Saturday, July 31, 2010

Vacation Leads to Purging

So I leave town for a week and the Nats fleece the Twins and Rangers for prospects, getting the heir to Pudge (likely) and ANYBODY for Guzman. What is great about the Capps deal is that his replacement is already on the roster, and the fail safe plan is already on the roster.

While most people were begging to move Dunn or Willingham because they would hopefully bring an A prospects, there are zero replacements for those guys on the 40-man right now. Capps is easily replaced by Storen and Clippard, and Guzman is replaced by Alberto Gonzalez for now, with Danny Espinosa possibly ready next June to 2012.

The purge may not be done, but unlike last season, when the market never quite opened for Nick Johnson, Rizzo didn't force the issue with Dunn. He made an A- and B trade to help make something out of another lost season. Getting the big score for Dunn is still a goal, and he may pass through waivers, as NL teams are not looking for his glove, but right now, I'd guess that the Nats are toying with the idea of resigning him.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sorry Excuses

For the second time in recent memory, the Nationals were shut out despite recording eleven or more hits. This is an extremely difficult thing to accomplish and requires a near "Perfect Storm" of ineptitude to occur. Or so I thought. The Nationals have mastered the techniques to be able to do this in more than one way, but there are some similarities.

First and foremost, extra-base hits are a rarity, if not extinct all together. Home runs obviously shelve the shutout, but lead-off doubles also greatly increase a team's chance of scoring. Next, players must find new and creative ways to run into outs on the base paths. Base running blunders are a Nats specialty, though they seem to be grounding into fewer double plays (actually, same pace as last year). And finally, hitters lose focus of the situation and fail to produce with runner in scoring position.

The Nats were an inside-out opposite field triple by Josh Willingham, the Nats probably would have just been shut out 27 straight innings by the Marlins. This is why they are absolutely terrified of moving Dunn or Willingham, and to a lesser extent, Guzman. They have a dreadful offense that relies on three hitters, two of which are having career years at age 30 and 31. As much experience as Desmond is gaining, who else is here to fill the other six spots in the field not named Zimmerman? And those paying attention know that Dunn and Willingham are already regressing to the mean as this season drags on.

If that Marlins series didn't serve as a wake up call, the front office probably doesn't have a plan that they are prepared to execute. Trading Dunn is the play. Getting two AA/AAA players that are still developing is the play. Allowing Dunn to leave and acquiring the draft picks is a shrewd move in one of the two scenarios. The first being if the Nats had a strong farm that was ready to graduate to the bigs. They do not. The other would be if they were completely resigned to not competing until 2013, when Zim, Zimm, Strasburg, Storen, etc, would be in free agent or larger arbitration years, and Harper, Marrero, Espinosa, Meyers are contributing. Judging by their free agent acquisitions, they are clearly on a year-to-year, maybe we can make a run at it if everything falls into place. That points to either having already locked up Dunn through 2012 (not the worst idea) or trading for chips that can contribute in 2011/2012.

The problem I see is that by jerking Dunn around like this, the Nats may get nothing out of the deal but his services for the next two months. They also further poison their brand by looking greedy and incompetent, and will struggle getting the free agents they need to make up for the barren farm system. Don't get me wrong, Rizzo get shafted more and more every day for Jim Bowden crapping on the franchise for all those years. At least we get to enjoy Strasburg...

And if I see Stammen get pinch hit for again by anybody except Mike Morse, I'm going to clock somebody. Do the managers and coaches even watch BP? If they did, they would know Stammen is a far better hitter than Kennedy, Harris, or the rest of the punch-and-judy crap on the bench.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Second Half Run

The Nats aren't buyers; they ought to be savvy sellers, understanding the value of a draft pick versus taking another team's castoff farmhands. So how does that translate into a "run"?

The Nats finished strong last season when September call-ups were given the chance to succeed without the pressure of being re-designated or planted on the bench (see Maxwell, Justin). The key is to determine which of these guys will be Nationals in 2012, not just the rest of the season. Desmond is off to a better start in July. Mike... er Michael Morse has hit when he has been in the lineup. Roger Bernadina's plate discipline improves each month. Justin Maxwell even has a cameo through Monday. So question now posed: none of these players are WORSE than Willie Harris, and given Nyjer Morgan's shenanigans this season, one could argue that Bernadina should be starting in centerfield everyday, regardless of age, service time, or trade value. Given the Nats lack of outfield prospects, these are their guys for now. If they choose to keep him, it should be Hammer, Bernadina, and Morse most nights with Maxwell spelling the three of them. If a sweet package can be had for the Hammer, it will be tough to turn down considering how barren the cupboard is, but Josh Willingham has been to valuable to give the Nick Johnson treatment. Work a small trade for Morgan to free up room on the 40-man for another outfielder who can obtained...

By trading Adam Dunn. Both Willingham and Dunn's value will never be higher, but Dunn's raw power numbers make him more appealing to other GMs. There are teams with logjams in the outfield, too many bats and not enough positions on the field, and Rizzo needs to exploit that. Get the outfield set now so they aren't still rebuilding when Strasburg is due to walk to New York. Also, feel free to shop around Guzman and Kennedy.

From a personality standpoint, it sucks to trade any of these guys; it isn't like dumping Milton Bradley on a team. These are character guys that the younger players do look up to, but that's the penalty for playing the Jim Bowden error. Freeing up the roster and putting these young players in a position succeed is important and it is what the organization should be focusing on... and with a little luck, maybe catch the nosediving Marlins.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lee to the Rangers... (trade watch)

Totally shooting down my idea of Nolan Ryan making a lunge for Dunn to fix their first base crisis. ESPN had reported before my Friday afternoon nap that Lee was becoming a Yankee, which made no sense at all, as the Yankees already have 5+ starting pitchers (what was their plan, have 6 starters? move AJ Burnett to long relief?), unless Vasquez was also on the move. Alas, the Rangers bolstered an "interesting" pitching staff with one of the best in the game. Given the shaky financial situation, the Rangers may be out of the trade market for a while, but they still have that gaping hole at first. With Jake Peavy's duct tape wearing off, the White Sox may be less inclined to run at Dunn before taking stock of their starting pitching. The Giants are fading fast, though the Rockies are currently leaning on Jason Giambi to carry the load while Todd Helton decomposes on the DL.

That would leave a small market for Dunn this season. Unless one of those teams is prepared to give up an MLB ready player, expect to see more bubbles on the basepaths.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Matt Capps: All-Star? Trade-bait?

Is Capps even the sixth best "closer" in the NL?

Heath Bell has more saves with better numbers in the WHIP and strikeout categories, plus a solid 1.72 ERA.

Jonathan Broxton waited until June 23rd to walk his 4th batter, at which point his ERA was 0.89.

Carlos Marmol has struck out an absurd 72 (seventy-two!) batters in 39 innings.

Billy Wagner has a WHIP under 1.00 and has given up 5 runs while recording 17 saves

Leo Nunez has been brilliant all-around.

That leaves Capps in the same category as Matt Lindstrom, K-Rod, Francisco Cordero, and Brian Wilson. If you were GM, would you select Capps given first pick of those guys? Which is why the Nats need to capitalize on the All-Star misconception and sell high.

Not That We Will Have to Worry Again in Our Lifetimes...

But Charlie Manuel should never be allowed to select an All-Star roster again. At least somebody else noticed.

The team representation factor does make it a more difficult task, but nobody is selecting Omar Infante over Ryan Zimmerman if they are trying to win the game. Tough break for Josh Willingham as well, clearly having the best season of his career and producing at a Pujolsian-level, squeezed out by Corey Hart's home run binge, Michael Bourn's mediocre bat and speed, and required roster fillers Marlon Byrd and Chris Young.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Deep to Center

And the Padres have been In-Zimm-inated.

Got lay some blame at the feet of Riggleman for that disastrous eighth inning. He should not have been pushing the pitches on a 95 degree night, especially against the heart of the order. Livan can work the Houdini act better than anyone, but even the sweaty Cuban is vulnerable to the elements.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Nationals Baseball

Where it was just suggested that Nyjer Morgan may want to adopt a new at bat song... Somethng from Jane's Addiction.