SAME TIME LAST YEAR
[December 6th] -- Things have been so slow that I don't really have anything to report, save perhaps a story that new Nationals' manager Manny Acta thinks the team can have a winning season next year. I don't want to go there just yet.
Instead, I thought it might be interesting to see what I wrote on Wednesday of last year's winter meetings. It goes without saying that we had things to talk about this time last year.
NOTE: I'll be updating on this post all day. You'll find them below.
Well, you've got to give Nationals GM Jim Bowden an 'E' for effort.
After being constantly rebuked by the free agent class of 2005, Bowden is trying to pull off what would be considered a "blockbuster" trade with the Texas Rangers. He's close, but it's not done yet. The Rangers are willing to trade Alfonso Soriano to the Nats for Brad Wilkerson and either Luis Ayala, Colin Balester or Kory Casto. Bowden is balking at adding one of those players to complete the trade.
Soriano is a leadoff hitter with power [sounds like Wilkerson, doesn't it?] In 2005, he hit .268 with 36 homers and 104 RBI's. According to team sources, Soriano would play leftfield for the Nationals, making both Ryan Church and Terrmel Sledge expendible. That's too bad. I'd much rather jettison the aging and oft injured Jose Vidro and let who ever is left from the troika of Church, Sledge and Marlon Byrd patrol Frank Howard's old position.
Why this trade makes sense: Soriano would become the premiere power hitter on the club, and provide speed that the Nationals sorely lack. Problems with this trade: The 29 year old had a miserable .309 on base percent last year. Having him hit lat the top of the order makes no sense. He needs to be batting third, protecting Jose Guillen.
In another surprising move, Bowden was ready to send Ryan Church, Jamie Carroll and [probably] Mike Hinkley to the Arizona Diamondbacks for former Expo Javier Vasquez. Some in the organization believed the deal was done, only to have the Diamondbacks suddenly turn a cold shoulder towards the Nats. It's a dead deal as of this moment. I'm happy this one didn't pan out. Vasquez is going to cost the team twice what Esteban Loiaza is making with numbers a little bit below the former Nat. Church is thiiiiiiis close to a breakout year, and I'd much rather that occur at RFK and not the BOB, or whatever they're calling it these days.
Javier Vasquez had 11-12, 4.84 record for Arizona and the Chicago White Sox. Not great, but considering what the Nationals got out of Church, and the fact that they sold Jamie Carroll to Colorado and that Mike Hinkley had another unproductive year in the minors, it might not have been a bad trade had it occurred.
Update @ 10:00: Have you noticed that in virtually every interview given by Jim Bowden, Stan Kasten and Manny Acta, "the plan" is mentioned in some form or variety? This from Bowden: "We talked to nine teams today," general manager Jim Bowden said. "We are making progress on some fronts and not making progress in other fronts. The free-agent signings have certainly made our plan even more valid. It's creating more of a trade market -- at least for discussions -- because of the incredible free-agent market. I never seen this many bad signings in my entire career."
The "plan" seems to be some living, breathing organism, fully sentient and able to adjust and adapt as things change around it. It likely lives in a glass container somewhere in a scientist's lair with electrodes and wires attached to it. The "plan" is a mantra, something that the troika bows to, prays to, and harmonizes their effusive love-songs towards each and every morning. "Har-me-0 noren-gek-e-o" they chant to "the plan."
They need to be very careful. Idol worship can create unforseen problems. "The Plan" may turn from innocent goal for the future to an unbending, unyielding monolith that is so static in it's composition that change of any kind is eschewed as both unwarranted and unwise. Barry Zito's agent might walk up to Bowden and say, "We'll take a 3 year, $2o million dollar deal right now." Bowden's eyes would glaze over, his chin would begin to jerk uncontrollably and he would say in a voice both stacatto-like and monotone, "I'm sorry -- but the plan -- doesn't provide -- for that -- contract format."
Yeah, that's a little over the top, but man, they need to stop "talking" about "the plan" and just follow it. We don't need to be reminded that it's in place. We don't have any starting pitchers. That's proof enough for me.
Plans are what we have for summer vacation. Visions are what we hold for the future.
Update @ 2:00: Another one of those "whoo boy" contracts were announced a few minutes ago. Jason Schmidt, 11-9, 3.56 in 2006, signed a three year/$47 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers (almost $16 million a year). Schmidt, 33, has a career record of 127-90. He's averaged 12 baserunners and 8 strikeouts per 9 innings over his career. Is that worth $16 million? John Patterson, on the other hand, who still has to look for loose change in his couch cushions, averages 12 baserunners and 9 strikeouts per 9. Schmidt is a good pitcher, but he's not that good.
One can only image the type of "green" headed Barry Zito's way ....
Brian Bannister to K.C: The Mets traded Brian Bannister to the Royals for closer Ambiorix Burgos. Burgos is 21, and talented, but had only a so-so 4-5, 5.52 record in 2006. He did have 18 saves, but he also gave up a whopping 15 baserunners per 9 innings pitched. Bannister, 25, has a career 41-26, 3.21 minor league record, and pitched well in his starts with the Mets.
From what I can tell, the Mets gave up a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter for a closer with an upside that hasn't been proven yet. It makes me think that the Nationals could have gotten him for someone far less valuable than Cordero, say Jon Rauch and or any number of other relievers.