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SO I'VE BEEN THINKING ....

[July 14th] -- The sun went down, and the sun came back up, and Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns are still members of the Washington Nationals.

Cool.

While I'm happy, no I'm elated -- happy is how I feel when my son cleans his room while elated is how I feel when I realize how close I am to graduating from college -- about the deal, I'm feeling a little disoriented right now. For the past couple of months, we've all known that Stan Kasten and Jim Bowden were going to trade away all the stars come the middle of July and the team would then begin a rebuilding process that would last several years.

How exactly is this rebuilding?

The Nationals now have five players who should be in the starting lineup when the new stadium opens. Brian Schneider, Nick Johnson, Felipe Lopez, Ryan Zimmerman and Austin Kearns are slam-dunk guarantees to around for the next several years. If Alfonso Soriano re-signs, something that is becoming more and more possible with each passing day, the Nationals will have six starters in place. If John Patterson and Mike O'Connor remain in the starting rotation, the Nats will need, what, two position players and three starting pitchers to flesh out the team. The Nationals have a few players, like Kory Casto, who will be ready in 2008 as well.

So, where's the rebuilding?

Perhaps Jim Bowden will trade away another three or four starters in the next week and things will begin to play out as we'd all imagined, but what if -- what if Bowden and Stan Kasten looks at the team's starting lineup tonight in Pittsburgh and says, "Wow, I like that!" What then? Might the Lerners dip into their pockets and buy a pitcher or two on the free-agent market and tell Bowden to "go for it" in 2007? Rotoworld was so impressed with the trade that they said they would "take back everything we've said about Jim Bowden," ending by saying that the Nationals could make a "playoff run" with the team as assembled this year.

So if the Nationals are suddenly "close" to being a "plus" team again, why blow it up after making what the pundits at ESPN called the "steal of the century?" Wouldn't it make more sense to, say, trade Livan Hernandez, Ramon Ortiz, Jose Vidro and Jose Guillen for prospects, (pitching, pitching, pitching), use Marlon Anderson and/or Damian Jackson at second, and resign Alfonso Soriano to a long term deal and then "call it good?"

Suddenly, I'm no longer a proponent of "blowing it all up and starting over." Finally, I like the texture of this team. Let's see what Bowden does next. I wiped his slate clean after this remarkable trade. For the first time, I think the guy has a "vision," a workable idea that, with a little bit of patience and a lot of Mr. Lerner's dollars, can work.

I'm willing to wait and see. I don't want to, mind you; I'm to excited. But I will. Jim Bowden has earned it.

NATS NOTES:
I scanned all the blogs and articles written yesterday for the best line or remark regarding the trade. My favorite comes from Bucs Dugout with a story entitled "At least we're not the Reds Today." How priceless is that? Here is a Pirates blogger, suffering through one of his team's worst seasons ever, and he's telling his readers, "Hey! It could be worse ... we could be the Reds." Too funny.

Comments:
People love to bash Bowden, but the fact that Kasten kept him (Kasten is no dummy), leads me to believe there is more to Bowden than we know. Maybe the second half of this season will mirror the first half of last season? A man can hope.
 
We have had a bad offense (so far this year) and even worse pitching. Adding Kearns and Lopez should bump the offense to at least average but the pitching is still going to hold us down, especially with the middle relief likely to be in shambles for a month or two as we figure out what we have left. A playoff run this year is highly unlikely.

If Bowden can spin any one or hell, any combination of Livan, Ramon, Vidro, and Guillen for a good young starter then I'd probably lean into the "keep Soriano" camp. I think Katsen would go and sign that one guy we might need and then I think we could closer than we think to being a good team. But if Bowden can't do that I still think you have to trade Alfonso, because buying a couple of pitchers that are good on the free-agent market is not cheap and I don't see Katsen bumping up payroll next year 15-20 million
 
There is no guarantee that Kearns and Lopez will be around when the new stadium opens. Both are free agents after next season. They might make demands that the Nats can't or won't meet.
 
Phil, the reports I have read are that they are free agents after the 2008 season. They both have 3 + years of MLB service right now, so to get to their six years, they'd have to remain in D.C. both next year and 2008.
 
Farid, I admit I am the only one who has reservations about this trade, mostly because you can't win without pitching and now we don't have any. Just about every Nats blogger is as excited as you are and just about every Reds blogger is blasting the trade. However, such one sided consensus is usually wrong. Just remember the Denny McClain trade that destroyed the Senators franchise. Just about every Nats fan thought that was a great trade when it was announced.
 
Aw Phil, why do you always have to go using logic to shoot me down???

Yes, I so excited about the McLain trade when it happened. Somehow, I didn't realize what Bob Short gave up. And of course, McLain went 10-22 that year and Joe Coleman wan 20 games a couple of times for the Tigers. That said, I firmly believe that you can pick up enough middle-relief during the winter to make your team above-average in the pen. Sign a bunch of one-year wonders and call it good.

This trade is a building block. At some point, you have to have major league hitters in your lineup. They are hard to find. But middle-relief? They aren't a "dime a dozen," but they're close.

Why did you have to remind me about that McLain trade? It still hurts .... :)
 
Well, we will just have to see how it turns out. I agree, middle relievers are easier to replace and I hope the Nats find a couple. You see, middle relievers are more important in the Nats equation than they are to other teams because we don't have any starting pitching. I was always fond of Tex. I chatted with him in Viera and he was a nice guy. I was impressed with Lopez's bat when I saw him play last year but he has tailed off. I hope it all works out. Maybe I allow my distaste for the slimey Bowden to color my thinking too much.
 
Another trade must be right around the corner as the Nats have just signed Luis Matos, formerly of the O's. Matos fills the huge hole in center field but he is a spotty hitter and has been prone to injuries. Still, not a bad pickup as this signing got rid of some trash--Marlon Byrd.
 
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