Nationals Baseball: Nats are "losers" but not because they didn't trade Dunn

Monday, August 02, 2010

Nats are "losers" but not because they didn't trade Dunn

If the Nats are mentioned in trade deadline stories, it's almost certain it'll be done negatively.

SI calls the Nats "losers"

CBS Sportline gives the Nats an "F"

And here's a "push" from Yahoo.

It's not because these guys are dumb (in fact Pasaan's basing his push off of Dunn walking with no arbitration - an admittedly awful scenario that would negate the good that's been done. Though I think it's disingenuous to base a grade off of work not yet done. Perhaps his schooling was different than mine) It's because sports analysts are simple creatures all reading from the same script. If you are not currently contending, or not "on the verge" then you should be a "seller". You should trade everyone that isn't young and nailed down and hope to get better in the future. Where in the future? They don't know, but they are sure that if you just trade that one guy success will follow. Of course this ignores the gaggle of teams yearly that do this and don't succeed 3-5 years down the road but why mess with an easy storyline?

So the Nats HAD to trade Dunn because they aren't good and aren't likely to be contending next year. It's a valid argument, but as we've discussed ad infinitum previously - it ignores the Nats wish to engage the fanbase NOW and their need to have a good team guaranteed by 2013 lest Zimmerman walk and the whole rebuilding process starts over. The Nats made two smart moves and will be able to build on that. That's not a losing trade deadline.

But build on that to what? .500? An outside chance at the Wild Card if EVERYTHING goes right? Because that's what we're looking at here. The Nats are "losers" but not because of what happened in the past week or so. Instead it was a long process that started years ago. One that placed the Nats where they are now, a terrible position for a trade deadline, with a couple of young studs who cry out for a win "soon" strategy, but little obvious old talent to deal for immediate help, and little obvious young talent to count on in the 3-5 year range.

Dunn could have been dealt for a major league ready guy but the market was only offering one of them back and neither Edwin Jackson or Daniel Hudson was likely to be the difference between the playoffs or not in 2011-2, especially on a team without Dunn's bat. He might have been dealt for some deeper prospects with eyes on 2013, but then you are asking for some terrible teams in the meantime, and 2013 only going from "total crapshoot" to "mostly crapshoot".

The Nats were caught in a no-win situation and tried to make it a win. Didn't work. In the meantime they made a couple of nice deals. That's not loser work though it is the work of a loser.

How do the Nats now shed that "loser" status? It starts first by signing Dunn. They have to get him back and yet they can't be giving him a 4 yr deal, and better get a bargain on 3 years. I'd be fine with them overpaying for a 2-yr deal. After that it's offseason signings and trades. They need a 2nd baseman, an outfielder, and another starter if they really want to win in 2011. The pickings are not great. It'll be tough goings making a good chance playoff team from that. I guess they could sign Hudson, then drive a dump truck of money over to Carl Crawford's house, then say to Cliff Lee - "Hey look! We signed Hudson and Crawford, you want to get overpaid to join this party?" Yeah, if only the team commits to a 100+ million dollar payroll and signs probably the two biggest free agents of the offseason beating out the Yankees, Red Sox, etc. then they have a good chance. It'll be an interesting offseason to say the least.


Anonymous said...

Well you know that the SI article is somewhat suspect because it has the Pittsburgh Pirates as a winner and we know how well the yearly fire sale has worked out for them. The Nats have to improve attendance and getting rid of Dunn was not going to help that in either the short or long term given the offers that were on the table.

bdrube said...

I agree with anon...the Nats have left themselves in a terrible position attendance-wise. Dunn is about the only player other than Zim who casual fans want to see when SS isn't on the mound. Subtract him, and you're looking at lots of 12,000 fan home games these next two months.

We can hope that it is finally dawning on management that they need to put a good team on the field in order to increase attendance. If so, that's a BIG first step.

Michael J. Hayde said...

This is the most sensible piece I've read in the aftermath of the trade deadline. Conventional wisdom had it that attendance would not recover from two consecutive 100+ loss seasons until will into next year. We're recovering nicely NOW. I was at both games this weekend. Saturday (a day on which SS was NOT projected to pitch) was a sellout, and even though busloads of Phillies fans showed up, they were outcheered by the Nats faithful... never louder than when Adam Dunn was announced. Of the 39,000 announced paid admissions, I'd bet at least 25,000 were OURS.

Furthermore, I look at the standings; at the fact that, among all MLB last place teams, we have the best record, and I believe with a little luck and a lot more confidence, we could STILL CONTEND THIS YEAR. There's no one NL East team situated as an impassible juggarnaut. We're one 12 or 14-game winning streak followed by .666 ball the rest of the way toward a playoff berth. It's certainly been done before, and not just by the 1951 Giants.

If that's Kool-Aid talking, I'll have another glass, please.

Matt said...

I also think some of the bad press about the Nats trade deadline is the NY factor. By not trading Dunn, the Nats jilted the Yankees management, and I'd guess that Cashman has more links to national sports media than Rizzo. The Nats also jilted Yankees fans, who are endlessly pandered to in the national baseball press.

Harper said...

anon bdrube - Well what the Nats really need to do is win, attendance should follow. They could (and should) take a minor hit now for a major gain later. So hypothetically, if there was something out there that would guarantee a bunch of wins down the road they should have done it, but I didn't see or hear anything like that. Maybe there was something floated out there that looked good for post-2013 but that's irrelevant for the Nats. Zimm's contract makes 2013 the teams "use-by" date.

MJH - That's 180-proof Kool-Aid you're drinking there. Not that the scenario you present for contending this year is impossible - but its a once a century type comback you're looking at. Two things that you need to think about. (1) Usually the team streaking into the playoffs is a good team underperforming (around .500 ball?) I can't think of one that had a bad record this late in the year. (2) There are also few teams inbetween them and their goal. The Nats don't just have to play significantly better than the Braves - they have to play noticeably better than all the NL East teams. No, I think the best way to view it is given a little luck and as you say the lack of a juggernaut in the NL East, that a Nats run to the playoffs is not impossible for next year. (though I'd like a few more moves to take away the EVERYTHING going right necessity)

Matt - Oh I don't know about that. The Yankees weren't nearly the suitor for Dunn that the White Sox or Angels were. I listen to a lot of NY sportstalk radio and Dunn not being traded to the Yanks is a non-issue, not even being mentioned.

Hoo said...

Bad press is predicated on the fact that the national press doesn't follow the Nats at all. They're ignoring the longer picture on the belief that the Nats should dump the current team for more minor league help.

I'm hoping that Rizzo/Lerner is in my camp: Playoffs by 2013 by giving up on a possible higher ceiling in the future years.

Nats have a lot of very good pieces, playoff worthy pieces. Unfortunately, their massive holes (C, 2b, RF, #2 starter) prevent a playoff push. But giving up Dunn probably wouldn't fill one of those holes for a playoff worthy replacement in the next few years. The next few years is a key item b/c I want Zim to remain a Nat. Zim is tired of losing and I believe one of the backstories is that Peter Franchise threw some weight around on Dunn. I'm sure that organization added "keeping Zim really happy) on the side of the ledger that read "keeping Dunn".

I think there's a decent chance that the Nats filled out the box that read "sign FA starter for 2011" as well (Maya). Strass, Znn, Olson (if he's hitting 92, he's in good shape), Marquis, Maya, Detweiller, Livo and Lannan isn't a bad group to choose your starting 5. Not Doc, Roy, Cole front end trio but it's pretty solid on paper.

I'd hopefully target 2012 as the year the Nats make a serious playoff push. Next year is the push to 500+ and then the next leap. The only different piece in 2012 you'd need would be a CF since even if Morgan rebounds and holds down CF in 2011, he'd be 32 in 2012 plus Marquis's salary comes off the books.

Matt said...

Harper - I take your point about NY fans. However, for the 3-4 days leading up to the deadline, there were a couple of tweets cited on MLBTR claiming Yankees management was exasperated with the Nats. You could well be right that this has nothing to do with the current reporting.

Harper said...

Hoo - that is a distinct possiblity, that they'll make a push across the next two years. But if they do that then you are looking at resigning Josh Willingham, right? He's a FA after next year.

Hoo said...

Harper: Probably resign the Hammer b/c it's not like the Nats OF prospects are rocking and rolling. Or maybe the Nats could finally make a trade for a player next year or so. And this assumes of course the team signs Dunn and the team takes a step forward next year. If the team isn't 500+ by July, they'll blow it up at the trading deadline for sure.

Again, this is all predicated on trying to retain Zim by 2013 as he'll be in his prime and the best third in the game. The minor league system is still pretty thin and it's not like us fans can wait and look forward to a bunch of great prospect minor league field players. Burgess, Norris, Marrero, Kobernus etc aren't demanding call-ups.

As you said, the Nats are in a tough place. Weak minor league system and a tradition of loser. The blessing is that they'll have at least 2 of the top 20 players in baseball for the next few years. If you can't make the playoffs with that, then you gotta wonder when you'll ever make them.

Anonymous said...

The Nats can be as good as anyone else in the NL East next year, with only two free agent signings, and luck/health.

Resign Dunn and sign J. Werth from Philly. Yes, they will have to overpay for both.

Everything else can be filled from the current organization, assuming health of the current active roster and Zimmermann, Strasburg, Wang, Marquis, Maya and Mock, and one of Ramos or Flores.

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