(editor’s note: its been quiet on nationalsarmrace. Its been a Bad bad week for work, with yours truly finishing up a project and starting a new job next monday. I’ve got some stuff written but its not complete, I’m hoping to get some time this w/e to post. Apologies for radio silence).
In the baseball calendar, the all-star break represents the mid-way point of the season (despite it annually occurring a few games AFTER the 81st game for teams). But for transaction mavens, it also marks the beginning of the pre-waiver wire trade season. The Nationals have enjoyed unexpected success in 2011, playing far above predictions and its unclear to some whether we’re Buyers, Sellers or somewhere in-between. Frankly, we should be thinking of selling no matter what our record. We’re 9 games back of the Wild Card (Atlanta) and they’re a far superior team to us. We need to acknowledge this fact and start cashing in every veteran free agent on a one-year contract that we can.
That means we move every one of this list of players if we can: Jason Marquis (to the pitching starved Yankees or Red Sox perhaps?), Ivan Rodriguez (to the Giants, who need catching depth and love veterans), Jerry Hairston, Rick Ankiel, Todd Coffey (to Texas maybe, who craves bullpen help and has been scouting him), Alex Cora, Livan Hernandez, Laynce Nix and even Matt Stairs. Of course, most of these guys are playing at or below replacement level and are not going anywhere. But some definitely have value. Marquis and Coffey are the two most obvious trade candidates, followed by Pudge.
(Side note: Do I advocate trading Laynce Nix? Yes I do. He’s playing at a high level in-arguably, but there’s no spot for him next year. LaRoche can only play 1st, which pushes Morse back to Left. Nix can’t play anywhere else. He’s too good to be a 4th outfielder and his value is high right now. We should flip him for a prospect now).
Now, in addition to the typical trade candidates mentioned above, we keep reading rumors that list both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen as being tradeable assets. And I can’t quite understand why.
On the one hand, relievers are and should be treated as nearly fungible assets to be used and then discarded when they’re done. I even believe this when it comes to closers, and will cite lots of research done by people like Joe Posnanski about how even with $10M closers MLB teams are winning almost the exact same percentage of games with 3-run leads in the 9th inning now that they did in the 50s before the closer was invented.
However, I completely acknowledge that Clippard is easily our most important reliever, more valuable and better than Storen, and I love the fact that we’re using our best reliever right now in the highest leverage situations instead of letting him sit on his ass waiting for a “save opportunity” while the 5th best guy in your pen tries to get the starter out of bases-loaded, no outs jams in the 6th innings of games (a personal managing pet peeve of mine). Meanwhile Storen is a poster child for our team’s player development and drafting, having signed quickly and risen through the minors to nearly become the first player of his draft class to debut in the majors.
For me though, both Clippard and Storen have one other overriding factor; their contract status. They’re both pre-arbitration guys with lots of years of team control still to come. The absolute best asset in all of baseball is the pre-arbitration pitcher, so i’d have to think this team would need to be completely overblown by a trade offer to consider moving either guy. We control Tyler Clippard THROUGH 2015, Storen even longer. Even with four arbitration years coming Clippard is going to be vastly underpaid as compared to what he’s worth on the open market.
We all know there are certain players that are “un-tradeable.” Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa, Steven Strasburg are names that come to mind on this team. So if some offer came in for Clippard and Storen that was just unbelievable we’d have to consider it of course. But should we be shopping these guys? Absolutely not.