Monday, August 10, 2009

Steady Improvement (Strasburg Impact)

The Nationals are quickly climbing in the win column, and with their run differential already better than Kansas City and San Diego, they are hovering in the same ballpark as Cincinnati and Baltimore. It was impossible for the Nationals to go 2-5 every week, losing games 8-6 and winning 7-2. As expected, they are beginning to regress to the mean. What was not expected was that Rizzo would pull a couple of good moves to make the team more balanced. They have the ability to score in bunches, and unlike in May, this team is confident it can hold a lead.

This improvement likely means that the Nationals will be hard pressed to finish with the league's worst record. That burden will fall to the Royals, who probably couldn't win a series against most AAA teams. The AAA Pirates are also in free-fall and Sean Burnett may get the last laugh on comments he said about the Pirates last week.

The question now is how is this impacting the Strasburg negotiations? My gut feeling three weeks ago, prior to the trade deadline, was that if Washington did not provide them with an offer they could not refuse, they would walk. San Diego was in a position to draft #3 (the Nats would be 1 & 2) and he would likely prefer to play for his home team for a "discount".

Now, with KC, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Baltimore all tanking like this is the NBA lottery, the chances of Strasburg falling to San Diego with any leverage is nil. Prior to the draft, I felt Washington held the better hand in the negotiations, and now with several teams struggling and the Nats winning, they may be deluding themselves that they can compete (let's be honest, Stan Kasten isn't in it to win) without the 50 million dollar man.

I cannot imagine Strasburg risking the same fate as Luke Hochevar, landing in baseball purgatory for five years for a couple extra dollars. The deal probably will wind down until the final hours, but at this point, the Nationals are as appealing as any of the other likely top 5 destinations.

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