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PATTERSON TRADE RUMORS, LEE LANDS IN HOUSTON

[November 25th] -- There has been much ado about the John Patterson for Lastings Milledge rumor. First, don't forget last year's "done deal" that was to send Terrmel Sledge to the Padres for Dave Roberts. Most of these rumors are just that: rumors. Second, I'm just not sure how I feel about it. Not the "Milledge" part; I'm very certain I don't want him on our team. I want to like the players I root for. No, I'm talking about the possibility of trading John Patterson for -- well -- anybody.

Before we worry about how we would survive without him, remember that we've never really survived with him. In his "breakout" season of 2005, Patterson won only nine games in thirty-one starts. Last year, his second significant career injury limited him to only eight starts, going 1-2, 4.43. Regardless of his potential, Patterson has crafted a very mundane 17-20, 4.09 career record.

Sure, he might remain healthy for the rest of his career and repeat his 2005 success five or six more times. But it's easy to forget that Patterson will be 29 on opening day. From an ability standpoint, he's as good as he's going to be -- another fifty starts might help refine his ability, but it's not going to make him a better pitcher. Patterson is the Nationals "de facto" ace, meaning he's the ace "until proven otherwise." As in he's never proven that he is an ace. Ever.

As much as I enjoy watching the tall Texan pitch, his value is far higher as trade bait than as a member of the starting rotation. Though I don't want Lastings Milledge on the team, I'd be perfectly content to receive two solid prospects in trade for Patterson (and a secondary player or prospect).

Many years ago, I was managing a camera store here in Idaho that was part of a small chain. I moved out here to get away from Ritz Cameras, the giant camera conglomerate based out of Beltsville. I didn't like working for a mega-company, and left to enjoy the relative solitude of the Inermountain West. Years later, my company was bought out by - you guessed it - Ritz Cameras. The point is, they gave me two options. I could continue to make my guaranteed $40,000 a year (big money in Idaho at that time) or take less in guaranteed money with the potential to make much, much more in commissions and bonuses. Trading Patterson is a similar circumstance. The Nationals can keep Patterson and be guaranteed of owning an above average pitcher, or risk trading him for player or players a whole lot better and with a much higher ceiling. Of course, Patterson could become a "stud" elsewhere and the prospects received for him could turn out to be little more than uniform fillers. It's a crap shoot, and I'm not smart enough to know which path is the best choice.

I don't want to trade Chad Cordero or Nick Johnson or Brian Schneider or any of the team's solid players. But who among us really thinks that a 71 win team needs a top closer? And by the time the Nationals emerge from the NL East basement, both Schneider and Johnson will be working on their next contract, probably somewhere else. If the Nationals are going to be a last-place team with or without these players, why not play Larry Broadway or Brandon Harper or Colin Balestar and further the restocking of the farm system by trading some of our pseudo-stars? I'm not suggesting that this should happen, but I do think it would make sense.

The Lerners will - repeat will - sign some significant free agents prior to moving to the new ballpark. If this is a given, it may make sense to trade a few players, get some prospects, and then replace them with parts found on the free agent market next winter.

I dunno. It beats pretending that this team is anywhere close to moving up the ladder anytime soon.

The Carlos Lee Scenario: No scenario, actually; just thought that sounded kind of cool. "Following the "O'Reilly Report" on FOX is "The Carlos Lee Scenario!"

Okay. Back to baseball. Lee signed with the Houston Astros on Friday for six years, $100 million dollars. For you mathematically-challenged readers, that works out to $16.6 million a year, $400,000 per year less than what Alfonso Soriano receives.

Is he worth it?

In 2006, Lee, playing for both Milwaukee and Texas, batted .300-37-116 with 19 stolen bases. He walked 58 times, soft numbers for a power hitter. However, he struck out only 65 times, an incredibly low number for a power hitter. He hits righties and lefties equally, and his offense is similar at home and on the road, and his stats actually get better late in the season. Defensively, he's "barely average" as TSN's scouting report reads.

Let's take a look at his career stats based on a 580 at bat season:

AB: 580 ~ R:91 ~ H:166 ~ 2B:34 ~ 3B:1 ~ HR:28 ~ RBI:99 ~ SB:12 ~ BB:47 ~ K:82 ~ OBP:.340 ~SLG:.495 ~ AVE: .286

That's a really impressive career stat-line, much better than Alfonso Soriano's. But Lee is not an all-around five-tool player and hasn't carried a team on his back very often during his career. Lee is a liability in the outifield, and the NL - at least the last time I checked - doesn't have the DH. None of those individual statistics is worthy of $16.6 million. None of those individual statistics in combination with any other of his statistics is worth $16.6 million. Lee's career .835 OPS isn't anywhere near it should be for a "slugger."

Carlos Lee is a fine player. He's a fine player deserving of $12 million a year. As is always the case, the signing team can blow its resources anyway it sees fit. The problem is, each crazy contract increases the costs for the rest of the teams. I need only mention Gary Matthews Jr. to make my point.


Comments:
You're right, the team is not close to contending anytime soon. But I don't agree that we should just start trading away solid players and fan favorites.

Do you really want this team to end up like the Pittsburgh Pirates, chock full of no-name players in a brand new park? I don't. It's exciting watching Patterson take the mound. It's great watching Johnson bat. And it's positively white-knuckling suspense when Cordero comes in to close. These are the ONLY reasons I'll be at the ballpark in 2007. Take them away, and things get boring real quick.

It's nice to build the team for the future, but Kasten still has a long way to go in terms of creating Nationals fans out of DC area residents. A hideous team of backups and scrubs isn't going to cut it.
 
Milledge can't play the outfield, he doesn't have any power, he strikes out a lot and has a bad attitude. Why would the Nats want him and why are the Mets so interested in dumping him?
 
Brandon, I think Ryan Zimmerman might be the best reason to go to the ball park next year. Farid, I don't think Kasten is going to play the free agent game, not even next year or ever. He is committed to the cheaper approach of growing internally. Regardless of the team's performance this next season, season ticket sales will hold up as fans jockey for seats in the new park. The Nats don't need to win for the first couple of years in the new park because it will be a big draw for awhile. Hence, Kasten is probably looking at 2010 as the timetable for having a competitive team. Maybe this works, maybe it doesn't. The Nats could end up being the Braves of the early 90's or they could end up like the KC Royals of the present day. What we don't need is Bowden making his patented destructive trades. That is what scares me. I would feel a lot more comfortable about the future of this franchise if Bowden wasn't part of it.
 
Brandon and Phil,

1- If the Nationals don't sign some free agents for the new ballpark, they will have lost a great amount of the trust we have offered to them to this point. Their revenue stream will be potent for 2008 -- they could sign guys like Soriano AND Zito and not feel it. To not do so would be indications that the Lerner's are going to be McLatchey-esque, which I don't they think they are.

Trading servicable players for prospects, players who won't help when the team turns solid isn't a bad idea. Playing the kids now so we can tell just who can and can't play this game will hurt the record, but you can't go any deeper than last place. There is no level below last like "really really last" or "incredibly last." I say play Casto and Restovich and Balestar and see what happens.
Up to now, this is the McLatchey scenario.

Here is where the Lerner's will be different:

1)Under this situation, they would be purging players based on age and skill, not payroll.
2)The team will be willing to sign their young stars to long-term, lucrative deals.
3)Free agents will be used only as a fill in to meet specific needs.

I just can't believe that Stan Kasten came on board and bought into the Lerner's vision without first getting cold hard evidence that this was not going to be another Pittsburgh. If the Lerner's turn their back on D.C., the city would turn it's collective back on Lerner property.

And THAT'S the reason having home town ownership is so important. You can stick it to them pretty easy.
 
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