Alright, let’s get right into it. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Nationals may actually be focused on having guys who’s contracts run out at the end of the year:
“The Nats have been mentioned as suitors for Adam Dunn, Eric Gagne, and even Omar Vizquel. Does any of that make sense? No, not really, unless you buy into the idea that Mike Rizzo’s draft prowess is in play here. By grabbing soon-to-be free agents and the picks gained by letting them walk away, the Nats could gain a load of picks in this scenario.”
Let me just say, this is a terrible idea. This team is trying to be respectable next season, with the new stadium, and trying to be good in 2009, when the crowds from having a new stadium have died down. This idea of trading for draft picks is a pretty good way to build for 2012, not 2009. And unlike other major American sports, draft picks in baseball usually don’t even make it to the major leagues.
Right now, they need to take their mediocre players that are playing pretty well, sell high, and try to get minor leaguers. Guys who will be major league ready by the end of next season or the beginning of 2009. Are they going to get top prospects? No, of course not, nobody trades their top prospect anymore. But the #4 or #5 ranked guy in a farm system is probably going to make a good major leaguer, and is much easier to get. For example, while the Yankees can’t trade Phil Hughes if they don’t want the fans to burn down Yankee Stadium, but they can easily trade Ian Kennedy (if you say “who?” that is my point). If this team wants to be the Braves or Marlins, building up a champion from nothing, they can’t only plan for the distant future. 2 years ahead and 3 years ahead are important, too, otherwise you become the Pirates. If they can’t get something of value for one of the NL’s leading hitter, and for a closer who at the very least will be a quality setup man for a team on a stretch run, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything of value out there, it means that there is something wrong with this team’s front office.
Ronnie Belliard is Here to Stay (Probably)
Washington extended Ronnie Belliard‘s contract this week. He’ll be making $3.5 m total over the next two years, which isn’t at all an expensive deal for a veteran of over 10 years. Remembering that the Nats’ are trying to up their payroll with players that may actually help them win, this seems to be a great deal for them. A veteran presence who plays well, is hitting and fielding well, and isn’t quite yet old (he won’t be 35 when the contract ends). Additionally, he may be the only stable presence in the middle infield going into next season. Felipe Lopez has hit so poorly since he’s come to DC that his value for the future is questionable. Lopez’s glove was never his strongest asset, so if he isn’t getting on base and stealing (let’s forget about the power, 23 HR in 2005 were park assisted, 12 is more likely and perfectly acceptable for a speedy middle infielder), he isn’t valuable as a starter. Regardless, if Guzman and Lopez both end up being incredible in 2008, it is still important for a team to have a versatile backup infielder who can hit, especially in the National League, and Belliard has played all 4 infield positions this year.
Belliard’s bat this season has been very good, .304/.351/.426, but he doesn’t need to be that good in order for this to be a very good signing for this team. His career numbers show him being a .275/.340/.410 hitter, give or take a few thousandths of a point. He doesn’t steal much and doesn’t hit many home runs, although a dozen dingers a year isn’t out of the question. Either way, for a guy who can start at 2B, 3B, 1B, and in a pinch, SS, it sure beats most other players in the league. If either Guzman or Lopez doesn’t perform well next season (doesn’t seem too far-fetched) he can play 2B while the other plays short. Unfortunately, if they both stink, he can’t play both positions. Belliard is known as an excellent presence in the clubhouse, a veteran with a great work ethic, and is a great influence on the young players that this team has and will have over the next few seasons. He even says he envisions himself as a utility man after this signing, although what he meant by that can be questioned, it can be assumed that he isn’t going to complain about a bench role. Also presumably, his presence won’t block the team from making other deals to acquire a potential middle infielder of the future. Despite my preference for this team making trades, I do believe a player like Belliard is not easily replaceable, and without great trade offers (which they weren’t getting) this was probably the best move for the Nats.