Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tap the Rockies

Now that the All-Star break is over, I suppose I should come out of hiatus and comment on the rash of moves made by Jim Bowden yesterday. Let's start with the smaller ones.

Junior Spivey and Tony Blanco were moved to the disabled list, both necessary moves. Spivey broke his wrist in the batting cage, and Blanco was stricken with vertigo/overall suckiness. To take their spots, the Nationals activated Ryan Church from the DL (we'll get to that later) and signed veteran lefty reliever Mike Stanton.


Mike Stanton had been a key player in the post-season successes of the Yankees over the past several years. However, he is 38 years old and was released by New York after posting a 7.07 ERA in 28 appearances. That's real bad for a reliever.

But let's be frank. The Nationals bullpen is wearing down. The overuse of Ayala and Majewski was one of the biggest factors in dropping 5 of the 7 games before the All-Star break. We're only responsible for paying Stanton the league minimum, so I say it's worth a shot. I'm not holding my breath expecting great things, but Stanton's worth a try. Stranger things have happened, especially this year. Bowden should realize, however, that Stanton is not the ultimate solution. We a need a durable arm in the pen that can take the load off Ayala and Majewski. I would have rather traded for someone like Eddie Guardado.

That brings us to the big move. Washington sent Zach Day, J.J. Davis and a player to be named later or cash to the Colorado Rockies for Preston Wilson and cash. This was a move rumored to be in the works for a while, but it finally went through last night.

I'm going to try to run through my opinion on this one as rationally and coherently as I can. Here goes:

On paper, looking at value, this is a pretty good trade for a fantasy baseball league. Zach Day, despite tremendous potential, has not really performed this year. J.J. Davis, frankly, is going to have a rough time becoming a full-time major league player. The Nats get Preston Wilson, a guy who hit 36 HRs with 141 RBIs in 2003 and was a 30-30 man in 2000.

However, a good fantasy baseball trade does not always equate with a good real-life trade. Let's look at the Spivey/Ohka trade, for one. I don't think this trade made sense on paper. But I supported it, because Bowden dealt a position of strength (back of the rotation starting pitcher) for a position of then-weakness (everyday second basemen). And picking up Ryan Drese negated much of the loss to the rotation. So far, despite Spivey's injury, this one worked out pretty well.

Good job, Churchy, now sit your ass on the bench!

Let's look at what this trade means to the Nationals. Essentially, it pushes Ryan Church to the bench or a further marginalized platoon role. And Wilson is not much of an upgrade (if any) over Ryan Church.

Church is five years younger than Wilson and does not have the gimpy knees that Wilson does.

Church is hitting .325 and slugging .544 this season, despite playing half his games in the best pitchers park in the major leagues.

Wilson is hitting .258 and and slugging .491, despite playing in Coors Field, one of the best hitters parks in the major leagues.

Although there's not a reliable way to measure these things, many would agree that Church is a little faster and a little more reliable on defense.

Sure, Wilson has 15 HRs and 47 RBIs this year, compared to Church's 7 and 28. But 10 of those HR and 34 of those RBIs have come in Coors Field.

My point is this. There's not a significant difference between Church and Wilson. A Day/Wilson trade looks good on paper, but when you force Church to the bench, what have you really gained? As I pointed out on a message board, the bench is improved by adding Church. But the starting lineup is not significantly better - and perhaps it's worse - by adding Wilson.

The only caveat to this depends on how badly Nick Johnson is hurt. While he's out, I assume that Wilkerson will move to first base and Wilson and Church will be in CF and LF. But unless Nick is out for a significant amount of time, that still pushes Church to the bench when NJ comes back.

An outfield bench upgrade, somewhere we're already fairly deep, is not an effective use of Zach Day as a trading chip. The Nats would have been much better served trying to find either an infield bat or a bullpen arm that is more durable, i.e. "Everyday" Eddie Guardado.

At best, I feel Bowden has not improved the team, but only changed the offensive emphasis. We used to be a contact, gap-hitting offense. With Wilson in the lineup, we'll be relying more on the big blow. Even if Wilson can deliver, I'm not so sure that kind of offense is a smart strategy in the cavernous RFK Stadium.

Let me say in closing that I desperately hope I'm wrong. Wilson could be a huge addition that makes the difference in reaching the playoffs. However, I just think we could have got better value for our trade.


Blogger Basil said...

Very thorough, good analysis.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Farid said...

I too, am concerned about the glut of starting outfielders the Nats now have [5 of them have started at least one season in the bigs, and that number goes to 6 when you add Termel Sledge, a player I like very much].

I don't think that Bowden is done trading, and when all is said and done, there might be more infield help by August 1.

I don't think that Bowden thinks that Wilson is better than Church; I think that Bowden believes that he got Wilson for [essentially] nothing, and if, IF Wilson has a hot 2nd half, the team very well might win the division. I think you would agree that if you had to choose a player to have a "crazy" 2nd half, Wilson would be the choice over rookie Church. But consider this.

I'm sure you have been listening to the b.s. coming from Mr. Jose Guillen the last few days. After every game, he creeps [word used on purpose] towards a blowup. I have no doubt that Bowden has had discussions with teams like the Yankees for our rightfielder. If Frank Robinson wouldn't put up with Ohka, he's not going to put up with Guillen. Maybe Guillen goes for a 3rd baseman, and then we have that starting outfield of Church-Wilson-Wilkerson.

I'm a little puzzled about Bowden's moves, but I'm going to wait until the trading deadline before making my "ruling." I just have a feeling that there is more to come.

3:48 PM  

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