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  1. [June 28th] -- Washington Nationals' fans are ready for the veteran exodus to begin. That three week, 17-7 run not withstanding, it has been clear since the Alfonso Soriano trade last fall that this wasn't going to be a team that would, or could, contend. One day soon, we'll be greeted with a headline at reads something like "NATS TRADE SORIANO FOR XXXXXX. Now, XXXXXX will likely be the name of a player that few of us have ever heard of. And even if we know the name, we won't know for some time, perhaps years, if it was a good trade for the Nationals.

    It wasn't too long ago that then Nationals' (Expos) general manager Omar Minaya made perhaps the worst "prospects for rent-a-veteran player" ever. Pretending he was in a pennant race, Minaya traded first baseman Lee Stevens, second baseman Brandon Phillips, pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Grady Sizemore to the Indians for Bartolo Colon. Minaya traded Colon to the White Sox seven months later for Orlando Hernandez, Jeff Leifer and Rocky Biddle; none of them had any real impact for the Expos/Nationals. Minaya also traded Jason Bay, listed by Baseball America as being one of the club's top prospects at the time, to the New York Mets for journeyman Lou Collier.

    How would the Nationals look today had Minaya not made those trades? Take a look at this lineup, projected for the entire season:
    1. Brandon Phillips [SS] ........308-16-90 ............33 steals, .354 OBP
    2. Jose Vidro [2B]...............310-12-64 ............ .363 OBP
    3. Grady Sizemore [CF]........300-33-85 .............375 OBP, 27 steals
    4. Jason Bay [RF]................286-44-110 ............402 OBP, 15 steals
    5. Alfonso Soriano [LF].........274-50-105 ...........40 steals
    6. Nick Johnson [1B]...........308-25-75............. .438 OBP
    7. Ryan Zimmerman [3B].......265-23-100
    8. Brian Schneider [C]...........230-2-27

    Add in Cliff Lee (on pace to go 16-11, 4.61 and Chris Young (16-7, 2.97), who was traded to the Rangers for Einar Diaz, and the Nationals would be a young, athletic, fast, powerful team with a rotation of Lee, Young, Mike O'Connor, John Patterson and Livan. The team would hit more than 200 home runs and steal more than 150 bases. They would easily be the second best team in the NL East, perhaps even better (the only caveat is that I'm playing Phillips at short, a position he first played in the minors. He's at second in Cincinnati).

    The Nationals are going to win about 70 games in 2006, but they could have won 95. The difference? Poor "veteran for prospect" trades by Omar Minaya. If Jim Bowden goes the way of his predecessor, he'll bury the team for a decade. If he "chooses wisely," he could very possibly bring back to D.C. those very types of players that Minaya allowed to get away.

    That said, who should go and who should stay? My take: 1] Players that must go: Alfonso Soriano, Livan Hernandez, Jose Vidro, Royce Clayton (he's worth a prospect if the Nats' act fast), Jose Guillen, Ramon Oritz, and Tony Armas Jr. 2] Players who might bring more than they are worth: Brian Schneider and Nick Johnson. 3] Guys who must stay: Ryan Zimmerman and John Patterson.

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