Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Another "Washington Baseball Blog" and a Name Change

I've discovered there is another blog out there named "Washington Baseball Blog." Since they were up first, I've decided to rename this site "D.C. Baseball Blog," but it will remain at this web address.

The other site looks nice and is at: http://dchardball.blogspot.com/

For other Washington Nationals related blogs, go to: http://baseballblogs.org/blogs.php?team_id=17

I've tried to get might entered on the site, but I can't seem to get it to work. I'll try again later.

Free Agents I'd Like to See the Nationals Look at

Now that I've identified our needs, I'd like to turn to decent players to fill those positions.

I'll start with CF. Now, everyone wants to have Beltran and if the Nationals had an ownership group, they may be interested in signing him. As it stands now, however, I don't think Beltran is reasonable. And I expect no matter how good he is, he will still end up overpaid.

Unfortunately, the options for CF in the free agent pool (beyond Beltran) are ugly. If J.D. Drew could play CF, that would be an option. Finley is too old for a team going nowhere in 2005, so I think the Nationals will have to go the trade route if they want to upgrade at CF. These are probably the best values available:

Richard Hildago - if he can play CF, it may be worth taking a risk on a very inconsistent player who has had some good seasons in his career.

Ricky Ledee - I'm not really a fan of his, but his 2004 numbers with PHI were great. Of course, his 2004 numbers with SF were horrible. I think he could be worth a cheap signing. He would also be a potential 4th OF option.

On second thought, maybe Bowden should talk to the Phillies about Marlon Byrd.

Here are some affordable SP options that should be explored:

Wilson Alvarez - playing in LA surely helped his ERA and helped him with his nasty HR habit, but I still think he is a good value. He is not a 200 IP starter, but has shown a willingness and ability to play a swingman role for the Dodgers. He should be available pretty cheap (assuming loyalty alone doesn't bring him back to LA) and would be a nice addition for the Nationals.

Matt Clement - I think he could be the steal of this free agent class. Unfortunately, it appears as though some of the SABR-inclined teams are already talking with him. Still, he is one of the best pitchers available and his price tag shouldn't be as high as the other highly regarded pitchers.

Kevin Millwood - I can't explain his inconsistency and apparent decline, but if he is available for less than $5-$6 million, then I think a short team deal for a 29 year old pitcher with potential may be worth it. I think the league has soured on him more than the numbers justify, so he could be a good value signing.

Odalis Perez - As I said before, if his health is ok, you should take a chance on a 27 year old quality starter.

What the Team is Looking Like

The starting lineup for the Nationals is looking something like this:

C B. Schneider
1B N. Johnson
2B J. Vidro
3B V. Castilla
SS C. Guzman
LF B. Wilkerson
CF E. Chavez (assuming he is re-signed)
RF J. Guillen

The starting rotation probably is something like this:

L. Hernandez
T. Ohka
Z. Day
S. Kim
J. Patterson/J. Rauch/T. Armas

I'm really not sure if Kim is secure or how health considerations will factor into things, but those seven players will probably fill the five rotation slots.

The bullpen has a few useful pieces

C. Cordero
L. Ayala
J. Eischen
T. J. Tucker

Basically, the team needs SP improvement and a quality CF. I'd say 3B and SS were areas of need as well, but we are stuck with Guzman and Castilla. As much as I like Nick Johnson, his health means we could use more OF depth (presuming Wilkerson slides to 1B when Nick is out). So, a better than average 4th OF would also be nice.

Gary Bennett and Rumors

A bad backup C signed to a 1 year, $750,000 deal.

Nationals Acquire Fourth New Player

The article mentions other players Bowden is looking at:

"Though Bowden wouldn't comment on which players he is pursuing, the Nats are believed to have held conversations with the representatives for at least four free agent starters -- Jaret Wright and Russ Ortiz of the Atlanta Braves, Odalis Perez of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Paul Wilson of the Cincinnati Reds -- within the last several days."

I've been a fan of Odalis Perez, but BP has expressed some concerns about his likely career path. Will Carroll gives him a "red" health warning and had this to say:

"Young doesn't seem to be the same across cultures. The route that Latin pitchers take to the minor leagues is often much harder than their American counterparts and some, like Perez, seem to age faster. This isn't an "agegate" thing at all, just a workload consideration. He'll be a back of the rotation guy for a few more years before fading."

Still, I'd rather see him than Wilson, Wright, or Ortiz playing for the Nationals. Given his postseason meltdown, I think he could be signed on a relatively cheap 2 year deal. Assuming his health is enough to pass the physical, he might be worth the risk.

Ortiz could be a decent signing but for the fact that Bowden will surely overpay the pitcher who "knows how to win." Wright just seems like too big a risk based on one year and Wilson is just an innings eater.

If I had to wager, I'll bet Bowden signs Wilson since he signed him with the Reds and he is the type of reclamation pitching project that Bowden seems to love. At first glance, Wilson seems better than he actually is (and that will surely appeal to Bowden).

2004 - 4.36 ERA, 183.2 IP, 11-6 W/L record

Unfortunately, his 117/63 K/BB ratio and 26 HR's allowed mean that Wilson was more lucky than good. BP's expected win-loss record for Wilson last year was 10.9-10.4. In other words, he is a pretty much an average pitcher. He would be an acceptable 4th or 5th starter, but only if he is paid for that value. I predict Bowden signs him to a multi-year (probably 3-year) deal at $4-$5 million a year. I hope I'm wrong.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Another Trade (Yawn)

And just to keep his dialing finger active, Bowden has made another boring trade. The Nationals give up prospect (using the term very loosely) Antonio Sucre for former prospect J.J. Davis of the Pirates. Davis had been designated for assignment so the Pirates had no interest in keeping him. He adds another OF player to the mix for the Nationals, but I doubt (and hope) he won't see much action. His career line of .163/.236/.213 (in only 80 AB) makes Endy Chavez look impressive. But I bet his 6'5", 250 lbs. frame looks impressive. The Nationals gave up a toolsy borderline prospect, so maybe taking a chance on Davis isn't a bad idea. I just don't think corner OF is a position where the Nationals have much need and Bowden's focus there is a little odd.

Fall and Winter League Report

I must have missed this Baseball America article on Bill Bray in their AFL coverage.

Arizona Fall League Notebook

Since that article, it doesn't look like he has been doing that well. So far, the biggest positive is his 16/4 K/BB ratio in 16 IP. However, his 7.31 ERA is not so hot. Still, with only 1 HR given up, hopefully this is just bad luck.

It is sad when you have to search this hard for anything resembling a prospect in the Nationals system.

The other highlights for the Nationals in the Fall in Winter leagues are just retread reports:

Ron Calloway has a .340/.365/.680 line in 50 AB's in the Venezualan Winter League. The power is nice, but a BB or two wouldn't hurt. And this is a league where Henry Blanco has an .864 OPS.

Endy Chavez has a .298/.377/.447 line in 47 AB's in the Venezualan Winter League. The reports that Bowden is thinking of bringing him back bring me physical pain. And the thought of Frank Robinson leading him off again continues to keep me up at nights.

John Patterson has allowed only 4 R's in 30 IP in the Dominican Winter League. I've always thought Patterson has some ability and his 31/7 K/BB ratio in 2002 with Arizona left me hopeful for the former top prospect. If he could stop giving up HR's and find more consistent control, he could be a valuable member of the rotation. Or, then again, he could continue to suck.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Baseball Prospectus's Coverage of the Team

BP is my favorite baseball site and I highly recommend anyone to get a subscription to it. It is the only online service I have ever paid for and I think it is definitely worth it. These articles require the subscription and are a few days old, but are very interesting.

First in War, First in Peace, Last in the National League by Joe Sheehan

Shuffling Deck Chairs in D.C.'s Titanic Stadium Deal by Neil deMause

Monday, November 22, 2004

A Name and a Logo

It's official - the Washington team is the Nationals and the logo has been revealed. There is also a tentative schedule for 2005 in place.

http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/index.jsp?c_id=was

Bowden Talks

And to confirm that Bowden has no clue, he offered these gems:

"What I especially like about Guillen is that, at the age of 28, his best days are clearly ahead of him." - "Clearly" Bowden is unaware that players normally peak at 27 and that more likely than not Guillen's best days are behind him. I'll be interested to his PECOTA forecast because free-swingers usually don't age well.

"Cristian Guzman is a critical part of the future of the Washington franchise. You never see a winning team without a good shortstop.... Cristian is only 26 years old. He has been on a division winner the last three years. He has tremendous range. It doesn't show up in statistics, but baseball people know what it means to win baseball games." - Oh, brother. Bowden doesn't even ownership looking over his shoulder and he is already defending his decisions by say "baseball people know." Maybe Bowden should look up Luis Sojo's number.

"He has never scratched the surface on what he's capable of doing offensively, but he's only 26 years old. He will develop into a hitter in time. He has been decent—he hit [.274] last year. But he can do a lot more than what he has done. To be able to get a shortstop at this age, with the potential that he has, is a great first start for the Washington franchise." - Maybe Bowden missed the first 3277 AB's that prove otherwise. If Guzman didn't "scratch the surface" in six full seasons in the majors, what would possibly lead a GM to believe he would find it now?

Frank Robinson

For the time being, Frank Robinson is the manager of the Nationals.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1926174

I'm not particularly thrilled with this decision because Robinson seems to share Bowden's blind spots when it comes to player evaluation. Robinson's team was 23rd in MLB in BB's and 29th in OBP last year. Nick Johnson, Brad Wilkerson, Brian Schneider, and Jose Vidro have decent walk totals and plate patience, but the signings of Castilla and Guzman really move the Nationals in the hack-a-riffic direction. Robinson has a record of favoring "aggressive" hitters and has said too much patience is a bad thing (which is of course a tautology, since anything that is "too much" is "bad"). I'm worried that with Bowden's love of traditional metrics and free-swinging players and Robinson's favoring of that approach that the Nationals will turn into the Diamondbacks without the pitching.

Jose Guillen

And then Bowden did what he loves most: he made a trade.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1926838

The nationals get Jose Guillen for Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis. Let's look at the numbers:

Guillen (28, $3.5 million): .294/.352/.497
Rivera (26, minimal salary): .307/.364/.465
Izturis (24, minimal salary): .206/.268/.318 (in a very limited sample size).

Guillen is really the same player as Rivera with a little more power, but he is also two years older. Izturis is a player (as discussed in the Guzman signing entry) who is probably not going to be a star, but could have done the job Guzman will do with better defense for less money.

Given Guillen was banished at the end of last season by the Angels, I can't imagine his market value was very high. Overall, I'm a little disappointed in this trade because Rivera did pretty well with playing time and would have been cheaper than Guillen. It is not the worst trade, but again it smells of the desire to make a splash rather than improve the team. And I would have to think that Bowden could have given less to get a player the Angels just wanted to be gone.

Biddle, Guzman, and Castilla

Because the franchise has already made a few decisions, I'm going to have to play a little catch up to be current.

The first move by the new team was to hire Jim Bowden as its GM. The former wonderboy GM who had a rather poor record with the Reds was known for being an aggressive dealmaker. I'm not a fan of the hiring and so far his decisions have made me even more suspect of his decision.

Bowden's first move was to release Rocky Biddle. No one can really quibble with this decision. Biddle was a waste of roster space and pretty much defined "below replacement level player." And, as a side note, he plagued a friend of mine in our fantasy baseball league so much that all horrible players in the league became compared to Biddle. So, on a personal note, I was especially happy to see him gone.

Fresh off the inspired move to rid the Nationals of Biddle, Bowden made a couple free agent signings. We begin with the signing of Vinny Castilla. I'm not sure what impressed Bowden more about Castilla. Was it his .218/.281/.493 line on the road? Was it the fact that he will be turning 38 years old next season? Perhaps Bowden has not heard of the crazy little place baseball fans call Coors Field. Signing a 37 year old 3B, who can't possibly be expected to get better, to a two year, $6.2 million deal is just stupid. Of course, Castilla did lead the NL in RBI's with 131. This signing just proves Bowden has no grasp of modern baseball metrics and is wedded to concepts like "veteran leadership" and "clutch hitting."

Another interesting point about the Castilla signing is that he is replacing a very similar player in Tony Batista. Batista had a .241/.272/.455 season for the Expos. The offense left a lot to be desired, but was not far removed from Castilla's road numbers from last year. More importantly, Batista is about to turn 31 years old and would have cost a lot less money. And it wasn't like the Expos didn't have cheap, in-house alternatives to turn to outside of Batista. But, I'm sure Bowden didn't want to explore using no-names like Jamey Carroll and Brendan Harris when he could make a big splash by signing a known, but below average, commodity.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Bowden, he decided to commit a 4 year, $16.8 million deal to Christian Guzman. At least he is young. Of course, being young counts for very little when you have proven to be a below average SS over an extended period of time. Guzman's 2004 line of .274/.309/.384 is remarkably consistent with his career line of .266/.303/.382. The fact that he will be entering his prime means very little when his prime is likely to be worth far less than the deal Bowden offered him.

Again, the Expos had other in-house options with Maicer Izturis available. While he does not look like he will ever hit that well (maybe not even at Guzman's level), he is at least a competent defender and would have cost substantially less.

Even worse (if that were possible), the deals cost the Nationals two draft picks (in the 2nd and 3rd rounds) because Bowden didn't wait until December 7th (when Guzman and Castilla would have been non-tendered) to sign the players.

These deals are just horrible and it makes me pray that the new owners will fire Bowden at the first opportunity.

Welcome to Washington Baseball

This blog will be dedicated to the new Washington Nationals baseball team in Washington, D.C. Although I preferred that the team be named "Grays," I'm looking forward to supporting the new team. This blog will try to document the various moves and decisions of the team and offer some commentary as well.

As this is my first attempt at blogging, I hope readers will be patient with any failures on my part.