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Esteban Rides Into The Sunset, Says "Thanks For The Memories"

[November 27th] -- It's begun.

Esteban Loiaza signed a three year, $21,735,000 contract with the Oakland Athletics on Monday.

Loiaza will get a $3 million dollar signing bonus with the remaining contract dollars spread out through the 2008 season. The Nationals final offer was no different from their first: Two years, $8 million dollars.

Loiaza went 12-10, 3.77 in his only season with the Washington Nationals. The Nats, with one of the smallest payrolls in major league baseball, were able to sign Loiaza because no one else wanted him. The two sides reached agreement on a one year, $2.9 million dollar contract because his 2004 season, which began with the White Sox and ended in the bullpen of the New York Yankees, was perhaps the worst of his career. A year earlier, he won 21 games and crafted a sharp 2.90 ERA. Most teams thought he would never again be a competitive hurler in the bigs. He wasn't able to find a team willing to sign him until January 29th, just a few days before spring training started.

At first blush, it seems that Loiaza's loss is a direct result of the Nationals having no ownership in place to counter the Athletics' offer. But when you think about it, why would the Nats really want to pay him that kind of money? Loiaza is going to make $7.2 million a year with the Athletics. He is going to be 35 by the end of the contract. He has a career 4.60 ERA. He is little more than a career .500 pitcher, a good middle to back-of-the rotation starter. Loiaza did a good job for the Nats, but isn't worth anywhere near $7 million a year. The Athletics, as the Blue Jays did with B.J. Ryan, grossly overpaid to secure a good, but not great pitcher.

The Nationals have a couple of young pitchers who seem ready to take Loiaza's place in the starting rotation. Jon Rauch, and Jason Bergman both pitched effectively in 2005, and both have the "stuff" to be effective pitchers. Rauch went 2-4 with a 3.60 ERA and Bergman was 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA.

Loiaza is a type "A" free agent, which gives the Nationals compensation for their free-agent loss. The team will gain a second first-round draft pick in the 2006 amateur draft. They will now have both their own #15 selection as well as the Athletics' #18 pick next season. One only has to look at the impact of Ryan Zimmerman in 2005 to see the benefit of having a second high-round draft pick next year.

I have fond memories of Esteban, but there is no way the Nationals could afford to tie up 15% of the current payroll on a 33 year old pitcher with a decidedly "up and down" career record.

I hope he does well for Oakland, and I am confident that Rauch and/or Bergman will fill his spot in the rotation without missing a beat.

Things aren't looking particularly hopeful on the Hector Carrasco front either. When asked about the Nationals retaining the 35 year old righthander, Bowden would only say, "We continue to have dialog [with Carrasco]. I spoke to his agent, Adam Katz, a couple of days ago. We'll see."

Jim Bowden's $4 million per year offer was "spot on." That is exactly what Loiaza is worth. It's the Athletics, and not the Nationals who have to worry about the "dollars and sense" of the Loiaza deal. Jay Bergman and Jon Rauch must be warming up their arms as we speak.

Agreed re: E-Lo getting overpaid by the A's. However, I have my doubts about Rauch and Bergman (or even Carrasco) being consistent members of the rotation. Maybe have them split time as #5 starters , but otherwise keep them in long relief.
Bergman won't be starting. In fact, he turned his career around by being converted from starting to middle relief.

I do think he can be a solid middle reliever, though.
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