It's always great when you get something for nothing. Free lunch, an extra opening day ticket given to you by a friend, a scheduling advantage because two teams in your division are atrocious. All good.
But, giving away something for nothing, that's usually bad. It's especially bad when you're a general manager for a major league baseball team. And that's exactly what Pat Gillick has done with the Vicente Padilla for Ricardo Rodriguez trade.
The Phillies released Rodriguez yesterday. He didn't have a great spring. His ERA was decent at 4.15, but he gave up 15 hits and 7 walks in 13 innings, which is not good at all. Worse performances have resulted in roster spots in the past though, so it seems that Rodriguez was more a victim of roster crunch -- he wasn't going to start and he didn't want to relieve, so the Phils released him. We'll see if he catches on elsewhere, but unlike the trade of Aquilino Lopez, his release is no loss for the Phils.
What is a huge loss for the Phils though is that now the team gave away Vicente Padilla for nothing. Since becoming a starter in 2002, Padilla has been an above league-average starter in his healthy years (ERA+ of 116 and 114 in 2002 and 2003), and pretty much a league-average pitcher in his years he battled injury (ERA+ of 96 in 2004 and 2005). His spring performance with the Rangers, small sample size and all, shows that he's humming along to the same tune this year: 3.37 ERA, 11 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts, in 10+ innings.
Pat Gillick admitted his mistake yesterday when he released Rodriguez, saying "it wasn't a very good trade." However, that apology isn't going to be enough come September if Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver is right. Yesterday he wrote that BP's prediction system has the Mets winning a tight NL East race over the Phillies but that the Phillies would be the "unambiguous division favorites" with a league-average fifth starter.
That's exactly what the team had with Padilla, but instead now it has nothing.