It's Time To Spin The Wheel And Hope For The Best
This quote was reported by ESPN's Jayson Stark while discussing the Nationals' chances in 2006. And he's absolutely right. Thanks to a combination of Bud Selig's foot-dragging, Jim Bowden's job-searching and the team being generally comprised of spare parts that don't fit well together, the Nats really don't have a chance next season. They lost all of their free agents without having the opportunity to sign any replacements. So Bowden [or Bowden's replacement] has two choices: 1] shore up the foundation with some decaying heavy lumber that will last a year or two and make the house livable, or 2] tear the house down to the foundation and build it again from scratch.
I vote for the latter. It's time to spin the "Wheel of Fortune" and hope we miss the "bankrupt."
By adding a new generation of stop gaps, guys like Esteban Loiaza and Hector Carrasco from the MLB dustbin, there is a [slight] chance that the team can come close to last year's .500 mark. In reality, however, it's going to take two or three years for the Ryan Zimmermans and Kory Castos and Larry Broadways to mature. So why hold on to the few players who are tradable now, but who will be "over the hill" by the time the kids and the new stadium become fixtures in D.C.? Now's the right time to make some daring trades and re-tool so that a great team moves into the new D.C. Stadium [and yes, I hope they name it that].
The Nationals will likely have three first round picks in the 2006 amateur baseball draft. By trading for prospects, the Nats could have a bevy of top-notch rookies ready to take the field in 2008.
Brad Wilkerson: He's a role player trying to carry his team, and he's just capable of doing that. He'd be a great fit in centerfield for the Yankees, able to strike out 150 times and hit 25 homers while batting 7th or 8th. His being moved could give Brandon Watson the chance to show if his .355 average in New Orleans was an aberration or a sign of things to come. The Nats could get a top and a mid-level prospect for Wilkerson.
Nick Johnson: He'd be great on a team with multiple sluggers, but he's being asked to provide power for the Nationals, and that's not who Nick Johnson is. At his best, he's a .300-20-90 guy with a great glove, a J.T. Snow with a bit more power. The Nats need a long-ball hitter. He'd bring a solid prospect and give Larry Broadway a chance to show if he's the team's future at first base.
Jose Vidro: He won't bring very much because of his ongoing injury problems, but a team in need of a all-star quality second baseman might be willing to give the Nats a young major leaguer or a minor league prospect. More than that, however, it will get his bloated [for what he can still do] salary off of the books.
Junior Spivey: The team needs to either make him the starting second baseman or trade him. He's coming off his worst season and an injury as well. Bowden wouldn't get much if he did trade him. I'd make him the starter.
Cristian Guzman: His contract glues him to the team for three more years
Ryan Church: If you believe that a healthy Terrmel Sledge & a rejuvenated Marlon Byrd can platoon successfully in left, then Church can be traded for a prospect or two. Personally, I think Sledge and Byrd can do well in left field for the Nationals. I'd hate to lose Church, but trading him would make sense if we could get two prospects in return.
Livan Hernandez: Livan will be 33 when the team begins play in the new stadium. The Mets traded two sure-fire prospects to the Marlins for Carlos Delgado; I think the Nationals can get the same for Livan. A young slugger and pitcher could be had for Hernandez. It makes sense.
The Nationals have a half dozen quality players in the minors who have the talent to succeed at the major league level. The combination of those we now have, and the ones we could get in trade, would make the Nats a formidable team in the near future. The new owner could sign a big name or two when the kids begin to produce, and the Washington Nationals would be in position to "rule the roost" in the NL East for years to come.
Don't think it'll work? Look at the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Braves, who are both loaded with kids and ready to be contenders for years to come. It makes too much sense not to do it.