WOULDA - SHOULDA - COULDA
[September 1st] -- Last December, I wrote a story that listed nine free agents that were 1) good enough to help the Nationals in 2006 and 2) cheap enough to sign. Some, like Ken Harvey and Wade Miller, were injured and were more of the "project" variety. Others, like Ramon Ortiz and Ryan Franklin, had fallen on hard times but had the potential to make a comeback.
The guy I wanted the most, however, was Eric Byrnes.
Byrnes, then 29, had a difficult 2005 season, splitting time between the Oakland A's, Colorado Rockies, and Baltimore Orioles. He played so poorly that the Orioles, themselves bereft of any depth in outfield talent, released him at the end of the season. Now, don't get me wrong; Byrnes is no all-star. His OBP is pretty low and he tends to strikeout in bunches, but he certainly falls in the "able to comeback" category. The Nationals were chocked full of outfielders at the time (Jose Guillen, Ryan Church, Marlon Anderson, Alfonso Soriano), but Jim Bowden could have signed Byrnes and traded some of the outfield surplus for more pitching (remember, as Jimbo says, "you can never have too much pitching!"). Bowden, like the rest of the league, probably believed that Byrnes best days were behind him. The only job he could find was with the Arizona Diamondbacks -- he would be given the "opportunity" to compete for a starting job.
Going into the last month of the season, Byrnes is on pace to hit .278 with 25 homers, 75 RBI's, and 23 stolen bases. Oh sure, his OBP is still kind of low, and he still strikes out in bunches, but he would have answered the team's year long problem in center field.
Hey Jim, you should have listened to me -- you gotta read The Beltway Boys more often. Of course ** cough cough **, I also demanded that you sign Ramon Ortiz.
Never mind, Jim. Forget what I said.