Didn't Make the Paper: Trade Aftermath
Though the official, $.35-edition account of yesterday's trade is here, I have a ton of stuff left over in my notebook.
Let's start with a scout, one who spends a lot of time covering the NL East. He called it a "good baseball trade," which is not exactly how most Mets fans seem to be taking it. But here's one pro's take.
"I'm surprised they got two quality players for Milledge," he said of the Mets. "I mean, it's not anything to do with his ability. But Schneider and Church, they're good players. They're established big league players. This guy is still not established. I think the Mets did well, but I think Milledge should do well in Washington."
I asked him to assess Milledge. "What he's going to provide for Washington is he's occasionally going to juice a ball. I think he's going to be like Aaron Rowand before the breakout this year. He's not a 30-homer guy. He's not a real small-ball type guy, because he's not a true base stealer. He's got speed. He's athletic for sure.
"I'll tell you this: I was his harshest critic coming into this year. But he played his [butt] off as far as effort. I think that Manny Acta is probably exactly what he needs, plus getting out of New York."
Again, just one man's take. I'll rustle up some more scouts and evaluators at the meetings.
Let's hear, too, from Milledge. The kid seemed genuinely pleased to be traded. It's clear all the stuff that happened up there - from the expectations to the high-fives after the first homer to the ill-advised rap song - weighed on him.
"I'm very excited to be with you guys," Milledge said after a Nationals' official introduced him on a teleconference. "Especially to be with Jim. Jim has been following me now for, I believe about six years now. He's seen me play in high school and he's seen me develop as a minor league player and also as a major league player. I can't thank him enough for giving me this opportunity."
A comment that would do nothing to dispel the notion that Milledge is precisely Bowden's type of player.
I asked Milledge if playing sporadically - and even going back and forth to the minors - affected Milledge at all.
"I wouldn't say it affected my performance, because when it's all said and done, I had the opportunity to play. I can't make excuses for that. I couldn't make excuses for hitting .241 my first year, but what I can say is I can say it would be a little bit more comfortable and good to know that I'm going to get some playing time and they're just going to let me play. That's the most important thing."
As I wrote in the story, Milledge believes he is a center fielder. Manny Acta and Bowden were very non-committal about all this, but it seems the most sensible lineup would be Wily-Mo Pena in left (where he was better than I expected last year), Milledge in center (I talked to another baseball person yesterday who didn't think Milledge would fare well in center), and Austin Kearns in right.
Back to Milledge. Being dogged in New York was clearly weighing on him. "It's a real big relief for me and my family and everybody," he said of the trade.
"I really didn't get enough time to show what I can do," he said. "The little bit of things I did this year, I really think I can do a lot more and a lot for my team and for the Nationals. Saying that, I'm really relieved that I can get an opportunity to play. I still have to go out there and I still have to play. I still have to go out and I have to win a position. But it is a big relief knowing there's someone behind you, with Manny. I know he wants me to play."
OK, moving on. Manny Acta did a lot of defending of Milledge's character. Take, for instance, the high-fiving fans after his first home run. He was criticized by teammates and some in the media for perceived show-boating.
"Let me tell you, a lot of those things, it depends on who does it," Acta said. He basically indicated that if it was a more veteran player who had done that, it would have been overlooked. "A lot of you guys want us to be fan friendly, but if you do shake somebody's hand, then it's taken the wrong way. I just thought he was a young kid. He was just excited."
Bowden clearly feels good about the deal. He was very careful to praise both Schneider and Church. But he described Milledge as a "building block," and my guess is that he's working right now to try to acquire other blocks.
Oh, I also talked to Schneider for a while yesterday. He was on a long weekend with his wife in Napa Valley, a surprise gift to her, leaving his young daughter back at home in Florida. He definitely had mixed emotions. He had talked to Nick Johnson and was fielding tons of text messages from teammates - Shawn Hill, Matt Chico, etc.
"I love Washington, and I love the fans there," Schneider said.
But he also realizes that this could give him an opportunity to play for a championship much sooner than had he remained in Washington.
"Obviously, it's a great team. I'm excited to work with the whole pitching staff. When you sit there and you're the catcher, it's a pretty impressive lineup they've got going there." Asked about the opportunity to win, he said, "It's very exciting. That's the first thing I thought about right away, when there are rumors. 'Well, if you get traded, it's a huge market and a great team.' You become a playoff contender right away, one of the favorites in the division."
I'll do a post on the catching situation as we head to the meetings. The other potential problem - and I'll address this, too, even though some of you have already touched on it - is the right-handed nature of the lineup. There are switch-hitters in Lopez, Guzman and Dmitri Young, and Nick Johnson - should he be healthy - hits from the left side. But the guts of the order is right-handed, from Ryan Zimmerman to Kearns to Milledge to Pena to Ronnie Belliard (when he's in there) to Jesus Flores (if he is the starting catcher).
We'll discuss all that further. But first, let's re-set the 40-man roster as we head into the winter meetings. By my count, there's 37 players here, so they have plenty of room to maneuver without facing any difficult roster decisions.
This does not include the apparent return of Ray King, which was first reported by The Denver Post. King, a lefty reliever, is agreeing to a non-guaranteed $850,000 deal, so he wouldn't show up on the 40-man unless he makes the team in the spring (which, one would think, you would).
Jonathan Albaladejo (RH, reliever)
Luis Ayala (RH, reliever)
Jason Bergmann (RH, starter)
Matt Chico (LH, starter)
Jesus Colome (RH, reliever)
Chad Cordero (RH, reliever)
Ross Detwiler (LH, starter)
Enrique Gonzalez (RH, starter)
Joel Hanrahan (RH, starter)
Shawn Hill (RH, starter)
Justin Jones (LH, starter)
John Lannan (LH, starter)
Garrett Mock (RH, starter)
Mike O'Connor (LH, starter)
John Patterson (RH, starter)
Jon Rauch (RH, reliever)
Tim Redding (RH, starter)
Saul Rivera (RH, reliever)
Chris Schroder (RH, reliever)
Billy Traber (LH, reliever)
Ryan Wagner (RH, reliever)
Wily Mo Pena
Chew on all that. As I mentioned, Sheinin and I will be on the ground in Nashville beginning tomorrow. We'll check in early and often from there.
December 1, 2007; 2:04 PM ET
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