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Acta, Entering 2009

I caught up yesterday with Nats skipper Manny Acta, just back from a family vacation in London. Mostly, we talked about his contract status and hopes entering 2009. You can read the 50-cent version here (41 cents for home delivery!), but for the purposes of the blog, here is the quick synopsis.

It looks like Acta will enter his third year as Nats manager with no job security beyond 2009. The team has an option to extend Acta's current contract through 2010, but so far, there have been no discussions to that end. Much as he can be, Acta sounds OK with that, and is saying the right things.

Acta, on his contract status: "If you need to have three- or four-year deal for somebody to respect you, then they have never respected you before. People respect you because of the way you treat them and the way you act. I believe most players on teams don't even know the contract statuses of their managers...

"I don't have to change the way I am or the way I manage just because I'm on the last year of my contract. I don't think of all that stuff. I'm not the only man in history working on last year of his contract. Especially with how the economy is right now, I would be very selfish or ungrateful if I come out and complain that I don't have a contract for 2010 when 2009 just started. I won't complain about that kind of stuff. I'll give my best every single day.

"I'm not the only man in history working on last year of his contract. Especially with how the economy is right now, I would be very selfish or ungrateful if I come out and complain that I don't have a contract for 2010 when 2009 just started. I won't complain about that kind of stuff. I'll give my best every single day."

By Chico Harlan  |  January 7, 2009; 10:01 AM ET
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grrrr, new posted;

I'm still intrigued by the prospect of signing Dunn, especially if we can get him on a 2-3 year deal (I don't care about dollars, easy not to care when its not your money).

I wonder if they view Dunn as a replacement for Nick or a Left Fielder who can play 1B if/when Nick is out?

I love the idea of Dunn and NJ in the same line-up, but the defensive outfield that would result might negate the offensive gain, especially if they have to use Dukes in CF thus leaving us the Dog's Breakfast of RF options between Kearns/Milledge/Willingham.

IMO the better tact to take, especially with Bradley gone, would be to try to work with Colorado to acquire C. Gonzelez and Kansas City to get K.K.

I've also long advocated trading with Arizona to get Montero as a lefty co-starter with Flores. I think the 2nd catcher is the most underutilized position on most teams 25 man roster and wasting that slot on a spot starter makes no sense. This is especially true if you have an emergency catcher elsewhere on the roster (Willingham in our case) so you can pinch hit the backup catcher instead of having him ride the pine in case the starter gets hurt mid-game.

Dunn and Hudson would be nice in the short term, but Gonzelz, KK & Montero would make this team better long term and I'm willing to watch a young team play poorly as they grow than to watch midling older vets. Better to lose 90+ with youngsters (think last years team post LoDuca/Lopez) then to lose 80+ without the hope and excitement of watching talent mature.

Posted by: estuartj | January 7, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Was the repeat of the last paragraph for emphasis?

Posted by: NatsNut | January 7, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Although it might be the hand this guy was dealt, its not unfair to say that Acta had zero imagination in 2008 when it came to generating situations to manufacturer runs.

In the past Acta has stated; he is not a big fan of stealing bases and bunting to move runners over has not been a priority. Hmmmmm, when you have no one on the team that can hit more then 15-20 HR's and as a team is dead last in almost all offensive categories aren't the little things like bunting, taking deep counts/walking and stealing bases a fundamental way to level out your otherwise anemic offense?

Unless the team gets off to a fast start (pretty long odds when the first month is against the NL East), Acta will be gone by the All-Star break!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | January 7, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

If it took Matt Holliday to get Carlos Gonzalez to begin with, why should we expect Colorado to trade him to the Nationals for a reasonable price now? And not that it matters, but Arizona is on record as saying they won't trade Montero. (they would for the right price, I'm sure). The advantage to signing Dunn and/or Hudson over trading is that you not only add quantifiable major league talent, but you also create surplus that can be used to trade for other needs or add depth. I strongly doubnt that if signed, Dunn will play LF. He will be signed to play 1B. Johnson would get moved.

(I agree that Gonzalez and Montero would be great additions though)

I don't buy the argument (made by some) that signing Hudson would result in blocking a major league ready Anderson Hernandez. First of all, I'm not convinced that he can sustain healthy offensive numbers for a full year and second, I think there is a decent chance that injurries to others will still give him an opportunity to play.

Posted by: natbisquit | January 7, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Hmmmm; they want a full seventy-five cents to let *me* walk away with the print edition. . . .

Posted by: muleboy | January 7, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Back to the post, if Manny goes into the 2nd half of the '09 w/o his option exercised or a new contract he won't be back for '10.

Posted by: pwilly | January 7, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Does Acta want his contract extended? His current salary is at the bottom of the league for managers and the Mets have expressed interest in bringing him to New York, so he'd certainly want a significant raise to re-up for another year after 2009. The Nats need to decide if Manny is their man for the future and pay him market value or let him go now, entering the season with a lame duck manager is not a good option.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | January 7, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

The one area I would really like to see Manny change or improve is his handling of starting pitchers. His philosophy has been to pull a guy so that his starters leave games feeling good about themselves and their efforts. Unfortunately, that causes a heavy dependence on having relievers pitch many of the innings that starters might be able to handle. The bullpen was fried by the ASB last season because Manny often won't let his starters work through possible trouble in the sixth and seventh innings. That's why instead of making a guy like Bergmann a starter, I would make him a long reliever who could maybe pitch three innings at a time twice a week to save the other bullpen guys.

Posted by: leetee1955 | January 7, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"This is especially true if you have an emergency catcher elsewhere on the roster (Willingham in our case) so you can pinch hit the backup catcher instead of having him ride the pine in case the starter gets hurt mid-game."

Why is this even being discussed? Emergency catchers? Please list the instances last year where a starting catcher was inelligible to play and the back-up was injured. The Nats don't have to be cute with the lineup. Starter and back-up, it's that simple.

The day that Acta subs in Willingham as catcher is the day I stop watching the Nats entirely. I've seen enough stupid crap as it is with Flop in LF and LoDuca at 1B. When you think of Willingham, think of Nick Johnson in left field. Why on earth would you take your best power bat, someone who has chronic back problems, and sub them in at catcher? Again, I don't even know why this is being discussed.

Posted by: jctichen | January 7, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse


Wasn't Gonzalez part of a package? Like with Salty to Texas for Teixeira the players value has to be taken as part of the package we was aquired with, not alone. If Colorado traded for Gonzalez straight up their GM would have been run out of town on a rail!

I don't disagree that they Gonzalez and KK might now be available to us at a price we are able to pay, and certainly getting both is exponentially less likely.

As for Montero I'm curious what his cost would be, I have a tough time believing that ARI will rely on Lopez at 2B, but the windo to aquire Montero for Belliard (or packages to that effect) has probably closed.

As another option maybe Salty for some package of Willingham/Milledge/Kearns and a mid level prospect?

I have no idea where Salty's value is at this point or what Texas is thinking, my point is not we should trade X for Y, but that we should be looking at options to aquire young just MLB ready players who are still unproven rather than older vets who have already proven their worth and likely won't be here to win a WS with us.

Posted by: estuartj | January 7, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

you may forget - since he was hurt most of last year, and when he wasn't hurt, he was god-awful at the plate - but Kearns is probably the Nats' best all-around defensive outfielder on the 40-man. Milledge is certainly not great, but would be serviceable in RF, if his hitting improves from last year. Same could probably be said for Willingham, w/o the need to improve his O drastically. But I haven't seen him enough to really comment on his D. Kearns would obviously need to revert to at least his 2007 form, if not his pre-Nats 2006 hitting, to justify starting - or staying on the roster.

Agreed, tho, that putting the best offensive outfield out there (projected as Dunn-Dukes-Willingham/Milledge) is certainly a mediocre to poor defensive one. Willingham-Dukes/Milledge-Kearns isn't bad, as far as Defense goes, IMO, however.

Posted by: TheBorg | January 7, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the heads-up on the Acta story in the dead-tree edition. Somehow I found the Teix piece this a.m. but not that one (guess that my coffee hadn't yet kicked in).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 7, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Gonzalez was part of a package to Colorado that included Huston Street and Greg Smith. But he was an important componant of the trade. I would imagine you would have to part with a young pitcher or two. Balester, Mock, VanAllen, etc... to get him. And therein lies the problem. What's he worth? What are they worth? If Colorado could also dump Helton's $16M/yr contract at the same time, they might be willing to part with Gonzalez. (Side Note: who is more likely to play more games next year Nick Johnson or Todd Helton? And if the play the same number of games who has the better year?)

My previous post regarding Gonzalez was really based on my belief that he's not available for what we should be willing to pay for a player that is already in his third organization in 2 years. There are questions about his work ethic and holes in his swing.

Posted by: natbisquit | January 7, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

It seems likely that if the Nat's could have aquired Gonzalez they would have. They declared interest and met with the Rockies. Felix Pie might be more available, although his talent is more tarnished.

Either way, it seems we aren't going after a center fielder, which is disappointing because Milledge, Gonzalez/Pie, Dukes would be fantastic in the outfield.

Posted by: soundbloke | January 7, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

"Does Acta want his contract extended? His current salary is at the bottom of the league for managers and the Mets have expressed interest in bringing him to New York, so he'd certainly want a significant raise to re-up for another year after 2009."

The Nationals have a team option on Acta's contract for 2010. He can't go to another team after this season unless they decide not to pick up that option. And while he could demand a raise for 2010, it's unlikely he'd get it, unless the team has a first half like they did in 2005 - which we all know ain't gonna happen. More likely the FO is waiting to see how Manny does in the first half of the season before they decide whether or not to pick up his option for 2010. If the team looks to be improving, they won't fire him. And since the speculation about his contract status is likely to be a hot topic until it gets resolved, assuming the team is not totally tanking like it did last year they will probably pick up his option by the All Star break.

Posted by: nunof1 | January 7, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I've heard talk for many years about who the emergency catcher is, and I do think it makes a difference. I think Robert Fick stuck on the team for a long time because he could play catcher in an emergency.

The reason you never hear about the starting Catcher getting hurt and the backup being inelligble is because in 99.9% of cases they won't use the backup catcher as a pinch hitter because then what do you do if the guy behind the plate goes down?

If we even had to have someone catch in a game who had never done it before you'd all be asking for Manny's head on a platter.

So to my original point, IF you have an emergency catcher (like Willingham) you have the option to use Flores as a PH on his days off or can use the backup catcher spot on the roster for someone who can actually hit and contribute by being in 40-50 games as as PH vs only 30 or so games total as the 2nd catcher.

Guess my first run wasn't clear, I would NEVER hope to see Willingham behind home plate unless Flores and Nieves (or Salty or Montero) were in the hospital.

Posted by: estuartj | January 7, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

John Patterson has just retired. That makes me sad. I always hoped that it would eventually work out for him. Ah well.

Also, all this talk of trades has made me hopeful. With the free gents drifting out of reach then the Nat's need make some of these moves happen. KK and Gonzalez work, and maybe desperation will force the Nat's to make it happen.

Posted by: soundbloke | January 7, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I think it's going to be desperation on the other guys sides that makes trades happen, not ours. Our desperation might get us the mojo we need to make the offer that brings Dunn to DC. I honestly don't think Hudson is ever going to happen because of his age, the draft pick we'd give up and the other viable options we have at 2B.

Posted by: estuartj | January 7, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

That would make me very happy. KK and Gonzalez would round off the pot season for me just perfectly. Gonzalez and Dunn, almost as happy.

What combination of Belliard, Kearns, Willingham, Pena (ah, it's good to laugh), pitching prospect makes that happen? I fear none, but we can dream until ST.

Posted by: soundbloke | January 7, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, lookit that new post!

Posted by: Scooter_ | January 7, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

soundbloke, thanks for the news on Patterson. It's always sad to see a career end early, IMO, particularly for a young player with so much potential.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 7, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

One of my fave Nats memories is being at RFK on the day of Patterson's complete game shutout of the Dodgers in August of 2005.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 7, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

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