Nationals Baseball: Dangerously close to being relevant, and I do mean dangerous

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dangerously close to being relevant, and I do mean dangerous

July 31st.

That's the trade deadline. That's the last date where Mike Rizzo, if he truly believed that 2012 was going to be the first real step to the playoffs, could deal some veteran talent for prospects. The last time he could deal a useful player on the wrong side of 30 for organizational depth.

And he would need to do it. If the Nats were to compete in 2012 and beyond, then in the next few years the young talent would have to go out from the Nats organization rather than into it. Except the Nats organization is still not very deep. It has talent but relatively it is still a middle third (10-20) ranked organization. Scratch the surface of the Nats minor leagues and you find something. Dig a little deeper and it's not as impressive. A few deals and suddenly the minors could be barren again.

But in the next few games the Nats could pull over .500, within a few games of the Wild Card lead. If they come out of the next 9 inter-league contests within a game of where they entered (or better) then there is going to be incredible pressure from the fans and the team to skip over this last trade period, to "believe in the guys". Winning suddenly becomes dangerous.

It's not that it's better if the Nats lose. Win or lose Rizzo is in control and can do what he needs to. And it's not that the Nats chances of winning will collapse if they don't deal. But I can't help but feel this is all taking place a year early. Instead of a team coming into its own we have a team riding some unexpectedly good performances (Morse, Nix, Marquis). That to start the push now to the playoffs would be doing it at the earliest possible moment, rather than the one planning and reason would suggest is best.

I may sound repetitive but this is going to be the driving topic for the next month barring a complete Nationals collapse. The Nats are exactly where Rizzo thought they would be. Challenging .500 with a promising 2012. What he might not have expected was that this mild success would be enough to give hope for fans and the team and make them want to push for the playoffs now.

(I'll admit, a tiny part of me wants the Nats to go 0-9 with Marquis getting bombed twice just to see the reaction of everyone when they finally come around to trading Marquis only to see that his value has plummeted. "But I don't want him any more! Why can't we just trade him for Mike Trout?" If they can't make the playoffs (what the larger part wants), I root for what amuses me.)

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always say this: when you're winning now, win.

Strasburg may be a good MLB pitcher again. Harper may do OK in the majors. The Ramos trade looks good at the moment. Prospects are always prospects. One can be dangerously seamheaded at moments like this. I remember the "trade Soriano" chorus at the '06 trade deadline. I was incredulous. One of the only four seasons of its kind is unfolding - did - right here in DC, only our second year with the new team, and you want to trade it for some minor leaguers?

Life is uncertain. There may be exceptions. But the rule is:

DESSERT FIRST.

Harper said...

I agree with the sentiment when it comes to capturing those special once-in-a-lifetime years. I think the '05 Nats were too conservative with their dealings given the crappy minor leagues they had and squandered a WC chance.

But I don't think this is the case here. This winning isn't outsized in comparison to what the team can produce, something that the team needs to try to capitalize on NOW. It is the realization of several years of planning and good fortune. It's a marathon plan where they've successfully started to gain ground on the leader. To sprint now and break that plan seems foolish.

If they were 2 games up on the Phillies that's different but right now there are 5 teams between them and the WC, and 2 others they are tied with. That's a big hurdle to overcome and I'd hate to see them try, fail, and feel the ramifications when they really need it in a year or two.

(of course everything is qualified on what the trades actually are. A good trade is a good trade. And ANYTHING can be remedied by $$$, but I'm not sure the Nats are ready to be the Yanks/Sox of the NL)

Anonymous said...

Your points taken. I guess here's where it is with me.

Where are they at the All-Star break? If over .500 I'm thinking shoot, the Miracle Braves were in LAST PLACE, only one playoff spot available, and won the Series. If they've fallen off by the week before the trade deadline, deal away.

I like to give winning every chance it gets. A team growing up together seems an underrated commodity nowadays; everybody goes for wholesale change at the first sign of trouble.

Harper said...

Hmm. Trying to gauge fan levels so let me ask a q. If they were say... 4 games over and 3 games out of WC heading into All-Star break, maybe 2 teams ahead of them, would you just be in favor of holding pat, or would you be looking to make a deal? And would you do something like package Peacock and Lombardozzi for Carlos Beltran, a total win 2011 move?

While I obviously don't think it's the best move holding pat likely won't kill the team. You're only losing a couple moderate prospects or maybe one good, but uncertain, one. But trading young guys... that's something different.

John O'Connor said...

"[O]f course everything is qualified on what the trades actually are."

--------------

Therein lies the rub. I guess I'm skeptical that the poieces the Nats could deal (Marquis, Nix) are going to bring much in the way of prospects. I'm just not sure , even with a barren trade market, teams are going to look at Marquis and say I HAVE to get that guy for our playoff run. I'd be happy to be wrong, happy to take a top-100 prospect off some other team's hands. If the market bears suspects and not prospects, I'd just stand pat and let the guys get used to winning more than they have.

Anonymous said...

Given your scenario: hold pat. For John's reasons.

Let's see what continuity could be worth on the field.

Now if you get a total hurt-me! deal you pull the trigger. But those usually suggest themselves.

Hoo said...

Hold pat if Nats are in your scenario barring a Marquis blockbuster. I don't think Marquis will bring a whole bunch in return. I'd probably trade Marquis for a Mattheus type. Good arm, good upside. I'd prefer a Mattheus type fielder but don't think Marquis will get that.


I sure as heck wouldn't trade any future building blocks (except the AAAA starters (Martin,Maya,Martis, Mock etc) to bolster a playoff run.

Wally said...

I wouldn't make any 'win 2011 only' moves like Beltran. I would definitely put some young guys in a package for a major leaguer that you control for a few years - I mentioned Span, Bourn and Upton (plus Reyes if you can get an extension). There are others, like Alonzo, that may be had. In other words, 'probably win-now and also keep the guy for a few years'. I'd sacrifice prospects for those kinds of trades.

I would trade Nix or Marquis for a lower prospect (ie sacrifice now) only if I felt that the prospect was high quality, not the kind of guys we got for Nick J or Livo's package from the D'backs a few years ago.

Without trying to be sarcastic, there is a reason that there are only 30 GM jobs. It is hard. There is no guarantee that keeping Marquis or Nix means that we'll win more than we would with their replacements, so we may lose the guy and still get nothing for them.

Anonymous said...

Wally says this, another way:

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

[leagues.]

There's a reason we keep hearing that one, too.

Donald said...

I think to your earlier point, if we don't trade Marquis, we're likely to get nothing once he hits free-agency, so the choice with him is weighing a few more wins in 2011 vs. whatever prospect we can get. I'd vote to trade him, primarily because I'd like to see what some of the minor leaguers can do. Under no circumstances would I deal away prospects for a rental. I'd be really surprised if Rizzo did that either. So what it probably boils down to, is are we minor sellers (Marquis only, and maybe Pudge) or are we big-time sellers. Doing nothing seems like a missed opportunity.

Section 139 said...

I'm in the win now department. But I also want to win later and with regularity. Heh. Nuanced. I want to win all the time...

As such I say hold on to Nix. I just don't see him bringing back much. If he does, great. But it is unlikely. Come 2012 when (if) LaRoche is healthy and Morse is in the OF or Harper gets a call we could still have a servicable bench. Nix as a starter = not good, but I think he has proven his value as a spot starter.

Marquis is tougher. Keeping him supports the win now mantra, but increases the likelihood that we overpay for him next year or get nothing immediately in return for losing him to free agency. Trading him essentially means we give up on this season and the hypothetical WC run. Unless we get prospects that are ready to play within a years time, I just don't see the value of trading him for organizational depth. Let him pitch out the season. If he looks good by season's end, we can decide then if we want to resign him. My guess is no.

As for trading to win...unless we get a ready to go upgrade at CF or a SP that can be retained for a while, I don't really endorse it. We are building something. All of the baseball comentariat seems to think so. That takes time. Be patient. The talent is there in the future. Rizzo and company have to think that way. The mere possibility of .500 baseball has already increased the area's interest in the Nats. That don't have to win right now if they just keep improving. So I say don't bet the farm system on a oneshot deal.

Anonymous said...

Certainly we shouldn't trade importatn guys like Marquis or Nix. Management owes it to the fans to let this team have a go. If Rizo starts trading guys they are basically giving up on the season- what does that tell the fans- don't watch us this year anymore, come back next year.
But definitely don't make any 'win now' moves. Trade Ankiel and Pudge if you can get something though cos' that won't hurt this team (in Ankiel's case it would probably help).

Anonymous said...

The Nats are tied with the Pirates in the race for the wildcard. 'Nuff said.

John O'Connor said...

To answer Harper's hypothetical, I think the Nats would have to win another dozen games in a row bfore I would trade for a rental. But if you could make a sensible trade of prospects for a multi-year player, I'd consider it. Someone mentioned Denard Span, who could be available from Minnesota. I'd trade Peacock and Lombardozzi for a guy like that, who has a number of good years left in him. But for Beltran? Well, I might take on his slary, but I wouldn't give anything up for him.

Harper said...

JOC - I think Top 100 is possible but in would be in that 80-100 range and the teams would have to line-up perfectly. Like an ATL NYY or TB could do it. A MIL or DET couldn't.

All - ok well that seems pretty unanimous. There is pretty much zero support for trading away legit prospects for short term help. But there is only tepid support from most for dealing anyone who is any good. Basicallyy whatever the Nats could get back (likely - of course we'll see) isn't worth the potential inability to resign Marquis and Nix (who would still be useful next season) or the loss of fun you could have this season watching a team float around .500, rather than a few games under.

Anonymous said...

I don't care if the Nats are close to making the playoffs this year. I'd almost prefer it if they didn't (presuming that if they did, they'd keep the players they have). Trading Marquis or Coffey would be excellent. Picking up a solid center fielder, a starting pitching prospect and perhaps a utility bat would be advisable.

While that may sink their chances this year it will leave them much better for the long run.

Instead of perhaps just squeaking in this year, they be a deeper team with an an actual chance of playing longer in the postseason.

Nattydread said...

On one hand, it would be nice to have a Cinderella playoff run with THIS team. Nobody would give anything for the players I WANT to see go. It'll never happen, but the movie would be nice.

On the other hand, Rizzo was sure reluctant to give up Dunn... Is Marquis or Nix even close in value?

At the end of the day, I trust Rizzo to do his job.

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