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The Precursor

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Traded LHP Arthur Rhodes to the Philadelphia Phillies for OF Jason Michaels

What do we know about Michaels? He's been the Phillies' fourth outfielder for some time, partly because of more talented corner outfielders ahead of him, and partly because he's been a good fourth outfielder. Yes, that's circuitous logic on my part, but it makes sense in some regards. Michaels has put up good numbers in his five-year career (career line of .291/.399/.442), but to this point hasn't reached the 300 at-bat plateau once. The Phillies didn't want to mess with a good thing, so each season they brought in a platoon for Michaels (Kenny Lofton, Marlon Byrd, Doug Glanville). Because the Phillies finally have a full-time center fielder (Aaron Rowand) and a younger, cheaper reserve outfielder waiting in the wings (Shane Victorino), Michaels was deemed expendable.

The Indians decided on Michaels for several reasons. First of all, he's a bit undervalued because of typecasting. No one really knows what Michaels would do with a 500 at-bat season, especially since Michaels has a slight platoon split against right-handed pitchers.

Secondly, he has the on-base skills to bat at the top of the order. Michaels has a career .380 OBP, and while he's not a stolen base threat, can be a good two-hole hitter. He hit mostly second with the Phillies last season.

Third, he's versatile enough so that the Indians don't have to worry with getting a fourth outfielder who can play center. Michaels is probably best suited to one of the corners, but isn't a liability in center.

As I said last year, when the Indians traded an outfielder for Rhodes, a position player is generally going to be more valuable than a relief pitcher. Rhodes posted a 1.8 WARP for the Indians in 2005, which Lawton bested (4.5). That's mainly a product of usage; middle relievers are lucky to pitch 60 or 70 innings, while a starting outfielder will get much more playing time. Michaels will be eligible for free agency after the 2007 season while Rhodes is a free agent after this upcoming season, and the Indians save some money in the swap as well.

The big problem with dealing Rhodes is that the Indians have to replace him somehow. Presumedly they'll have his replacement, as well a couple of prospects, by Sunday. I'll see you then.