Tuesday, December 21, 2004

There is a Future

It appears a stadium compromise has been reached. This is good news for D.C. and for the future of this blog. I'm still swamped with work, so I haven't been keeping up with the happenings as well as I should. So, I offer these quick snippets:

We know about the Cordero and Hammonds signings, so I won't belabor those. Cordero shouldn't be a regular and his stats last year were horrible, but I suppose signing a wife-beater is good P.R. I actually like the Hammons signing because it is only a minor league deal and he has always shown flashes of his potential when healthy. He is a good player to take a no-risk chance on.

The rest of the Rule 5 draft wasn't that exciting, so I'm not going to cover the rest of the minor league picks. I'll try to do some minor league prospect breakdown at a later date.

The best news is that Bowden decided to tender contracts to everyone. There was talk that he would not offer Nick a deal, but that would have been lunacy. The Nationals were also able to avoid arbitration with Tucker and Eischen, but I'm not sure Eischen is worth $1 million.

I'm still trying to stay away from talking about the off the field, stadium stuff, but I am happy to see a resolution (albeit one that I still thinks screws D.C.).

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Future of the Nationals

I've been swamped with work and was out of town, so I'm a little behind in my blogging. Since the big news is out that the Nationals may not be in D.C. for the long haul, I've also been a little disappointed in MLB. As a result, I haven't covered the super exciting acquisitions of Hammonds and Cordero (as well as finishing the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft). I'm going to go back and write about those transactions once the situation with the Nationals is more stabilized.

For those of you that know me well, you know I believe Bud Selig to be a truly evil man who is slowly ruining baseball. This action with D.C. is just more of the same in my mind. As much as I want a team in D.C., I think it is plain wrong to ask a poor city with a small tax base to foot the entire bill. I, like Jim Caple, think D.C. is right in this one as much as I want to be able to cheer for the Nationals. I hope this gets resolved soon.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Rule 5 Draft

The Nationals gained two players (they were the only team to draft in the 2nd round) and lost one. As Bryan noted in the comments, Jonathan Searles was taken by his Cubbies (although I can't seem to find a media report of it - does anyone have confirmation? - was he in the minor league portion of the draft?). Truthfully, I know very little about him. He was a Pirates draft pick a while back (I looked it up and he was drafted in the 8th round in '99). He seems to have quite an extensive injury history as I can't find a record of him pitching consistently. He has a high 80's fastball and his plus pitch is a changeup. So, take it for what its worth. I don't think the Nationals will miss him, but the information is so limited on him that I can't say anything for sure.

The Nationals draft picks were a bit odd, IMO. First, the Nationals took Tyrell Godwin from the Jays and then Tony Blanco from the Reds.

I found this scouting report on Godwin and this is his PECOTA card from last year. Basically, he is a no power, super speedy OF. He hit a measly .253/.326/.355 in AA last year. He will probably be a pinch runner for the Nationals and he could serve that role well give his speed. However, he is unlikely to contribute much and will probably be a wasted roster spot.

Tony Blanco isn't much better. He has played 3B, but most recently was switched to 1B and OF. Given those are the positions at which the Nationals have the most players, Blanco may not see any playing time. He hit .245/.300/.455 in 58 games after being promoted to AA. Frankly, he looks like he isn't ready to help at all. I think Bowden just wanted a pick from the Reds.

I hope neither player sticks, but I guess Godwin could serve a limited role. However, I said I'd wait to evaluate the Pascucci move until I knew what his roster space was being used for. Now that I know, I would rather have Pascucci back.

Sosa - I hope this is just speculation

"The Cubs are looking to offload Sosa and are willing to pay most of his salary, so getting something back isn't the top order. Brad Wilkerson, heading to arbitration, might be the return."

That's from Will Carroll at the baseball Winter meetings.

I understand Bowden's fascination for Sosa. It is the perfect way to make a "big splash" and "get the fans attention." However, in baseball terms, this trade never makes sense.

Sosa - .253/.332/.517
Wilkerson - .250/.368/.490

Add in that Sosa costs craploads more than Wilkerson and is 9 years older and this trade idea is just stupid. Trading away your best young player for an old player who was worse in 2004 just doesn't make sense.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Mike Hinckley

John Sickels has an article on a Nationals prospect. This is the summary:

"If Hinckley pitched in the Yankees or Dodgers farm system, or even the Cubs or Braves, he'd get a lot more attention. As it is, attention or not, he is one of the best southpaw prospects in the game. He's not perfect, still needing to improve his changeup, and will need Triple-A time to put the finishing touches on his game. But if he remains healthy, he should see the majors sometime in 2005, then challenge for a Nationals rotation spot in 2006."

Friday, December 10, 2004

There isn't too much happening for the Nationals. Apparently, Bowden decided to make as many signings before the Winter meetings to deplete the team's draft picks.

MLB has an article on the potential coaching hires for the Nationals. Jose Rijo, come on down.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Who is on First?

I just noticed this little quote from one of Bill Ladson's recent beat columns:

"If the Nationals have an outfield of Sledge, Endy Chavez and Guillen, and Wilkerson plays first base, that would mean Nick Johnson would be on the bench."

I don't know who is source is, but if this is true, the Nationals are just screwing themselves. Really, is there any justification for believing Sledge or Endy-freakin'-Chavez is a better player than Nick Johnson? And this just has me more worried that Endy will be starting next year. And I could see Frank filling the 1 and 2 holes of the lineup with Endy and Guzman to form one of the worst twosomes in recent history.

I hope Ladson is just speculating and has no actual information.

Valentino Pascucci

The Nationals have sold him to the Chiba Lotte Marines for $300,000. Pascucci had some nice AAA stats (.298/.423/.577 over the last 2 years) and although he is past prospect age, I think he could have been a nice contributor for the Nationals. Bowden said they needed to free up a roster space. If that's the case, I'll be interested to see how he uses the space before evaluating this move.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

More on Johnson and Rios

It seems like I'm the only one in the Nationals blogging community that thinks this trade is a bad idea. Of course, it is probably just a rumor without merit, but if it is true, I want to try to examine it further. Assuming either Rios or Wilkerson could play CF, we really only are comparing three players. Sledge (or Chavez) would probably round out the OF in either scenario. If that is the case, we would be comparing:

1B Johnson
LF/CF Wilkerson


1B Wilkerson
LF/CF Rios

In other words, it is a straight swap on offense between Rios and Johnson and a defensive move that slides Wilkerson to first.

These are the relevant defensive stats for Wilkerson and Johnson.

Wilkerson - RAR2(1B) - 10 in 136 games, RAR2(LF) - 28 in 264 games, RAR2(CF) - 18 in 133 games (but most of that was in 2002)
Johnson - RAR2(1B) - 18 in 226 games

It seems Wilkerson is a below average LF and CF and an average 1B. Johnson also seems to be a pretty average 1B according to RAR2. That means the defensive loss at 1B is nonexistent. Rios doesn't have an adequate body of work to assess his defense in LF, but by most accounts it is pretty good. He did play more CF in AAA, but it remains to be seen if he has a future there. Right now, people are just speculating on this point without hard data.

That means, the trade should be evaluated on offense between Johnson and Rios. This is how they measure up:

Nick, 26 years old, .255/.372/.418 career line, 2003 career high line of .284/.422/.472.
Alexis, 23 years old, .286/.338/.383 career and 2004 line.

At age 23, Nick hit .243/.347/.402

They had rather different experiences in the minors. Rios was a toolsy player that suddenly had a break out year in AAA where he showed power after putting up average performances in the lower minors. Johnson, on the other hand had an amazing year at AA and was dominant at the lower levels. After a mysterious hand injury, however, he put up less than expected numbers in AAA.

Nick, obviously has an injury history that needs to be accounted for. However, his most recent injury seems so random and unrelated that it is hard to hold it against him. Still, he is less likely to play a full season.

In the end, I'm still going with Nick as the slightly better player/value. With Rios you do have more cheap years, but I just don't know if his power numbers are ever going to come. If his AAA numbers were legit (.352/.404/.521), he is clearly the better player, but in 426 MLB AB's, he has barely shown a hint of that power. Johnson, while unlikely to breakout much more, is still young, and if he could come close to repeating his 2003 numbers, would be a solid, core player for the Nationals.

The trade is probably fair on both ends and depending upon how you assess Johnson's health and Rios's power numbers, you can reach very different results. For now, I'm sticking with Nick. That is, until this year's PECOTA numbers come out.

No Arbitration for Batista and Diaz

Not a surprise, but still notable.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Alexis Rios for Nick Johnson?

Gammons rumors are normally unreliable, but with Bowden running the show, who knows what will happen? It would be sad if my favorite National never plays a game in D.C. Anyway, Gammons says a Rios for Johnson swap is being discussed.

I don't know how this trade makes sense in terms of need. Rios is a good prospect and showed potential as a 23 year old in the Majors last year, but where is he going to play? He is not a CF and the corner spots already have depth. He would be a potential upgrade over Sledge if Wilkerson plays CF or 1B, but then the Nationals would have a big hole at 1B or CF (wherever Wilkerson didn't play). And if this trade means re-signing Endy Chavez, then nothing good can come of this. I think Rios represents a toolsy, but still good prospect. And I always have doubts about Nick's health, but I just don't think this trade would make the team better.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Slow News Day

I'm going to stay clear of the steriods stories and try to focus exclusively on the Nationals. I've also tried to focus on the team and am ignoring most of the stories about the stadium and owner's votes. However, that hasn't left too much in the way of news. I've seen a couple rumors that Bowden has $6 million a year offers to Wright and Perez. I don't know how reliable those reports are.

The Nats blog has an interesting breakdown of the free agent pitchers with ERA+ and BABIP stats for all of them. I think he overstates DIPS in regards to pitchers like Lowe (since extreme groundball pitchers are more reliant on defense and often have a higher BABIP than extreme flyball pitchers), but the data is nicely laid out and serves as an ominous guide for the team that signs Pavano. I think people have overstated that he has had only "one good season" - I think his last two seasons have been pretty good. However, his declining K rate is a big warning sign and I think he is unlikely to be a consistently good or great pitcher.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Nationals Triple Play Day at BP

You can find it here.

A notable part assessing the job Bowden has done (and taking a pot shot at the Cubs which is always fun):

"Having just seen The Producers on Broadway recently, we can't help but wonder if Bowden is pulling some sort of Bialystock and Bloom scam in which he builds a woeful collection of talent and then reaps the profits--no, that doesn't make sense when you study on it--but it might be something somebody in baseball is bound to try. Wait, don't the Cubs do a version of The Producers almost every season?"

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sammy Sosa

According to Will Carroll, there have been Sosa trade talks with the Nationals. Even ignoring the obvious problems in Sosa's game and contract, where is he going to play? RF is Guillen's (although I assume he could move to left), LF is Wilkerson (unless they try him in CF again), and 1B is Nick's. Assuming that Bowden isn't pursuing the Wilkerson in CF full-time option, that implies he is looking to deal either Wilkerson or Nick (possibly in the Sosa deal). I'd rather see Wilkerson and Nick in the Nationals lineup than Sosa for years to come, but I'm not Bowden.

The Truth Hurts

Jim Caple has a funny, but true account of the Nationals.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Wrong on Wilson

My first prediction kind of sucked. I thought Bowden would sign Wilson, but it looks like the Reds have given him a two-year deal.