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THE NEGATIVE ASPECT OF ALFONSO SORIANO

[July 30th] -- At this point in the season, wins and losses are meaningless. You have to look within the boxscore to find the real news. So don't sweat the Nationals' 7-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Felipe Lopez, for instance, got two hits, the fifth time he's done that in his last seven games and is now batting .266. If he can only learn how to throw the ball, he'll be a stud at short for Washington for many years to come. Nick Johnson hit his 15th of the season, and I'm (finally) beginning to think that Johnson is in fact the long-term answer for the Nationals at first (as opposed to Larry Broadway, someone I've been very high on since the team moved to Washington). Mike O'Connor has been "figured out." He's getting shelled in the first inning, and then things just seem to get worse from there. He may end up becoming a specialty-lefty, a guy who comes into a game to get one left-hander out. And there is nothing wrong with that. That rainbow delivery can be problematic for southpaws. Ryan Zimmerman has looked uncomfortable at the plate the last two games -- he needed a 9th inning single to keep his batting average at .288. If history holds true, he'll break out of his funk and will get two or three hits on Sunday and drive in a couple of runs.

Alfonso Soriano keeps telling anyone who'll listen that he's 1) happy in Washington and doesn't want to leave and 2) he's unwilling to discuss a new contract until season's end. He also says that if he's traded, he's not going to re-sign with the Nationals this fall.

Now, wait a minute....

Soriano and his agent Diego Bentz understands the business side of baseball. It's really nice that he likes it here in Washington and that he wants to stay, but you can't say that AND then be unwilling to negotiate that very contract that will allow you to get your wish. Soriano knows that the team can't afford to keep him beyond the trade deadline and then risk losing him in return for only two first round draft choices. Hey, Alfonso, either you talk to Bowden about a contract or you stop saying that you want to stay. Because, if you won't talk dollars, then you really don't want to stay and you're just saying "stuff" so you can hear your lips flap. For giggles, let's say that Soriano does stay and then leaves for a mega-deal after the end of the season. The team would get a first round pick and a sandwich pick. Suppose the team ended up with a "Chad Cordero" and a "Billy Bray," both first round picks for the Nationals. Would you trade Soriano for those two? No way. An article was posted on the team's website late Saturday that indicates the Nationals are still trying to make a deal with Soriano before Monday's deadline. How? How can the team come to some agreement with him if he's not willing to discuss dollars? I think it has to be part of the negotiation process, designed to spur on the teams still interested in him to ante up even further.

If Soriano gets traded, and I think he will, it will be because he wasn't willing to forego free agency to stay in D.C. for $60 million or so. Greed will be the reason. Saying that you want to stay is one thing, while actually wanting to stay is something else entirely.

NATS NOTES: The potential trade with the Detroit Tigers is dead not because of a lack of interest between the two clubs, but rather Humberto Sanchez' "sore elbow." I thought, like everyone else, that when Sanchez was scratched from his start last Wednesday, it was because he was about to be traded. Nope. He really was hurt .... All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the "untradeable" Miguel Tejada is suddenly "tradeable." Is this a decision based on the future well-being of the Baltimore Orioles, or is Peter Angelos "sticking a finger" in Jim Bowden's eye by driving down Alfonso Soriano's value? I'll bet that Tejada really isn't on the market at all, and that the Orioles are simply trying to make it more difficult to for the Nationals to trade Alfonso. I mean, that sounds like a lawyers trick, doesn't it? .... It's been almost two weeks and Matt LeCroy still hasn't signed with another team, which surprises me greatly. I can't believe that there isn't an American League team trying to get into the playoffs who doesn't need a right-handed power bat .... Ryan Drese reported "unbearable" pain in his elbow after throwing in the bullpen and it now appears that he will undergo "Tommy John" surgery. It will be at least a year before he will return to the mound. I hate to say this, but losing Drese won't effect the team in any way. Drese is but one of many available starting pitchers who give up five runs per game. He is easily replaceable.

Comments:
Farid, I'm not sure you've seen this Soriano quote in Svrluga's Sunday story: "If they have numbers, they have to talk to my agent, not to me," Soriano said. "We're waiting for the numbers." Sounds like Sori and his agent are prepared to talk numbers with Bowden. Unless, of course, this was pure smack talk. It's really hard for the outside observer to know what's REALLY going on in these talks, aside from the spinning and manuevering players and GMs both do in the media.
 
Zimmerman looks tired and he is again lunging at those low outside pitches. When he lays off those sucker pitches, he hits, when he gets into that low outside pitch funk, he strikes out.
 
Mike O'Conner clearly belongs back in the minors. Nobody gains by allowing him to get humiliated in start after start. He had a nice run early, but its over and he is now way over his head.
 
sbrent, Yes, I saw those statements, but they don't parallel their other statements, that discussing dollars would be do "distracting" during the season. Soriano can't say "I won't discuss money until the end of the year" and then say "we're waiting for them to talk number."

I'm sure it's all negotiation slight-of-hand from both sides, and it stinks. Both sides are posturing so they can say, "see, we tried!"

I guess the politics of Washington are rubbing off.
 
As I said earlier, my gut still tells me that other GM's aren't really interested in Bowden's two month rental unless the price comes way down. The over riding trend is to hold on to first rate prospects. Hence, I believe Soriano stays for the rest of the season. We offer him arbitration and then end up with two high draft choices when Soriano signs a five year $75 million contract with the Yankees.
 
The Pitching Gods hate the Nats =(
 
Phil,
I'm worried that the two picks ( a first round and really the first "second round" pick could be a gold mine or could be a black hole, and we really won't know either way until 2011 or so.

If Stan Kasten said, "We're keeping Soriano for the rest of the season, and if we can't re-sign him, we'll just sign some super-star free agent to take his place," then I'd be with you. But Kasten has said just the opposite, that he won't pursue "high dollar" free agents. That would force the team to 1)find a replacement among the current stable of major league outfielders and 2)wait four or five years to see those picks play in the bigs, if at all.

No, I'd rather him get traded now for a few prospects who have a track record then take a chance on spending millions in signing bonuses for a couple of guys who might never get out of class 'A' ball.

Thanks for stopping by, Phil.
Farid
 
If I'm Soriano, I don't negotiate until the offseason, either. I'd rather have several teams bid for my services, as opposed to just one.

And I don't think that Angelos is playing a "lawyer's trick," Farid. I just think he has no idea what the hell he is doing with that team---and hasn't since mid-season 1997, if not earlier. I'd add a smiley, but I actually am a fan of the Orioles.
 
If I were in Soriano's Shoes I would wait, and I want him to continue playing for the Nats BADLY! Its his time, and he should be in control. Its ok with me that he's saying the right things, but at the same time, holding back. Its business, good business, and you really can't fault him. I don't think the Nationals should trade him. He is a MARQUEE player, and I believe, if the money is offered, he would resign for 2007 and beyond. Really do.

Mike O'Connor, I have said for a while, just is not good. Does not have enough stuff to get major league hitters out on a regular basis. Everything looks the same coming from him. He is a nice local story. In fact, his father, who sits in our section 320 for every home game, played George Washington in the Presidents Race last sunday at RFK. They are good people, but unfortunately Mike is not MLB caliber. Its just too bad.
 
Farid, I agree that we would be much better off with one or two first rate prospects for Soriano as opposed to a couple of draft picks next year. I just don't think other GM's are going to part with much for a two month rental. Now, that the Yankees have Abreu, they are out of the running. The Tigers are out and the White Sox are out. It doesn't look promising and time is running out.
 
I put the odds of a Soriano trade at 20%. The most likely scenario appears to be keep Soriano, Livan and Vidro, try to resign Soriano long-term, and if not, take the draft pick compensation. Armas and Ortiz may be moved by the deadline for return similar to what Stanton brought.

Stay tuned for the off-season, as the Nats will be busy. I expect that they will be shopping Vidro, Guzman (who they must move now that Lopez is on the team), Broadway (who is ready for the majors but is blocked at 1B by Nick Johnson), and probably Livan.

Whether Livan stays or goes, they will have to acquire pitching -- in the current rotation, all but Livan are free agents, and, of the injured pitchers, only Patterson and Hill are under club control at a reasonable price (options on Drese and Lawrence will be bought out, although they may resign at a discount). I suspect that trades will not be particularly fruitful given what the Nationals have to offer, and they will have to dip into free agency to address their starting pitching needs. (Or make available top young players such as Casto and Church.) Unfortunately, similar to last year, the free agent class is pretty weak and the top available starters will comand Weaver, Millwood and Burnett-like contracts.
 
Anonoymous--I think your recap is on the mark. Steve Phillips is reporting the Mets are interested in Livan, but only if the Nats will pay half his salary thru next season. That's not a salary dump and I would not do it in view of the Nats desperate pitching situation.
 
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