OH, WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
[October 7th] -- So, I've been looking at the Nationals roster since the end of the season -- I've been looking at their minor league roster since the end of the season, and I've been listening to Stan Kasten say he's not spending any "significant" money in the free agent market this off season, and I see that things aren't looking particularly upbeat for the Nationals these days. Oh, don't get me wrong; things are going to get better, and in a relative hurry. I have little doubt that come 2009, the Nationals, thanks in part to the growing farm system as well as the Lerner's free agent spending spree that will accompany the opening of the new stadium, are going to be very very good.
But the Nationals didn't have to be so bad for so long.
The job of the general manager is to field the best 25 man roster he can while keeping the farm system full of young prospects. Some years will be better than others, and every general manager is going to make a bad trade now and then. The Nationals, sadly, have been decimated by terrible trades by not one general manager, but two.
Omar Minaya, for no apparent reason, believed that the Expos were a pennant contender in the early part of the 21st century and traded a bucket-full of prospects for players who never helped the Expos, and who are no longer here. Pitchers Chris Young and Cliff Lee, infielder Brandon Phillips and outfielders Grady Sizemore and Jason Bay were all traded by Minaya. Lou Collier, Einar Diaz, Rocky Biddle, Jeff Liefler and Orlando Hernandez were the players he either received in return or were received in later trades for those players. Zero. Zip. Bupkis. That's what the team got in return for four all-stars and a player who may be an all-star one day.
Jim Bowden, not to be outdone, traded Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis to the Angels for Jose Guillen. To be fair, it seemed like a steal for the Nationals in 2005. A year later, however, both Rivera and Izturis blossomed and Guillen imploded.
Would you like to have had an outfield of Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore and Austin Kearns with Rivera as the team's fourth outfielder? I sure would. And Phillips could have taken over for Vidro with Izturis serving as the team's utility infielder, significantly increasing the Nationals' depth. And the team's starting rotation, by far the worst in the league, might have looked like John Patterson, Chris Young, Cliff Lee and two of the several prospects the team now has.
I love one-sided trades when they help the Nationals, but man-oh-man, these terrible deals stripped the team of any hope for at least three more years.
Repeat after me, Jimbo: the GM is supposed to help the team .... the GM is supposed to help the team .... the GM is supposed to help the team .....
We're just going to have to wait and see how that plays out.