Nationals Baseball: Not quite all the right moves, but good enough

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Not quite all the right moves, but good enough

A few weeks ago I think I summed up the Nats strategy at the trade deadline as simply "Don't screw things up". Based on those low expectations the Nats passed with flying colors. They didn't trade anything of import to 2012 and beyond, and they used the opportunity to bring in some decent talent. True, they didn't get any "real" prospects, but they weren't offering up any "real" talent in return. The only failing was not getting a CF but that isn't something that has to be done now. All in all I think it was a successful, if uninspiring trade deadline.

Now because it's fun to put arbitrary, completely meaningless grades to theses things - let's grade the trades

Gomes deal - Days later the deal still is a head-scratcher. Gomes makes the Nats a better team at the plate vs left-handed pitchers. That's not worth giving up anything decent and the Nats gave up a couple of minor leaguers that were decent. Not more than decent but decent. It's not a terrible deal but only because it doesn't really matter. It's like going with Bud Light over Miller Light. C-

Marquis deal - this is exactly the "good" deal a Nats fan would reasonably expect when trading Marquis. The Nats get a young A-ball prospect with usable skills that could develop into something special, (although it's unlikely). Zach Walters isn't super young (he'll be 22 in a month) but he does seem to be developing both the power and patience you'd like a player to develop at his age. The thing likely to hold him back is a high strikeout rate (that's ok in the majors but when you K a lot in the minors it can mean you won't hit anything in the majors). Next year will be huge for Zach. B+

Hairston deal - this is exactly the type of great deal a Nats fans wouldn't think they could get when trading Hairston. For a 35 year old super sub you hope for whatever you don't expect a guy that has a good chance at making the majors but that seems to be what Erik Komatsu is. Granted he doesn't appear to making it as a good player - his so-so defense and lack of power likely make him a 4th OF - but that's still more than I thought Hairston could get and that's admitting that I misread Hairston this season. A

We could try to rate the non-deals but without knowing exactly what was on the table it's pointless. I will say that I would have done Storen and Bernadina for Span in a heartbeat. Storen and Lombardozzi would have taken a few more pumps of blood, but I would have also done that. Why? because here's what Span has done in the majors compared to Lombardozzi

Span : .289 BA, .361 OBP with plus fielding in center
Lombardozzi : . . .

Also the Nats would have control of Span through 2014. That's good enough for me and if Rizzo balked at these dealsm (or losing someone for the sake of a Desmond or Clippard) he's making classic mistakes of overestimating the worth of relievers and your own guys. But again - we don't know and like I said before these deals can go down in the offseason... or next year's deadline.

All in all I think you have to be happy with the way the deadline went down. A couple more deals (why is Nix still here?) would have been nice but the Nats are a better organization today then they were two weeks ago. That's the ultimate goal.


Donald said...

I'm happy with the non-trade for Span. There were too many reasons to wait and not enough to pull the trigger now. We'll hopefully know more about Lombardozzi after a September call up and more about Span's recovery after he plays out the season.

Also, I think we need a lead-off hitter and we need a CF, but they don't have to be the same person. If Lombardozzi can lead-off, we can think about an outfield of Morse (LF), Harper (CF) and Werth (RF).

Wally said...

My take on how these trades go together - Davey. I think that he is becoming the most significant influence on the team. It is not a contest with Rizzo - I think that Rizzo respects Davey tremendously, and is working to shape a roster according to Davey's views. And I think that this is good for the Nats.

And those views are offense wherever he can get it, and young pitching, preferably power pitching. Defense ... well, whatever. Kevin Mitchell and HoJo at SS, anyone? So Gomes fits the offense, and Marquis was as much clearing room for the young guys as getting something for him. I wouldn't get too comfortable if I was Livo, either.

Also, I hope the failure to get Span was more about wanting to see him over the concussion than the cost, because even Storen, Bernie and Lombo was worth the cost. As you said, no reason to do that one now with the injury concern. Offseason is fine.

Unknown said...

I think your rationale on the Span deal is the same Rizzo used on the Gomes deal. But he also traded two "most likely won't" guys for an "already is" and a chance at a Type B compensation pick. Which will probably net us a better prospect than the two guys we traded.

Do we need Gomes? Not really. But the "net bet" of the swap could work out long term. Rizzo seems to look for ways to get more top 100 picks.

Unknown said...

Agree 1000% with Donald. Rizzo and fans really are conflating the two needs of a good CF and a lead off hitter. They don't have to be the same guy.

However, to defend Rizzo there aren't a lot of spots on our starting nine for a lead off guy a no one we have now can do it. And you typically don't have a lead off LF, RF, 1B etc.

calindc said...

Where's your faith in Brian Bixler?

Wow, almost typed that with a straight face...almost.

Hoo said...

Trading Storen for a CF would have been nice. But it would have made me rather ballistic as Rizzo's Morgan temper tantrum cost the Nats the close. Morgan is not the CF of the future but could have remained a viable bridge.

I was never a Morgan fan and my wishes are in Syracuse with Roger. I didn't mind getting rid of Morgan but it was incredibly stupid to dump in the trash bin. (BTW, Brewers have basically given Morgan the full scale red light on stolen bases only 9 attempts all year. Glad they figured that out)

Harper said...

Donald - of course if Span is fine and Lombardozzi struggles that price might not work. It's the chance you take.

Donald/ck - Needham said the same thing a while ago and it makes a lot of sense. I think Rizzo undestands that but given that he needs a high-OBP guy and a CF why not try to get both at the same time? Just hope he's not wedded to that idea.

Wally - Did Davey show similar traits in Baltimore and LA?

ck - I guess. Generally I favor trading minor leaguers for major leaguers. Bird in hand and all. but the help Gomes provides is so minimal (improves 4-6 at bats every 4 games or so hurts defense for about 8-9 innings at same rate) that I don't see what the Nats are really getting

calindc - I have more faith in Bill Bixby helping this team

Hoo - The Morgan dump is infuriating because it's two mistakes. Dumping Morgan because of a personality clash AND doing it with no good back-up plan in place.

Anonymous said...

The idea of an outfield of Morse(lf), Harper(cf), and Werth(rf) is laughable. harper is just learning lf and does not have the speed for cf. Morse is doing great at firstbase and should be left there. Werth you are stuck with but at least he can play rf for the next few years.

Donald said...

@Anon -- Harper in CF depends on what you value. Nyjer was a weak-armed speedster. Ankiel is rifle-armed but much slower. Who would you rather have in there defensively? Harper may have almost as strong an arm as Ankiel and is certainly faster -- he had 19 SB in Hagerstown and 4 in Harrisburg. I'm not saying it wouldn't be nice to have a rifle-armed speedster in CF but I don't think it's the only possible option. In fact, I don't think most teams have that. And I might be fine with trading moderate speed for a strong arm. Also, I have no problem with keeping Morse at 1B except then you have to find a home for LaRoche. Maybe that's only a problem for next year, though.

Jorgath said...

Re: calindc

My faith in Brian Bixler lies in the fact that he, not Lombardozzi, is the Syracuse Chiefs' OPS leader.

Which tells me that his potential is being mismanaged and misdeveloped.

Harper said...

anon / Donald - People talk about Bryce in center but if he could play it well why wouldn't they be playing him there now? I think it's a situation where he COULD do it, but he'd be better off elsewhere. If that's the case just leave him be and force some other round peg into that square hole. Hell, try to teach Desmond the position. That way he can combine two gaping holes into one.

Jorgath - Bixler is 28 with hundreds of AAA at bats under his belt. His OPS is a product of a inordinate amount of walks that its very unlikely he became an OBP machine in the past year and will be able to duplicate that in the majors. This is doubly true if you consider his high strikeout numbers (which is coupled with a suprising lack of power). At his age with those peripherals it's not mismanagement - it's lack of talent.

Lombardozzi at 22, with better walk / K / avg/ OBP / SLG numbers in the minors is clearly a better prospect.

Wally said...

harper - re Davey in Bal or LAD, I have no idea. I was living in NY at the time, and although a NYY fan, got to see what Davey was doing there. And looking up the facts about LAD and BO might have spoiled my narrative.

If Davey is exerting more influence, I say good. Very smart dude, and I don't think the game has remotely passed him by. The team hasn't played great for him, but I think that he likes the current personnel and wants to dramatically reconfigure things. Plus, I think that Rizzo can use that older, sage guy too.

And an added bonus is, he is a much better public face for the franchise than Mike ('I got tired of watching him pitch') Rizzo. I mostly like Rizzo, just not a good public voice for the team.

Wally said...

er, 'but I think that he DOESN'T like the current personnel ...

Will said...

Currently Gomes projects as a solid Type B status player. As long as he manages to rack up a few more HRs and RBIs with the Nats over the next two months, then he goes to arbitration. Based on interviews, it sounds like Rizzo was anticipating this, and hopefully has struck up some sort of deal with Gomes to decline the Nats offer. As a result, the Nats would have a pick around #50 overall. There's some real talent to be had at that point in the draft. Certainly, much better than two players excelling in leagues they're much too old for, as Rhineheart (26 in AA) and Manno (22 in low A) were.

Anonymous said...

I liked the Gomes deal purely because Gomes would be hard pressed to be worse than Matt Stairs.

Harper said...

wally - I kind of doubt Davey will ever really become the "face" I think aging makes you less likely to want to bother with the peripheral stuff that surrounds managing. I think that's the biggest issue with an older manager, when losing the will to care about the not baseball stuff extends to keeping the media off your guys and handling player personalities.

Will - If he struck a deal with Gomes to decline arb then the trade does get better but even then this is more of a rebuilding move than a move that a team looking to be in the playoffs in the next couple years makes.

I'd also wouldn't call Manno old for his level - the whole 3 years in college thing means the low minors have a fair amount of 21 & 22 year olds. They just need to progress quickly. Manno was on track to hit A and AA as a 23 year old - that seems on target.

Harper said...

anon - true but what's better to have in 2012, those two guys or the memory of two months without Matt Stairs?

Wally said...

Harper - maybe. TLR and Leyland, those guys do seem like they aren't into the extra BS any more, but Davey has not managed in 10 years, and is in great shape. He is looking at Strasburg coming back, a once in a lifetime pitcher. He also has a GM that really values him, and maybe defers to him a little. I have the feeling that he is energized for one more go 'round.

He was also the one over the last week that said 'we need to bring up Milone and Peacock' and 'Clippard's not going anywhere'.

It will be interesting to watch.

Mark D said...

Nix now profiles as a borderline type B player.

So if the Nats trade him to a contender and he comes off the bench, he loses his type B value.

It's doubtful he could have brought back anything approaching the value of his type B status to the Nats.