Tuesday, August 01, 2006

If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts...

Subtitle: "Short answer yes with an if, long answer no with a but."

Jim Bowden took seven hours of my life yesterday, and I want them back! Seriously, it was a bit anti-climatic to get all worked up in anticipation of the 4 p.m. trade deadline yesterday and then have nothing happen.

My desire before the trade deadline was to see Soriano traded if Bowden and company could get a return that was significantly better than the two compensatory draft picks we would receive if Soriano signed somewhere else as a free agent at the end of the season. (The Nationals have a farm system almost completely bereft of talent. Since the best way to infuse talent into a major league team is to have young talent waiting in the wings, the Nationals needed to restock the farm, even if it means sacrificing someone as popular as Soriano.)

Now that Soriano is here to stay for the rest of 2006, here -- in my typical milquetoast manner -- is my opinion presented in the form of "ifs" and "buts".

If Jim Bowden only received offers for Soriano that were not a significant upgrade over the compensatory draft picks the Nats would receive if he signs with another team, then a hearty bravo to Jim Bowden for sticking to his guns.

But if Cap'n Leatherpants put himself in an impossible negotiating position with his blowhard huckster antics, then I personally want to punch the bag of douche in the face. Nobody really know for sure what Bowden was offered, but if he turned down a B+ package of prospects because he wanted to make out like a bandit and make himself look good, then Bowden truly failed.

If the Lerners and Kasten are willing to sign Soriano without diverting resources from the extremely crucial task of rebuilding the farm system and without shortchanging the rest of the payroll, then by all means, re-sign the man and make a ton of Nationals fans very happy.

But if signing Soriano to a market contract means we eat up a ton of our budget and don't have the necessary resources to get other things we need, (pitching, pitching, pitching) then it's time to let Fonzie go to the highest bidder and see what we can do with the draft picks.

If the Nationals are ready to get some more pieces to complement Soriano, then they should sign him and see if they can make a brief run at contending while the rest of the franchise is rebuilt.

But if Bowden still thinks that signing one superstar will solve everything (see: Griffey, Ken Jr.) then it's a very dangerous proposition to resign Soriano and ignore the other glaring holes on the roster.

If Soriano truly does love Washington and the Nationals, he will realize the franchise will have a hard time meeting his open-market value because there are so many other holes to fill. He'll realize he may have to settle for less than what the Yankees, Angels or Dodgers might be able to pay him. He'll realize the Nationals need flexibility in personnel to build for a long-term future, and he'll give up his desire to have a no-trade clause in his next contract. There are already some promising signs on that front.

But Soriano tends to change his mind a lot, yet be stubborn about things at the same time. Remember he was never going to play left field, until the prospect of losing paychecks changed his mind. Then he was going back to the American League to play second base, until he made the All-Star team and became a hero to many DC fans. I do believe he's sincere right now when he says he loves DC and craves stability and comfort. But an offer of $100 million from an elite team has a good shot at changing even the most stubborn of minds.



Bottom line: Since Soriano was not traded, the team has an obligation to make a reasonable attempt to sign him to a longer-term deal. However, they cannot do this at the expense of pouring resources into solving the myriad of other issues facing the franchise. Overpaying Soriano and giving him a no-trade clause could be disastrous for the Nationals. Soriano needs to realize this and be willing to sacrifice some pride if he truly loves the Nationals. The ball is in his court.

Moreover, they need to try to get it done before the end of the year so Soriano won't be tempted by other offers. He is having a career year, and chances are good there will be some elite team out there willing to make him a completely ridiculous offer.

I'm inclined to think that either a ridiculous offer from another franchise or the quibble over a no-trade clause will be enough for Soriano not to re-sign with the Nats. We'll have to hope that Bowden didn't completely screw us by not making a trade and see what we can do with the draft picks.

Most of all, I want to know that Lerner/Kasten/Bowden has some sort of plan. Are they serious about making a run at contention while they rebuild the farm? If they pour the resources into doing both, then I can get behind that wholeheartedly.

But if they failed to trade Soriano and plan to sign him as a PR stunt at the expense of improving the rest of the franchise, then heaven help us. I know some Washington baseball fans still remember when Denny McLain was brought in to boost interest in the Senators franchise.