As I feared, we traded Michael Morse away yesterday, or better yet pretty much gave him away to the Seattle Mariners. In return, we got back A.J Cole, whom we had drafted a few years ago and later included in the trade for Gio. Yes, we received another pitcher and a player to be named, but this trade was basically for Cole. In case you didn’t read the text of any articles about the trade, Cole started off the minor league season last year at 0-7. In Single A ball. He later got demoted to Low A ball. Like I said, we basically gave Morse away. The only redeeming thing about this deal is that it gives The Beast a chance to play every day, which he deserves. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was a bad trade. He was “cheap” salary-wise. He has lots of power, also hits for average, and is in his prime. He would have been great insurance in case someone got injured. And the money should not have been a factor, since the Lerners clearly are in a spending mode right now. He was also a very popular player, both in the clubhouse and with the fan base. Something to think about as you build the team in the future, Lerners and Rizzo. Part of the team’s appeal (beyond winning 98 games) was that they are for the most part all likeable. The fans felt a connection to them. A few tweaks to a team that led the league in wins is fine. When you start approaching too many adjustments, it become subtraction by addition. Good luck out there Michael. Hope you have a great season, and thanks for all you did for the Nationals.
James Wagner had an interesting piece in today’s Washington Post, discussing the team’s lack of left-handed relievers in the bullpen. Mike Rizzo has stated that he’s comfortable going into the season with only one lefty, although another one would be nice. Personally, I’m glad they didn’t pay inflated prices for Sean Burnett or J.P. Howell. But then again, decent situational lefties will almost always get overpaid. Those who know baseball well will acknowledge this. But I feel like we got the best of what Burnett had over the past few years. Call it a gut feeling. We’ll see how he does this season for the Angels.
I don’t believe we will enter the season with only one lefty in the bullpen, nor should we. Zach Duke had decent success after we called him up last year, but he spent most of the season in the minors. He does have a lot of major-league experience, but he is also somewhat of a retread. Rizzo points out that right-handed relievers Ryan Mattheus and Tyler Clippard held lefty batters to .219 and .186 averages, respectively. But here’s the catch–you can’t use up those guys for situational at-bats. Clip cannot come in to snuff out a rally with 2 outs in the 6th. Mattheus could, but do you want him reduced to that role? What if you need him in the 7th, and a batting order issue makes this impossible? You can’t always make a double switch when you insert him to prevent this. So I do feel we need another lefty specialist in the bullpen, and a pretty good one at that. I believe we’ll see it, possibly though a trade, or at a minimum from someone rising up to the challenge during spring training.
Speaking of which, Bill Bray is a possible candidate to do just that. I must close by pointing out one interesting anecdote about Bill Bray’s first win in the majors, as I remember watching it on TV. Bray threw exactly one pitch in the eighth against the Brewers, a strike, after which a runner on first was caught stealing to end the inning. Catcher Brian Schneider then hit a 2-run homer in the 9th to win it, and Bray got the win. I hope he bought Schneider a steak dinner after that.
I said i wouldn’t mention LaRoche again until he signed somewhere, so now I will open my trap again. I welcome him back, with a smirk on my face of course. What he may lose in productivity for being another year older, we will likely get back in continuity, defense, and locker room presence. Thankfully the initial reaction is that we do not necessarily have to trade away Morse. I really hope we keep him. Although he deserves to play every day, he will be a great asset to have in case someone gets hurt. Not to mention that he can spell both Werth and LaRoche fairly regularly, as they both have a lot of seasons on their bodies and can use some days off. Speaking of Werth, as clutch as that homer was in the playoffs, I’ll note again what an albatross that contract will be in the coming years. It would be interesting to see if we could get anything for him in a trade, then play Morse and/or Tyler Moore in that third spot. I realize that would upset team chemistry, but it would be yet another forward-thinking move by GM Mike Rizzo.
A couple of things just give me a warm feeling. Mike Rizzo saying they’ve pretty much laid their offer to LaRoche on the table and are not changing it. We’ve come a long way from a few years ago where we had to way overpay to sign a ‘big’ free agent in Werth. Haren signed a 1-year deal to play here because he wants to win. Rizzo is now holding fast because he believes LaRoche feels the same way. With Loney and Napoli being signed and filling 1B needs for other teams, the market for LaRoche is growing smaller. I’d welcome him back, but again only for the 2 year deal.
If that happens, some baseball minds are saying that we’ll trade Michael Morse. I would hope that only happens if we get some solid value in return, not just a few low level minor league guys. Sure, he’ll be a free agent next year and if we lose him we’ll get nothing. But these are the new Nats. We don’t have to wring every piece of value at every turn. In past years, we did this to prepare for the future. Well, the future is here. I’d be happy keeping morse. There will always be injuries on any given team. Look at the outfield last year. Morse himself missed significant time, as did Werth. While I don’t wish for injuries, they do happen and it would be great to have Morse around for insurance. I really like his bat, and I believe he’s well-liked by teammates and an important part of the clubhouse. The biggest issue may be a roster crunch, with Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina both needing bench spots as well. But it’s still early in this process, and the roster numbers are a long way out from being detemined.
Last night had to be one of the more deflating losses I’ve seen. Blowing an 8-run lead is tough, but considering that we’ve had our share of luck this season, I can’t dwell on it too much. But one of the contributing factors was just too much to take. Sean Burnett has got to go. Granted we had already given back 6 runs of our 8-run lead, but a 2-run homer on the first pitch? Burnett has already blown so many games this season, you need both hands to count them. And the season in only halfway over.
I realize we need a LOOGY in our bullpen, (lefty one out guy) but Burnett has been anything but. I’m confident that we’ll bring up JC Romero to fill that role at some point, but why wait any longer? Bring someone up from the minors for a cup of coffee until Romero (or someone better) is ready. Hey Rizzo, here is quick lesson: the worst thing that can happen when a pitcher throws a pitch is serve up a home run. Not a hit batsman or a wild pitch, but a home run. It’s impossible to do anything worse. Burnett accomplished this on his first pitch. A rookie in that spot could not have done anything worse than that. Quit watching this guy ruin games for us. Do something about it, please.
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.
It’s a great day to be a Nats Fan…4 games over .500, Bernadina possibly finding his groove, Strasburg pitching a no-hitter through 6. Gotta love it. I realized that I hadn’t written a post in while when I read today that Jason Marquis is going to have surgery to repair bone chips in his elbow. The I thought, hey, I called that out in my last post 3 weeks ago. I’m still kind of amazed they let him waste 3 weeks trying to cure it with rest. As Rizzo was quoted as saying, “It didn’t work, so it set us back for about three weeks.” C’mon Mike, you’re better than that. I’m sure he’s mad at himself for letting Marquis convince him he could work through it.
Back to Strasburg, if they keep him pitching every 5th day, that would potentially have him starting on July 6 at home vs the Reds. Expect a sellout at the ballpark.