I hate people. Why do I hate people? Well, because people are stupid. Or at the very least they say stupid things and let stupid ideas perpetuate. Case in point, this idea that the Nationals shouldn't sign Jason Marquis because it will only make them a couple games better and that money would be better spent elsewhere.
This is the talk that cheap owners can't get enough of. If the public treats the money that goes into a baseball team like a dollar tree that can only be pruned so much the owners can at any time use that as an excuse not to spend money "We need that money to do 'X'. You want us to do 'X' don't you?" Right now 'X' is signing their next #1 draft pick (likely he of the awesome last name, Bryce Harper). Next year it could be re-signing Adam Dunn, or going after a stud starter. There's always going to be a big ticket item out there. If you let a cheap owner tell you that they can only do one thing at a time - they are only ever going to do one thing at a time.
The only thing of real import in any deal with an owner who is honestly putting money into the team with the hopes of making it better, is if it was a good deal or not. This was a good deal.
Not because Jason Marquis is a necessarily a good pitcher. The fancy stats don't lie. 4.5-5.0 K/9 is not great. 3.25-3.75 BB/9 is not great. BABIP is right on target in the high .280s low .290s. These are the numbers of an average pitcher, certainly not a great one, and maybe not even a good one. And these aren't just numbers from last year, these numbers have been repeated year after year.
The number that has changed drastically for Marquis, and will determine his future going foward, is his flyball percentage (and in turn his HRs given up.)
2006 - 40.0% FB, 1.62 HR/9
2007 - 33.2%, 1.03
2008 - 32.5%, 0.81
2009 - 27.4%, 0.63
(Can I take a moment here to note how damn perfect he would have been for the Mets and their spacious park? The Mets are stupid. I take back what I said before. I love stupid people)
Marquis has gone from one of the most severe flyball starters in the league in 2006, to one of the most severe groundball starters in the league in 2009. Given the rest of his blah stats, that's the difference between "He might not be long for this league" and "he might be an All-Star". And that's moving from St.Louis, through Chicago and into Denver. It has been an impressive change. Even if he regresses to his 07/08 numbers - those are still good enough to keep him tossing out those average innings. Let's not forget about those innings. At least 191 tossed in 5 out of the last 6 years. We all know the Nats' issues with relief pitching the past few years. That is in part because of the amount it had to be used. Good arms are worn out, bad arms are brought out more times than they should be. Reliable starting pitching can hide mediocre relief pitching depth.
For me there's no question why the Nats would make this deal. They get a durable dependable innings eating starter who is not old (turns 32 in late August) without much financial commitment in terms of dollars OR years. It's a smart move that shouldn't stop the Nats from making other smart moves. Are there better moves out there? There probably will be a couple, (though you never know what the market will do) but that doesn't take away that this itself is a good move. The question for me is why does Jason Marquis take this deal? Only 2 years - only 7.5 million a year?
All I can come up, and this is going out on an extreme limb, is that Marquis knows this contract makes him immediately attractive as trade bait. He's a durable pitcher, who's likely to do as well in Nationals Park (as opposed to what may happen if he were to roll the dice again in a more hitter friendly environment), for a team likely to not be in the playoff hunt. Come August you know his name will be brought up and Jason may be able to direct himself to another playoff team. Of course if that's the case, why not sign with one now? Afraid of getting left off another playoff roster?