I’m a realist.
The Nats are not going to catch the Braves for the NL Wild Card. Given that situation, I believe the team needs to cash in on its expiring veterans and trade them. Some of our vets should go before the 7/31 non-waiver deadline, others probably would pass through waivers (as Cristian Guzman did in 2010) and could be moved for low-level prospects closer to the end of the season.
That being said, as a follower of the minor league rotations and as a fan looking forward to the future of this team, I’d rather see our prospects and “what-ifs” now instead of following guys as they play out the string in August and September. Here’s a list of moves I’d like to see and who should replace them.
- Jason Marquis. We trade him for whatever he can get and we shoudn’t get too hung up on his return value. According to mlbtraderumor’s estimates of the current Elias rankings, Marquis isn’t even close to being a type-B free agent, thus he nets us no comp picks at the end of the season if/when he signs elsewhere. We should trade Marquis and immediately make room in the rotation for one Chien-Ming Wang, who makes (presumably) his last rehab start today 7/24 and needs to immediately come up and join the 25-man roster.
- Livan Hernandez. Some say we keep the old veteran, and I can certainly see that argument. However, his up-and-down season has frustrated many, and we’ve got a starter in Ross Detwiler who could/should immediately take his rotation spot. Hernandez, according to the above Elias rankings, believe it or not is right on the cusp of type-B status, which could net a supplemental first rounder for whoever has him at the end of the season. But that’s a risky proposition; odds are he’d accept arbitration and the guaranteed payday from the offering team, negating the possible comp pick.
- Laynce Nix: the slugging left fielder has been a great find for this team, going from minor league signee to starting left fielder. But, there isn’t going to be room for him in 2012, with LaRoche coming back and Morse likely moving back to left field. We could keep the outfielder as a 4th, but a player like Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina makes more sense as a 4th outfielder since they can play all three OF positions and have decent speed on the basepaths. We should trade him now while his value is high. This is complicated lately by his achilles tendon injury, so the odds are that he’s staying put. Another point against; if Nix goes, who replaces him on the roster? We don’t really have a ready-made, deserving AAA outfielder that we could call up. We could bring up Chris Marrero, put him at first and put Morse back in left, a move that doesn’t have any 40-man roster impact.
- Todd Coffey: the middle relief righty has struggled lately but still has value for teams looking for bullpen support. Flip him and bring up the deserving, long toiling and local product Josh Wilkie.
- Ivan Rodriguez: the Giants continue to need catching depth, they love veterans and Pudge would have a likely playoff run with a trade. We could continue with Jesus Flores in a backup role, now that it seems that the word has gotten out that his arm is shot and he’s no longer earning trade value playing full time in AAA. Of course, as we speak Pudge is on the DL so any trade before the deadline is likely off.
- Any one of the rest of our one-year FA backups: Cora, Hairston, Stairs, and Ankiel. All four of these guys likely pass through waivers and would serve as excellent role players for teams on a playoff push. Cora and Hairston could be replaced by Brian Bixler or Steve Lombardozzi easily enough, while Stairs or Ankiel, if moved along with Nix, would probably necessitate the return of a MLB-ready outfielder.
Who do I think we should NOT move, unless we get excellent value coming back?
- Ian Desmond: his name keeps appearing in trade rumors, with conflicting reports. Some say we’re “actively shopping” him, others say that he’s a “core piece” and won’t be moved. We’d be selling low on Desmond, given his precipitous drop in offensive production this year. However, if the team long term wants to move Espinosa to short and make room for the likes of Lombardozzi or (eventually perhaps) Anthony Rendon, then striking while the iron is hot and people are asking for Desmond makes sense.
- Tyler Clippard: I posted on the topic of Clippard’s name appearing in trade rumors earlier this week. My arguments are there in greater detail; we should only move him if we’re “wowed” by the return.
- Drew Storen: can’t see how we’re even considering moving him; he’s under club control through 2015, is a poster child for excellent drafting and quick rise to the majors, and is quickly becoming an excellent closer. He’s 25/28 in save opportunities as a 23-yr old this year; you don’t trade these guys, you build around them.
Anyone else not already mentioned is either untradeable (Werth, LaRoche), untouchable (Zimmermann, Zimmerman, Espinosa, Ramos), or somewhere in the realm of club-control guys (Bernadina, Lannan, Gorzelanny as examples) who aren’t worth as much to other teams as they are to us.
Lastly, here’s some player targets we’ve heard that the Nationals are interested in.
- BJ Upton: Upton is enigmatic to say the least; his numbers put him at a barely greater than average mlb player, but he gets steals and hits for some power and plays a declining CF (don’t believe me? Look at his uzr/150 ratings drop for 4 straight seasons here, culminating with a negative score for 2011 so far). Is he the solution for our leadoff/center field spot? Perhaps. But I don’t want to give up the farm for a guy we’ll only control for one more year (he’s entering his 3rd arbitration year in 2012).
- Michael Bourn: he’s a far lesser version of Upton; far less power but more speed, and 2011 is the first time he’s been above 100 OPS+ in his career. We’d be buying high for sure. Somehow he makes more than Upton in the same 2nd year arbitration situation.
- Colby Rasmus: i’d love to get him, he’d be a monster in center field. He’s young, he produced excellently in 2010, and seems to be perpetually in his manager’s doghouse. The latest rumors though have him going elsewhere, not to the Nats. Plus, I’m not quite sure why the Cards would trade him in the first place; the guy’s making the MLB minimum and batting in the middle of their order.