I mentioned last season that the time to deal Cordero would be sooner rather than later. Without going too much into the reasons – the team has other capable closers, good teams are often one solid reliever away from feeling like they can win it all so he has a high trade value, he’s never been the most solid numbers guy (WHIP, K/BB, K/9) but has so many saves that people may ignore that and overpay, and the last thing the Nats need in 2008 to build towards a better future is a solid closer. Even if they didn’t trade him right away, his contracts is over after 2009. If he continues to perform well, he may be overpriced for the team, especially if one of the many young pitchers steps up to fill the role. If he doesn’t, then what’s the point in having him?
Unfortunately, the time to trade him may have just passed. After his shoulder problems, he hasn’t recovered and his velocity is down. I’ve read that his fastball was in the low 80s, I’ve also read that the TV radar gun indicated he never topped 79. He claims it was because he didn’t get enough time to warm up, but the Washington Post says that it was much worse than that:
alarms rang out throughout the organization. Cordero’s warm-up pitches were so shockingly slow that Manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Randy St. Claire visited the mound before he began the inning. His first pitch, a fastball, registered at 76 mph on the scoreboard radar gun. It took him 15 pitches to top 80 mph. He topped out at 82 mph.
If that doesn’t scare you, you are much braver than I am. My point is not that Cordero is finished as a closer. I am not a doctor, and while shoulder problems can be terrible, I know that players sometimes just need time. Whether that means putting him on the DL or getting him more work… I have no idea. Now that he has been hurt this way, his trade value is permanently damaged. Even if he fully recovers, GMs will have this injury in mind if they want to trade for him. I don’t believe that the Nationals front office could have predicted that he would have been hurt like this. But they had an opportunity to get good value for him last season and this past offseason, and didn’t try it.
My point is this: When you are a team that is much more than one or two players away from contending, when you are trying to build an organization with depth and talent, and you have a desirable commodity in a player that you may not even be able to hold onto by the time you can contend, you must trade that player. It is nothing against Cordero, he has been one of my favorite players on the team for a few years. But if he is a very good player who can’t help us win in 2010 himself, he should be dealt for players who can.