There are good discussions of this and other potential trades going on all over the site, but I wanted to put all of my thoughts in one place. As you probably know, I can get a little long-winded sometimes. Let's go to the bullet points:
- Let's be honest here: no matter how much there is to like about Linebrink, his home run numbers, especially his struggles away from home, are something to be concerned about. There are murmurs that he may be hurt, and whether or not that's true, something hasn't quite been right this year. The fact that the Padres would dump him when they're in the middle of the pennant race themselves indicates that he may not be an elite late-inning guy, though it also reflects their relief depth and Kevin Towers's willingness to give opportunities to guys who aren't big names. (Think Cla Meredith.)
- That said, there's a lot to like about Linebrink. For one thing, as I pointed out elsewhere, this isn't a matter of replacing Turnbow with Linebrink, even if Linebrink takes over in the 8th inning. Everybody moves down one notch, perhaps D-Bow to the 7th, Villy to the 6th, etc., and ultimately having another late-inning guy means fewer innings (and fewer important innings) for the likes of Spurling and Balfour. That is unquestionably good, even if Linebrink turns out to be more like Matt Wise than Coco Cordero.
- The price was high, but not as high as it seems. For one thing, the entire current rotation (six guys counting Gallardo) is locked in through '08, which means Inman probably wouldn't crack the rotation until '09 at the earliest. But even at that point, he could be very low on the depth chart, possibly behind guys like Parra, Villanueva, and Jackson, perhaps with Jeffress, Pascual, and Braddock charging up behind him. You can never have enough pitching depth, of course, but understanding that Inman was never projected as a top-rotation guy, we have a lot of competition for that #4 slot from 2009-2015.
- Not only that, but we can continue to draft more. We won't have a high pick (top 15) next year, but we will likely have several in the first two rounds. Between our pick and what we get from Cordero and Linebrink (presuming that they leave), we'll have plenty of opportunities to draft low-risk, low-upside college pitchers if we really do need to replace Inman and Garrison in the system (which we probably don't).
- A couple of you sound concerned that giving up Thatcher is going to come back and bite us. I do wish that we'd seen Thatcher in the bigs at some point this year, but the fact that we haven't, combined with the fact that he's a 26-year-old indy league product, tells me he's not going to make Melvin lose any sleep. He may end up pitching in the back of San Diego's bullpen for a while, but remember, Melvin is the king of finding guys like that, and he'll continue to find more. Quite simply, we don't need him, for much of the same reason we'll live without Inman.
- Steve Garrison is young, but he's not worth losing sleep over, either. He's better than your typical throw-in, sure, but anybody who ranks outside of the org's top 20 prospects--and doesn't fill an obvious need--is exactly who you should be willing to part with to get what you do need.
- One last thing about Inman. A few of you have brought up the adage TINSTAAPP--There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. In a BP article this spring, Gary Huckabay provided some very useful clarification of that concept. Sure, young pitchers flame out, get injured, stall, all the time. Brewers fans know that as well as anybody. But the idea is that you can't trust the proverbial "live arms" to become pitchers. In other words, Jeremy Jeffress or Mark Rogers is a very, very risky proposition. TINSTAAPP does NOT, on the other hand, refer to guys who already ARE pitchers. This could've been said of Gallardo when he was in the FSL last year: he may not quite have been ready for the bigs, but the dude could pitch. (As opposed to just throw hard, like Rogers.) Inman is the same way. Much has been made of Inman's small stature and supposedly low ceiling, and some of it is probably true. But the fact that he has succeeded as a control guy so far indicates that he is not a pitching prospect, he is a pitcher. His stuff may end up capping his development at Triple-A, or with a few Gary Glover-like years in the bigs, but it won't be because TINSTAAPP is right. The adage doesn't apply in this case.
Update [2007-7-26 11:29:34 by Jeff]: I lied. I have one more thing to add. While we won't know until August 1st (if ever) who was really on the block, and how much they would cost us, it's possible that Linebrink will end up being the best reliever to switch teams this month. Sure, it'd be nice to get Gagne, but the bidding for him must be crazy. It would've been nicer to get a healthy Otsuka, but he's too much of a question mark right now. As I wrote yesterday, the most obvious place to upgrade this team is the bullpen, and it may turn out that Melvin got the best available guy for our most glaring need. "Best available" is a secondary concern--after all, the best available second baseman may be Mark Loretta--but it is worth keeping in mind.