Until now, not having an ownership team in place, not having a general manager committed to the franchise, and not having a defined payroll limit hasn't really hurt the team to any great extent because the players who have been available thus far weren't a good fit for the team. With the Florida fire sale in full swing, however, the team's best chance to land a major league quality leadoff hitter is dwindling quickly.
The Boston Red Sox acquired Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell for a couple of minor leaguers. The Mets snagged Carlos Delgado from the Marlins for the D.C. equivalent of Ryan Zimmerman and Mike Hinkley. The Nationals couldn't have afforded Beckett or Delgado, but Juan Pierre's $3,700,000 salary would certainly fit nicely into the Nationals' payroll structure.
There are many different scenarios that could have brought Pierre to Washington. A straight-up Pierre for Brad Wilkerson would be my personal favorite, moving a player with a similar salary who has shown in five major league seasons that he will always be a low average, high strikeout player with medium power. The 28 year old Pierre has a career .305 average and has averaged 52 stolen bases over the last five seasons. Yes, his career .355 on base percentage is lower than Wilkerson's .365, but his presence in the D.C. lineup would drastically change the way the team plays the game of baseball.
Of course, all this is moot, because many other teams, the Chicago Cubs in particular, are actively talking trade with the Florida Marlins in the hopes of acquiring the fleet-footed center fielder. Washington, however, remains on the sidelines. The Nationals don't have an owner. The Nationals general manager is starry-eyed at the prospect of being the next Theo Epstein.
The Bud Selig - D.C. City Council fight is about to have its first casualty. Juan Pierre would have been a great acquisition and could have made a real difference in the way Frank Robinson managed the team. The team would not have been forced to play station-to-station ball -- Robinson could have taken some chances with a greater expectation of success. As is stands, now, the Nationals will go into 2006 with Brad Wilkerson continuing to hold down the lead-off spot.
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