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Shane Victorino: Mistake Or Terrible Mistake?

A discussion that I had last night with Dodger Thoughts and True Blue L.A. commentor on Shane Victorino. In 2004, the Phillies took Victorino from the Dodgers in the rule five draft. Later that year, they didn't have room for him on the 25 man roster, so Paul  DePodesta could have reclaimed him for the paltry sum of 25 thousand dollars. He didn't, Victorino remained a Phillie, and he's turned into an average to above average centerfielder miscast as a corner outfielder. The question is, was this a bad move, or a magnificently bad move?

Canuck: You know, when you consider how much time and energy has been spent here crying over spilled milk when it comes to bad moves by Dodger GM's (not that there is anything wrong with that, to a point), I really can't understand how little anybody seems to care about Shane Victorino. I get hot with anger just reading Victorino's name in a boxscore. DePo essentially sold him to the Phillies for $50,000 because he wanted the 40-man roster space to protect Brian Myrow, and then refused to take Victorino back from the Phillies at a price of $25,000 when the Phillies had to offer him back. What makes it all the more mysterious (people's apathy) is that if that transaction had not occurred, there simply is NO Juan Pierre in Dodger Blue. When you are considering bad consequences of Dodger transactions, that practically elevates the Victorino loss to the level of the Pedro and Konerko trades.

Let's spell it out: Victorino came into tonight's game hitting .278/.347/.431, with 28 SB's in 30 attempts. He is a better defensive center fielder than Pierre and has just been moved to RF by the Phillies because he is blocked by Rowand in center and in sharp contrast to Pierre he has a great arm. Victorino's salary is probably around $500,000, if that. Pierre came into tonight's game hitting only .286/.316/.340, with 38 SB's in 47 attempts, and we owe him $44 million over the next five years. To quote the catchphrase of a character in the old McHale's Navy TV series, "I could just scream."

Myself: I don't see how giving away a guy that would be generously described as a mediocre ballplayer is considered a gargantuan mistake. A mistake sure, but carrying him and Repko on the 40 man seems like a waste.

Victorino had one decent half season in the minors and never walked. It's pretty understandable as to why he was shipped out.

Canuck: Regfairfield, I wish I could say I was not expecting that response from the guy who calls Chin-Lung Hu a "No-hit shortstop" and used to dump all over Loney while lionizing Hee-Seop Choi. Victorino a mediocre ballplayer? Talking generically about "ballplayers" is often useless, and certainly is in this case. If Victorino were a first baseman that would be one thing, or could only play an outfield corner, but Victorino is a switch-hitting, good defensive center-fielder (currently playing out of position because of circumstances beyond his control) with a lot of pop in his bat for a middle fielder who steals bases, makes peanuts in salary, and is four years from free agency. All of that makes Victorino VALUABLE.

As for the record Victorino had when DePodesta got rid of him, all that is really relevant is that DePo made his decision when Victorino had just hit .328/.375/.584 at age 23 in the pitcher-friendly Southern League and with a pitcher-friendly home park. Age 23 is not old for that league, and the batting line represented that Victorino had made a leap forward in translating his tools into results at that point. You never seem to consider that young players DEVELOP over time, and just want to look at a whole career, even when the career as a whole may be a bad indicator of what a player can do NOW, either good or bad (hence your championing of Odalis Perez long after he turned to crap).

Myself: Admittedly, it takes me too long to shift my opinion on a player, but here's what I see from Victorino.

A guy who followed up his breakout 293 AB with a .235/.278/.335 line in 200 at bats in a launching pad.

A guy whose speed was declining (going from 40+ SB at the beginning of his career to 20+ in 2003 and 2004.)

A guy who doesn't walk at all.

Victorino's entire case rests on those 293 plate appearances in a league that he had already played in for a season and a half. That sudden power spike he developed in Jacksonville went away the second he arrived in Vegas.

When you have Repko, who had very, very similar numbers to Victorino, it's understandable that you would keep him.

I'm not saying that this wasn't a mistake, but it's not a horrible failure.

Canuck: And that is why you DON'T hold it against a player for repeating a league -- as long as the second time around the player is not too old for the league. It is the same principle with Chin-Lung Hu. Loney, Aybar, and Betemit also repeated leagues they were young for the first time around. The rule of thumb is that a position player should produce at Double A no later than age 23, and produce in Triple A no later than age 24. Victorino dominated Double A as a 23-year-old, so when he was promoted to Vegas and fell on his face, I was not bothered, because he was still under 24. My expectation, at that time, was that the following season, at 24, Victorino would adjust to the better pitching and conquer Vegas. Then Depo got rid of him. Was I right to think that Victorino would conquer Triple A the following year? Playing for the Phillies' Triple A affiliate, Victorino hit .310/.377/.534, even improving his walk rate to 51 BB's in 494 AB's. Victorino won the International League's MVP award, and the International League is a less hitter-friendly league than the PCL.

But the thing that just eats away at me is that DePo didn't even trade Victorino, and he didn't even leave him exposed to the Rule 5 draft and then took him back when he failed to make the Phillies out of spring training. No, DePo astonishingly would not take Victorino back when the Phillies had to offer him back for practically nothing. DePo didn't think Victorino was worth literally $25,000. Yes, Colletti should be laughed at, and worse, for thinking Pierre is worth $44 million, but the GM who thought Victorino wasn't worth $25,000 also has to take a big drubbing. Both cases represent, at the GM level, monumental misevaluations of talent and assessments of what given talent is worth, albeit in exactly opposite directions.

Myself:Fair enough, I'm convinced

Worst thing could be that if Victorino was a Dodger, Juan Pierre might be wearing a Giants uniform right now. Giving away any young player with a modicum of potential is a very bad idea, and the Dodgers effectively did that so they could keep 28 year old AAA superstar Brian Myrow on the 40 man. While I didn't believe it before, this was easily the worst move of Paul DePodesta's tenure, and ranks fairly high on the list of Dodger blunders of the last decade. Not quite the Konerko or Pedro levels that Canuck implies, but still pretty horrible.