Maximize production and value out of every asset. Trading Kearns for Clement doesn't do that. In fact, leaves a tremendous amount of unrealized value on the table. The Red Sox picking up a significant portion of Clement's salary would help, but not enough that the Reds would be right in making this deal.
That's why I think it's a bad idea.
As per usual, just my $.02.