How’s that for some alliteration? It was announced (unofficially) about an hour ago that the Nats have signed Rafael Soriano to a 2-year, $28 million (wow!) deal, with a third year option. Personally I was surprised that we would add another right-handed closer to the bullpen, as we already have a logjam at closer with Storen and Clippard. Assuming no egos get permanently bruised, I do like the prospect of being able to throw those guys in the 7th-8th-9th, with a yet to be determined lefty specialist in the mix somewhere. Who knows, one of those three could now be a trade chip for a big-time lefty. That would make things really interesting.
I am surprised that the Nats would be willing to give up their 1st round draft pick next year to the Yankees as a result of making this signing. I’m going to heed some of the wisdom that I’ve read in the short amount of time since this story broke. Some are saying that the 2013 draft class is not particularly strong, so giving up a pick this year is not as devastating. I’ve also heard the point that we don’t have a ton of room down on the farm, so to speak, with a pretty crowded system and no room to protect guys on the 40-man roster. Those points may be valid, and I’m going on faith with Rizzo here that he thought all of that through before signing Soriano. I do like the fact that we are officially now a destination where guys prefer to sign. Now let’s just hope signings like this don’t cause our season ticket prices to skyrocket!
After letting the Gio Gonzales trade digest for a few weeks, I’m finally ready to talk about it, as well as some recent thoughts about Prince Fielder. When I first learned of the Gonzales trade, I was pretty disappointed. My main reason being, why trade away prospects that you’ve drafted and developed, and who have seen some early success in the major leagues? You could just as easily sign a free agent, and still keep your prospects! Trades make sense during pennant races. I get it. But ones like this disappoint me. The simple reason for this trade though, is money. The Nats control Gonzales for several more seasons, and they will have to pay him far less, even after arbitration, than they would have had to pay a C.J. Wilson type player. (and I’m not saying I really liked Wilson as a solution here).
However, if it turns out that the Nationals are truly serious about signing Fielder (today’s wildly conflicting reports notwithstanding), then the Gio trade makes good sense to me, because we’d be truly ready to contend this year. I’m usually one to temper people’s enthusiasm over the Nats’ 2012 playoff prospects, if only because the Phillies are still the Phillies, the Braves are the Braves, and the Marlins signed some huge free agents. That all being said, if we sign Fielder, I may jump on the playoff bandwagon for this season. The protection he would give to other hitters in the lineup, not to mention his flat-out production, would be amazing. I truly hope they can pull this off. And I don’t mean a 10 year contract where we will eat the last 4 years of it. How about a 6-7 year deal, where we’ll only need to eat the final year of it?
There are people who are saying that if we sign him, we can’t sign 2-3 of our other core players. This is absolutely not true. It’s not an either/or situation. That’s totally up to the Lerners and how much money they would like to spend. While I certainly would not like to be a foolish spender on overpriced free agents, you can’t argue with the success of a team like the Yankees, who sign the players they want no matter what it takes. The result is that they’ve been to the playoffs 16 out of the past 17 seasons. It’s hard to poke a hole in that kind of success. I’m not saying they are perfect or should be our model by any means. But you don’t have to budget for just one or two big contracts. You can invest more money at your discretion and the team, franchise, fans and owners can all be winners.
That would be the 5-day countdown until Adam Dunn becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Nats have a 5 day window to exclusively negotiate with Dunn before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If they don’t sign him within this 5 day period, he is gone. There is no reason why they would wait and get into a competitive bidding war with another team for his services and decide later that they are willing to pay a premium for him. So in other words, he is gone. The team may as well have announced as much when they sent this e-mail to season ticket holders last week:
HAPPY HALLOWEEN NATS FANS! VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE NATIONALS PUMPKIN & ENTER TO WIN AN OFFICIAL GAME-WORN ADAM DUNN JERSEY
They are trying to unload all of his gear because it will be more or less worthless to the team 5 days from now. It’s really sad that the Lerners just look at our team as a business and not as a team to be built into winners. I hope they prove me wrong, but it looks like the only way things will improve is if Selig retires (for those who don’t know, he gift-wrapped this team to the Lerners instead of other competing bidders who were actually serious about baseball). Once Selig retires, hopefully his replacement will put pressure on chronically under-spending and underachieving clubs to do more to put competitive teams on the field. Having more cities around the country be enthusiastic about baseball would be good for MLB and they know this. It especially hits home during the playoffs when they want high TV ratings nationwide, not just in the competing cities. One start could be restructuring the luxury tax. I realize that it was intended to help the smaller market teams, but as we learned when the Pirates’ books were opened earlier this year, in some cases it can enable under-spending teams to put a terrible product on the field and still turn a profit. We need to find a way to fix that.
I appreciate Bill Ladson’s enthusiasm/interest in the Nationals, but I wonder how he could possibly come up with some of these personnel ideas for the Nationals and actually think they are remotely wise moves. I realize some of these are rumors that he’s hearing from the Nats’ front office. Here my are comments in response to these suggestions for a potential Adam Dunn replacement:
Carlos Pena, Rays: He hit .196 this season. Please be serious.
Aubrey Huff, Giants: He hit .290/26/86 this season. He will be 34 in a few months. Next season he’ll be lucky to go .270/24/78. Is that really an upgrade?
Paul Kornerko, White Sox: He’ll be 35 years old next season. He had 100 RBIs for the first time in 4 years. Yes, he had a renaissance year. It’s not going to happen again.
Adam LaRoche, D-Backs: He hit .261 this year. Dunn hit .260. Only if he comes real cheap.
James Loney, Dodgers: Not much power and hit .267 this year. I’m still firmly against a trade for someone like this when you could sign a free agent who has better numbers without giving up a player.
Josh Willingham: Willingham has played three games at the first base. Why would the Nats think his defense at 1B would be any better than Dunn’s? This is a ridiculous suggestion.
Jayson Werth, Phillies: He will be 32 early next season and will be looking for a final big contact for financial security. He can’t even get to 100 RBI batting in a potent Phillies lineup. If the Nats sign him, look for him to average .255/22/70 over most of 3 seasons before being released by the team. You heard it here first.
I cannot believe what I am reading about the Nationals likely trading for a No. 1 starter. I am 100% in favor of signing 2 front-line starters, but a trade is one of the most idiotic moves I can think of. They have spent years at the bottom of the standings, building up their farm system and developing a nice stable of prospects. Now they want to trade them away for a starting pitcher. Trade away some prospects when it’s a for guy who will put you over the top in a pennant race. Otherwise, just sign someone in free agency! If Cliff Lee is the #1 guy this offseason, yes he will command a lot of money. But look at it this way. If you are going to pay a guy $20 million per season vs $15 million for a different frontline starter that you’d trade for, that seems ridiculous. Here’s why. If you trade for a guy, he’ll have maybe 2 seasons left on his contract. So over those 2 years, you’re saving $10 million but will have traded away several top prospects. Is that worth $10 million? To put it conversely, if you went to another team and said, I’ll pay you $10 million cash, just hand over 3 of your top prospects in your farm system, would anyone take that offer? No way. Any that is basically what we’d be doing here. As fans, we’ve tolerated 5 losing seasons in a row while being told it’s in the name of building a winner through rebuilding and restocking our farm system. And now you want to trade those away? We’ll have to see the actual salaries we’re talking about and which prospects it ends up being, but giving away top prospects when you could sign someone through free agency is so ridiculous, I cannot believe people with “baseball minds” are considering this.
I’m not going to go into a player by player review of what the Nats have accomplished or failed to accomplish this season. However, I’m going to share a few key thoughts about how the Nats should approach the second half of the season.
Put on the trading block any pitcher on the active roster not named Strasburg, Storen or Clippard. You’ll notice I did not protect Capps there. While Capps is having a great year, holding onto a solid closer is not as critical when you are not headed to the post-season. And he could probably bring more in return right now than any other non-protected pitcher on the staff. Plus, he’s not making a ton of money this season, so a lot of teams would jump at the chance to have him. More on this later.
Play Nyjer every day in center until July 31st, hope for a surge, and try and trade him too. If he is not traded by the 31st and he has not gotten more consistent in every aspect of his game, then beginning in August make Bernie the starting CF and start Morse in right the rest of the season. We need to see if these guys are going to be able to be everyday players next season.
Trade Guz if we can get anything decent in return. Sign Dunn now to an extension.
Finally, we have got to be active in the free agent market this offseason. We need 2 quality starting pitchers, a closer if Capps is traded, another solid setup man, a big name second baseman who can hit for power and average, and a big bat in RF if Bernie or Morse don’t look like the solution by the end of the season. SPEND THE MONEY Lerners! We can’t wait any longer for the guys in the farm system to mature and hopefully become stars at the major league level. If you wait 3 more years, Zim’s contract will be up and who know if he’ll really re-sign here if we haven’t shown a commitment to winning by then. We don’t need to be buyers at the trade deadline. But please, be buyers in the offseason. If only takes cash to do that; you don’t have to part with top prospects. Take a chance on spending some money. We could contend next year if we do this. Thanks for reading.
Ha. No seriously, now that Dunn is slated to start every day at first base, Nick Johnson has said he will not accept a bench role. Well, of course the Nationals will try to trade him, but if they can’t, is he going to refuse to play? I could see a scenario where the injury bug bites us, Dunn moves to the outfield, and Johnson goes back to first base. He’s good insurance to have. There would probably be a pinch hitting situation for him every game at some point, but that’s not a lot of at bats. Hopefully we can get something decent for him in a trade. But it may take some time because he needs to prove to everyone, including those outside the Nationals’ organization, that he is healthy and can perform at a high level again. If that happens, he should bring back something decent in a trade.