Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Ask Boswell 12/5/11 edition

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Buehrle after his 2009 perfect game. He'll be even happier with his new $58M contract. Photo Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune.

December 5th edition. Winter meetings are kicking off; I’m expecting a ton of “what-if” trade questions.  Of course, the Redskins also just flushed their season so I’d imagine the chat will be heavy on non-baseball questions.  Of the baseball questions he took, here’s how I’d have answered them.

As always, questions are edited for clarity and I write my own answer prior to reading his.

Q: Why are you so high on BJ Upton when he has only had a .240 average and .320 OBP over the past three years?

A: Because, despite those numbers, which ticked up in 2011, BJ Upton easily the best combination of offensive output and possessing plus defender skills out there to be had.  No, he’s not the prototypical lead-off hitter but he does hit a ton of homers and is inarguably a good player.  Is he the best option out there?  I posited a number of options in this space and Upton was just one of them.  I wouldn’t be upset if we landed him frankly, but kind of hope we go a different direction.  Boswell says that his conversations with Rizzo indicate that the team isn’t pursuing him as a primary option anyway.

Q: What are your guesses as to how the hot stove season pans out for the Nats (asking about Buehrle, Oswalt, Wilson, Fielder, and a lead-off hitter)?

A: I’m guessing the Nats end up with Mark Buehrle and a trade for a totally off-the-radar center fielder/leadoff hitter.  Update: this was written prior to Buehrle taking the Miami money; i’ve got to get these posts out faster before breaking news makes them obsolete :-).  Fielder ends up elsewhere as the Nats stick with LaRoche at 1b and Morse in LF.  Boswell says the Nats are after Buehrle hard, not interested in Fielder, and view Oswalt/Wilson as lesser options.

Q: Could we possibly put together a package to get McCutchen from the Pirates (suggesting Morse, Peacock, Desmond and Flores)?

A: That’s a lot for one starter.  That’s your starting LF, starting SS, backup (but very valuable) C and an up-and-coming SP candidate who we might otherwise be talking about being in the rotation.  Sounds like too much to me.  The Pirates would need to be blown away to give up their best player, and the Nats need to ask themselves if he’s the answer.  He’s a great player no doubt, and fills a very specific need for us (lead-off center fielder), but he leaves other holes.  Boswell thinks that’s a crazy trade, and questions whether the team shouldn’t just wait til 2013.  Here’s a list of 2013 FAs and it does have several intriguing CFs.

Q: Was the Jose Reyes deal a good one?

A: 6yrs, $106M.  Reyes had a clear “contract year” production this year, was hurt a lot.  Lots of pundits think they’ll regret this deal by the time its done.  It also has served the purpose of alienating their primary star Hanley Rodriguez and now he’s asking for a trade.  D’oh!  Maybe that was the point all along.  Boswell thinks the Marlins had to gamble, and they did.

Q: Boz, why are Nats season tix not as discounted as the Wiz? Is it because of the longer number of home games?

A: The Nats spent their first few years gradually increasing ticket prices because they could.  Now they’ve managed to hold the line while the team has been awful … they’re only going to go up.  Supply and Demand; when this team is good, the demand will go up and people will pay more.  Right now people (corporations) have no problem paying what they pay because by and large the current season ticket base will always be there; baseball diehards and expense accounts.

Q: How bright is the National’s future, in comparison to the other 3 pro teams in DC?

A: Hard to denigrate the Caps, who have had the league’s best regular season record 2 years running.  But clearly the Redskins are in a down-mode and the Wizards don’t have the personnel to compete in the modern NBA.  The Nats had their time in purgatory, got the big name prospects because of it, and now are set to unveil their own superstars for the next 6-8 years.  Boswell agrees for the most part.

Q: How concerned would you be about Fielder’s weight and conditioning, if you were pursuing him as a FA target?

A: Not as concerned as I would be about spending as much or more money on Pujols, who is (at least) 4 years older.  Either way, the contract will be too long and will end up being an albatross at its end (see Howard, Ryan).  Boswell says Prince is a vegetarian.  No way.

Q: 2013 seems to be loaded with great players: Hamels, Cain, Greinke, Haren, Bourn, Hamilton. Do you see the Nats sitting out this offseason to pursue these players next year?

A: Sitting out?  No.  Perhaps biding their time intelligently?  They should.  The SPs alone in 2013 are fantastic.  Boswell thinks the team should be cautious but bide their time to some extent.

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