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[August 7th] -- Just when I thought that Stan Kasten and Jim Bowden were shying away from the "build with prospects" promise, this happens.

The Nationals traded Livan Hernandez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-hander Garrett Mock and lefty Matt Chico. This comes as a total shock to me. GM's always say that "big" trades can be made after the trading deadline, but you never really expect it.

I think this trade for Livan came after the trade deadline because his suitors were trying to make sure that he had "something" left. I'm sure that general managers around the league felt much more comfortable trading for Livan after his last few starts.

The trade opens up nearly $8 million dollars next year to help the Nationals sign Alfonso Soriano That's a good thing. The bad thing is that, even before the trade, the Nationals were short of starting pitchers. Now what? Will Billy Traber take his place in the rotation, at least for now? That would be my guess.

Mock, 23, is a 6'4", 215 pound right-hander. Going into the 2006 season, Mock had a career record of 19-9, 3.69 including a 14-7 record at class 'A' Lancaster last year. This season, however, he's struggled. With class 'AA' Tennessee, Mock is 4-8, 4.95 with 117 strikeouts in 131 innings. Mock got the news while he was driving with his fiancé. Manager of Minor League Operations A.J. Hinch and General Manager Josh Byrnes both called Mock to tell him the news and set his mind at ease."[Hinch and Byrnes] said it's a business and the deal that they got and Washington got just seemed to work out," The right-hander commented after finding out about the trade. "This hasn't been the greatest season for me. It's been a great learning experience. It's been a humbling experience from the aspect of learning how to pitch in this league and I have made some adjustments."

Matt Chico seems headed in the opposite direction. Chico, also 23, is a 5'11", 190 pound lefty. Going into 2006, he had a 26-25 career record with a 4.09 ERA. He seems to have blossomed this season, however. He began the season at class 'A' Lancaster, where he went 3-4, 3.75 with 49 strikeouts in just 50 innings. With class 'AA' Tennessee, Chico has gone 7-2, 2.22 with 63 strikeouts in 81 innings. Chico was surprised by the trade. "I'm excited. I'm going into an organization along with Mock that is struggling pitching-wise," the [Tennessee] Smokies' southpaw said. Chico was a bit surprised that only two prospects were dealt for Hernandez. "It was shocking because he's a good pitcher. I would have thought they would have wanted more. Both of us are in a good spot."

Livan, who didn't want to go anywhere, thought he was safe after the July 31st trade deadline came and went. Not so. "It's a surprise," he said. "It happened and I have to deal with it. I found out in the morning when Bowden called me. I have to go there and work. I'm playing on a different team."

Livan wasn't the only one who thought he remaining in Washington. Earlier today, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that Livan was claimed on waivers, but that the two teams couldn't work out a deal for the veteran right-hander. ESPN's link to that story now brings up an "Error 404" message. Oops!

"Out in the Desert," a Diamondbacks blog, sees the trade this way: "Hernandez has a bloated 5.34 ERA but he does play for a fairly lousy Washington team. Is it a good trade? Time will tell but I like the move. The D-Backs give up two mid-level pitching prospects who show some promise but are far from being studs. They get a good innings-eater type pitcher who probably is the best hitting pitcher in the majors. Hernandez’s ERA is about a run higher than his career average and he has been bothered by a tender knee. He is not a power pitcher and will rely on his breaking pitches to induce ground ball outs — a D-Back specialty. I suspect Arizona will play to that strength and encourage him to keep the ball down and allow the hitters to put a lot of balls in play. Right Hernandez is giving up too many homers and issuing way too many free passes. But with some confidence in his infield he may be more inclined to pitch rather than try and strike every hitter out.

The prospects that Arizona gave up were Garrett Mock and Matt Chico. Both were drafted by Mike Rizzo, the former AZ Director of Scouting who just assumed his new post as VP of Baseball Operations for….yup, the Washington Nationals. So clearly Rizzo still admires his own work. According to Jim Callis over at Baseball America Mock is a 23-year-old righty with a solid 93 - 94 mph fastball and good stuff including a nice cutter. But despite his nice stuff he has been throwing too many strikes and therefore giving up too many hits. At Double A Mock has gone 4-8 with a 4.95 ERA in 23 starts. Chico is a 23-year-old lefty that Callis points out “flunked out of JC” and after “bombing in Double A last year, he has bounced back with a strong 2006. In 23 starts between high Class A Lancaster and Tennessee, he has gone 10-6, 2.81″. He was likely the centerpiece of the trade but do you really want a guy who flunks out of a junior college?"

Was this a good trade? I have no idea. At first glance, the Nationals received two starting pitchers, one getting better, one struggling just a bit, neither of which will be ready for the major leagues for at least another couple of years. Neither are studs, but both could be above average major league starters. That said, ESPN.com says that Mock and Chico are now the "two best pitching prospects" in the Nationals' minor league system. I'll be doing some more research and report back as soon as I have something more.

Bottom line, though: the Nats can afford Alfonso Soriano now if they really want him.

Check back later.

Where'd you get the $14 million number from, Farid? Livo is only under contract through '07 for $7M. The Nats will pay $2M of the approximately $2.7M left on the '06 portion of his contract, but after '07, Livo is a free agent.
Hey, J.E....
Livan is showed as making $7.67 million per year for the next two years ... about $16 million over the remainder of the contract, subtract the $2 million that the Nats are paying and I come up with the $14 million.
Whoops. I see what you mean. I was figuring the entire 2006 contract. I'll fix it. Thanks
"but he does play for a fairly lousy Washington team."

They shouldn't be talking, they would look "lousy" to if they had the Mets in their divsion.

It saddens me to see Livo go, I really liked the guy. But I start crying when I think about what our starting pitching will be like now.
I personally would liked to see Livan stay in Washington. He's made it his home. Constantly talks about how wonderful DC is, and how much he enjoy's playing here. He's only 31 years old, and could have been a mentor for a young staff for years to come. Livo, along with Soriano and Jose Guillen have made our home team a destination spot for players in the near future. Despite his pitching problems over the past year (that appear to be over with), you can't deny what LIVAN HERNANDEZ DID FOR THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS FRANCHISE. HE GAVE THEM RESPECT THROUGHOUT MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. I love the guy and will miss the entertainment he has provided over the past 17 months to me and my Section 320 friends. Just a FABULOUS GUY--Really can't say enough about him. If we are all lucky, The Nats will resign him for the 2008 season so Livo can, RIGHTFULLY SO, throw the very first pitch in the new NATS Stadium.
Farid, I think you are confusing Livan's contract with Vidro's. Livan has one year remaining at $7 million. Vidro has two years left at about $8 million per year. Additionally, Nats sent $2 million to the Diamondbacks. So, when considering the remainder of his 2006 salary, we probably saved a bit over $7 million.
Phil, I fixed that earlier this afternoon -- I'm surprised that your server gave you the un-cached version. Jamming Econo set me straight on that.

Thanks for catching it too, though.
"The bad thing is that, even before the trade, the Nationals were short of starting pitchers."

The Nationals depth chart currently shows 3 starting pitchers (Traber currently in bullpen, but will start also - so make that 4 starting pitchers).
Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better, and that will be the case here. Expect fifth-place finishes this year and in 2007...but little by little, the Nationals are building an organization, and I'd rather make the sacrifice now and wait for the payoff then tread into mediocrity with no genuine upside. (See "Baltimore Orioles under Cuban Pete.")
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