Friday, July 31, 2009

Johnson Dealt, but the Nats Could Have Done Better

The next entry will cover the differing philosophies dooming the Nats right now.

Nick Johnson was traded straight-up for Marlins AA pitching extra Aaron Thompson today, right at the deadline. The Nats needed to get younger. Check. They needed to upgrade their AAA pitching depth now that most have been promoted to stop the bleeding at the major league level. OK. The Nats also needed to continue to improve their defense and save as much money as possible going into the August Strasburg bidding, preferably shedding some of their less productive contracts (Guzman, Kearns, Young, Belliard). Neither of these were accomplished. Considering the bounty the Mariners landed for Yuniesky Betancourt, there are suckers out there. Guzman could have been moved while he was hot for prospects, but it the trigger was never pulled.

Back in May, when Big Papi was suffering from Vitamin B withdrawl or Derrick Lee was banged up, Nick Johnson could have been moved for a major league ready prospect. The Red Sox just traded two pitching prospects and a proven major league commodity in Justin Masterson to grab Victor Martinez. Martinez is a better player and more versatile, but had the Nats made the move, they could have gotten a good major league player in return. Instead, they waited and made a riskier move that saved them less money.

There are underlying reasons, those differing philosophies, that reduced Nick Johnson's value.

Now that Nick Johnson has been moved expect to see the following three things:

1. Adam Dunn will see much more time at first base.

2. Austin Kearns, who couldn't be baited into a deal, will be bought out and released.

3. Elijah Dukes and Justin Maxwell will be called up to fill out the roster.

The Nats did very well making smaller moves to improve the team this season. However, these small moves haven't built a fertile farm system similar to the Marlins or Rays. The Pirates unloaded their major league roster for more than twenty prospects this month. It will be very interesting to see how these strategies play out.

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