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REMEMBERING 2005'S FREE AGENT LOSSES (OR GAINS)

[September 5th] -- Esteban Loaiza is the posterboy for owners gone wild.

Thank goodness I just can't picture Mark Lerner on South Beach with a bevy of topless 18 year olds.

It was just two seasons ago that Jim Bowden found Loiaza, then 33, in the baseball version of a Dollar General store. Working for little more than baseball's minimum wage, Loiaza had a fine season for the Nationals, going 12-10, 3.77, making 34 starts and pitching 217 innings. I knew it would cost the team some dough to retain the veteran pitcher -- say two years, $10 million dollars. It wouldn't, however, take any more than that. After all, 2005 was only the third time in ten major league seasons that he had double-digit win totals.

Fugetaboutit.

Two teams, the Giants and Athletics, offered Loiaza a 3 year, $21 million dollar deal (he signed with the Athletics because he was more 'comfortable' in the American League). The contract will expire after next season, when Loiaza is 37 years old.

His first year in Oakland was bad. He was easily the worst starting pitcher for the first few months before settling down a bit. He went 11-9 with a 4.89 ERA. Ramon Ortiz had a similar ERA for the Nationals that year at 1/7th the cost. Loiaza injured his knee early this year and had surgery in June. After a minor league rehab stint, the Athletics gave up on him and placed him on waivers. The Dodgers claimed him after the trading deadline and offered to either give up a prospect or take on Loiaza's remaining salary. The A's opted for the latter.

So what did Loiaza give his employers for $21 million? Thus far, one very-not-so-good year, one year where he'll make no more than eight starts, and next year, well, who knows. He'll be 37 and coming off yet another year shortened by injury.

Not much of a return.

Hector Carrasco is another member the Nationals' 2005 come-out-of-nowhere pitching staff. After a career ERA in the mid fours, Carrasco, then 35, went 5-4, 2.04 as a spot starter and reliever. Though that was his first good year, Bill Stoneman and the Angels signed him to a two year, $6 million dollar deal. He pitched well last year (3.41 ERA), but faded badly in 2007, going 2-1, 6.57 before being waived by the Angels (and picked up as a minor leaguer by the Nats).

Those two pitchers earned a combined $10 million a year and did little to help their teams succeed over the past two years. Next year, Loaiza might, or might not, be around, and Carrasco most certainly will not be.

The Nationals have enough young arms to keep them competitive next year. If, as many have suggested, the team has $30 million so spend, then let it be spent on Adam Dunn and Aaron Rowand, or a combination of other players. Add 60 homers and 200 RBI's to this lineup and the team can contend for a playoff spot.

THIS 'N THAT: Two of the players brought up for a September cup-of-coffee are relative unknowns to Washington fans. Jonathon Abaladejo and Arnie Munoz signed as free agents and both have done a remarkable job in 2007.

Abaladego, 24, is a 6'5" right-hander from San Juan Puerto Rico via Miami Dade Community College. He was drafted in the 34th round by the Giants in 2000 but didn't sign. He was drafted the next year in the 19th round by the Pirates. In seven seasons, Abaladejo has a 36-26, 3.53 record, allowing less than one hit per inning. He has averaged 7 strikeouts per 9 innings while walking an amazing 1.7 batters per 9. This year, Abaladejo went 7-3, 2.87 with just 42 hits allowed in 59 innings.

Munoz is a 25 year old leftie who signed with the White Sox in 1998 as an undrafted free agent. He hails from the Dominican Republic. Munoz is 5'9", 170. He has a 40-39 career record in 9 minor league seasons, also allowing less than one hit per inning. He is a strikeout pitcher, fanning more than one per inning during his career. He is a little wild, however, allowing almost 4 walks per 9 innings. This year, Munoz went 3-1, 2.46.

Hopefully, they will succeed on the mound as well as providing more rest to the already weary arms in the Nationals' bullpen.

Ross Detwiler had a strange line in Sunday's Potomac Nationals' game. Detwiler pitched three innings, allowing just one earned run. He did, however, allow NINE baserunners (6 hits, 3 walks). That works out to three baserunners per inning.

And he gave up just one earned run? Wow.


Comments:
I could not agree with you moremore about using the free agent dough to sign hitters. There is very little in the way of potential free agent pitching out there anyway.
 
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