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Kasten Expects Heavy Trade Talk

Washington President Stan Kasten today called it "likely" that his team could add a new face before the end of spring training, a byproduct of Washington's surplus at first base and in the outfield.

"I'm sure we're gonna be having talks with everyone," Kasten said. "It's also an extra-long spring training this year, so that means just one more week of that kind of talk among teams and GMs. So it's certainly possible. I don't know that signings will happen; I wouldn't rule it out, but I don't know that is going to happen. But I would expect heavy trade talk between now and opening day."

First baseman Nick Johnson, if healthy, represents the most likely trade candidate. Last week's acquisition of Adam Dunn gives the Nationals several possibilities, though. If Johnson plays first base, Dunn will play left field. If Johnson is traded, Dunn can play first, and Washington can settle the corner outfield spots from a mix that includes Elijah Dukes, Josh Willingham and Austin Kearns.

If you enjoy reading way too far into the early signals from camp... well, the messages are mixed about Dunn's position. When the team broke into positions on Thursday -- outfielders on one field, infielders on another -- Dunn went with the outfielders. But today, during a pop-up/fly-ball drill that included players at every position on the diamond, Dunn was at first base.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 20, 2009; 5:33 PM ET
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Next: Why The Timing Makes Sense For Zim


Who CAN we trade?

Nobody is going to want AK or DY. Trading NJ would be a classic case of buy high, sell low. The only one possible is Willingham?

Posted by: swang30 | February 20, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Newposted, but this time with better math skillz.
Not to be an apologist or anything, but:

"with issues such as Smiley/Frownie, the long wait time for a Zimm deal, the on-going rehabilitation of guys like Elijah and Dmitri before him, and a GM purportedly the lapdog of stingy owners, the road to acceptance must be that much harder."

1) Frownie was supposed to be checked by MLB and was good enough to get by them twice. I don't know if Rijo was in on it or not (I suspect not) but it's certainly not something you can pin on the Lerners.

2) For Zim, it takes 2 to party. I think that the Markakis deal DID affect the signing of the long term deal, and I'm in the camp that thinks Zim SHOULD wait out the year. Why would he sign now?

3) Rehabilitations, I like how both ED and DY turned their life around. I think the contract to DY was fine. Certainly, having a brother who has Type I diabetes, I can appreciate how diabetes and the associated weight gain can sneak up on you. ED hasn't done anything bad since joining, and looks to be stabilizing at least. Why wouldn't fans want to support an organization trying to do good by its players?

4) GMs being a lapdog of the owners. Umm, who else are they supposed to be lapdogs of? Last time I checked, GMs have a fiduciary responsibility to the owners of any company.

5) Stingy owners - I was willing to wait and see, I thought that they were willing to open their purses last year for a bunch of stop gaps, and I don't think the draft problems was entirely the owners fault. I liked how they were willing to spend on Tex, and how they got Dunn. I don't see, at this point, "stingy" owners. Maybe monetarily inefficient owners, but that's just experience...

Posted by: swang30 | February 20, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Depending on how NJ does in spring training, it may not be sell low at all.

Given that his fragility could kick in at ... well, any point, some other team closer to contending may be willing to take the risk and give us something of value for him. Agreed that we certainly lose something if he stays healthy all year and performs well, but if we get something of value in return (like a legitimate infield prospect), I think we have to make that trade.

Seems to me that there's generally no such thing as a pain-free trade when you're involving high-value players or prospects, because it hurts each team a bit (although hopefully in respective areas of strength or depth) in order to bite the bullet and move ahead. That being said, if you had to stomach the loss of one player with a prospect of decent return, it'd have to be Nick. Willingham is moderately healthier and provides far more defensive flexibility than Nick for our roster.

Posted by: faNATic | February 20, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

DO NOT trade Nicky. I can't stress this strongly enough. The Nats are twice as good an offense if he's in there, and the defense is exponentially better. With Nicky in there, Zimm might be a Gold Glover. Without him, there will be all sorts of "wild" throws.

Nick Johnson, if he's healthy, is entering his peak years. Do NOT trade him.

Posted by: fischy | February 20, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Given the savvy of the Nats FO and their past history of shrewdness, I'd expect them to trade NJ ... for another corner outfielder.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | February 20, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

swang30, Dmitri is actually Type II diabetic, but yea, you make a good point.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 20, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

If this is going to be another typical year under "Trader Jim", look for our percieved excess (1B/LF/RF) to be churned (yes, churned like butter) into gaps, with Slick, Willingham, & some others being shipped for a glut of "craptastic" players/prospects in the bullpen, 3B & CF or SS.
It's like watching a dog chasing his tail, in some respects; Amusing the first time, but it gets old fast.

Posted by: BinM | February 20, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

[from previous thread]

Hi swang30,

... don't get me wrong. I don't disagree with your assessment of the specific Nats' issues I listed. I think it is a very good thing when teams give players, down on their luck, a second chance (and I'm glad we did it for Dmitri and Elijah); I think that there are many teams and team players who find themselves in contract disputes and hard negotiations (such as what we are led to believe is the case with Zimmerman); MLB has clearly stated that situations such as the one involving Alvarez/Gonzalez are common around the league. None of those things are peculiar to the Nationals.

... now the case of Jim Bowden is different, IMNSHO. From what I've read (and therefore from what a great many other fans without access to the inner workings of the team have read), he has made a name for himself as someone who has gone to great lengths to ingratiate himself with the Lerners. Who can say how those efforts have played out.

... my point was not that the things I listed were negative in themselves, but that they provide much fodder for anyone who wants to use them to denounce the Nationals; to claim the team is a laughing stock instead of the credible team it really is

Posted by: natscanreduxit | February 20, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

... Nick has either a reputation as being fragile or he doesn't; his reputation precedes him to other teams or it doesn't.

- If he is perceived as injury prone, then we might not get a good return for him, if at all, so we'd be better off to keep him and have a 50-50 chance of a full season with lots of offense.

- If he isn't known as a physical risk to other teams, then we could trade him with sufficient recompense. The only risk there might come into play if he actually does get injured with the Nats on the hook for it somehow.

... seems clear to me that if we have a chance to trade him with a good return we should do it. Otherwise we only have half a chance at getting a full season from him.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | February 20, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Dunn, Milledge, Dukes, Willingham, Kearns, Harris, Pena, Maxwell, Bernadina, Patterson, Davis, and Langerhans in the outfield plus Johnson and Young at first. At most only 8 of those can make the roster and possibly as few as 6.

So when the Nats consider who they have to trade, they don't have a quantity of quality, but they do have quantity. Of course, trades won't necessarily produce major league starters either. For my own amusement I'm giving odds of being traded as follows:

Bernadina 20:1
Pena 50:1
Johnson 100:1
Maxwell 100:1
Belliard 100:1
Davis 100:1
Dukes 200:1
Willingham 200:1
Harris 200:1
Kearns 500:1
Milledge 500:1

Posted by: natbiscuit | February 20, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse


Make no argument to the contrary, N. "Slick" Johnson IS physically fragile; his career #'s prove it. He'll maintain a low trade value unless a team becomes desparate before the trade deadline; then, and only then, does he gain value.
My worst fear for the current team is that JimBow is allowed to swap players like "Slick" Johnson, Willingham, and additional OF's / minor-league 1B & SP for a slew of MI prospects, bullpen "plug-ins", and a CF.
His historic trading pattern seems to take a perceived strength & over-trade it to plug a hole somewhere else.

Posted by: BinM | February 20, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

"Kasten Expects Heavy Trade Talk"

Everyone expects talk, who expects action?

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 20, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Kearns and Wily Mo can't start on this team, but based on their salaries probably aren't tradeable either along with DYoung.

Best to wait for July 31st and see who is in need where the Nats can get some prospects.

I like the idea of Nick at 1st and Dunn in left and we will see if Nick can stay healthy.

Use Willingham as 1st backup against the lefty pitchers either in LF or 1B.

With any luck, the Nats will have a couple of the back-ups step up.

I have to say 1 positive comment amount Bowden (so far), he hasn't gone after the dredges like LoDuca or JEstrada. That may be my favorite thing in the off-season!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 20, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse


That's some high initial odds, based on current salary/age/health levels. First of all, Langerhans, Patterson, & Dameat are all ST invitees & not on the 40-man; I do see that you excluded them from your odds chart - good. Secondly, Belliard only played 1B last year because the only other healthy option at the time was Casto.

That having been said, here's my response to your initial "tote-sheet".

Belliard [34y.o.-2B,3B;$1.9m] - 8:1
Bernadina [25y.o.-OF;$0.4M+/-] - 15:1
Willingham [30y.o.-LF/1B;$2.95M] - 20:1
Johnson [31y.o.-1B/DH;$5.5M] - 20:1
Davis [26y.o.-LF/3B;$0.4M] - 25:1
Maxwell [26y.o.-OF;$0.4M+/-] - 25:1
Pena [27y.o.-OF;$2.0M] - 30:1
Milledge [24y.o.-CF/LF;$0.45M+] - 50:1
Dukes [24y.o.-OF;$0.44M+] - 75:1
Harris [30y.o.-UTIL;$1.5M+$1.5M] - 100:1
Kearns [29y.o.-OF;$8M+option] 200:1

Posted by: BinM | February 20, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse


No, rather than focusing on ML-experienced Catchers, JimBow gathered bodies: Willingham & Dunn at LF/1B, and minor-league players (Molina & Valentin @ catcher, Whitney & Eldred @ 1B, Cintron, Castillo & Orr in the IF, and Patterson, Vento, & Langerhans in the OF).

Posted by: BinM | February 20, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Look, I *heart* nick johnson. I do. My favorite nats memories include him dropping all those doubles down the right-field line during our 10-game win streak in 2005.

BUT: do you really want to be counting on him during a pennant race? Really? How can you really see him as the lynchpin of a contender?

It pains me to say that, but I just don't see it any other way.

Posted by: Section406 | February 20, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

I have no prob with Flores and Nieves as the pickins for catcher weren't great. Like I said, at least no LoPuca or Jest-rada.

Valentin didn't cost much and the rest also didn't cost much so I guess it is for the push for Syracuse to win the AAA Championship.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 20, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

1a, we got another Yogi award nominee. Quote from Milledge on Obama:

"We are living through history right now"

Posted by: NatsNut | February 20, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

now that is funny.

Posted by: longterm | February 20, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

For top tier contenders, Nick would be a nice frill. Not someone to count one, but good bench depth in case a Carlos Pena or whoever goes down. He'd fit well with the Angels. For a marginal contender, like the As or the Rangers (Davis to 3d), Nick is a nice gamble. He's a one year $5m commitment.

While for one year, I'd like to see Nick out there every day, I'm thinking that it would be less costly in the long run to part with Nick than Willingham. After this year, the so called surplus of corner Of and 1st basemen disappears. Kearns and Nick are both gone. The 2010 lineup for now would have Dunn at 1st and Willingham - Milledge - Dukes at LF-CF-RF. Maxwell could press for time, but Hood is to far away and Burgess would need a good year to get into a position to challenge next year for playing time out of Spring training. So while both Willingham and Nick are both tradeable in the right deal, Nick would be less costly to move in the long run.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 20, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

heh, heh. some other Yogi nominees from the Bog earlier this week:


"I don't do anything different, I just stopped eating what I used to eat,"

"I can never forget what I did, because I'm always remembering."

I think we have some budding Yogis in the clubhouse!

Posted by: frog7694 | February 19, 2009 4:27 PM

"It was like I was a National the entire time I wasn't."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 19, 2009 5:04 PM

Posted by: NatsNut | February 20, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Anyone heard any rumors of FA's or trade possibilities the Nats are targeting? (I have not.)

Posted by: kjm1971 | February 21, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

That's good, too, NatsNut.


Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 21, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Nick Johnson is worth much to the Nats, when you consider his OBP and defense. Think of all the stops he made from errant infield throws that would have gone into the dugout with lesser first basemen. However, $5 million is a lot to these Nats, so they may unload him for lesser value than his true worth to the team.

Are the Nats "stingy"? Fans and even some Post writers think the Dunn signing "resolved" that question. But if you look at the following site, every club I checked (I didn't check them all) has players with contracts more than $20 million. So the Nats must still prove they are willing to invest, sign their draft picks, trade for players who have decent contracts, etc. Hope they do!

Click on the teams in the left side of the site to see player contracts.

Posted by: EdDC | February 21, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

... jca-CrystalCity suggested, as others have earlier: "Willingham - Milledge - Dukes at LF-CF-RF"

... does anyone know if Elijah has the arm for RF? Does anyone have any good info on who - AK, someone else - has the best RF arm on the team?

Posted by: natscanreduxit | February 21, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Funny quotes are better than armchair GM, but I have no funny quotes to contribute. So I'll talk about Nick Johnson (whom, by the way, I heart as well).

Here's the way I think about Slick: he's a risk (and yes, every team agrees). For the Nats, the potential benefit if the risk pays off is a .500 season. For a better team, contemplating trading a player named Prospect for Johnson, the potential benefit is making the playoffs.

So for both teams, the downside risk is the same: you don't have Nick Johnson, and you also don't have Prospect. But the potential reward is greater for the other team. That's why he *could* be traded.

(Here's where the talks could fail: the teams in question put different probabilities on Johnson getting hurt; or the GMs' risk aversion doesn't jibe. Those would be perfectly rational reasons for a deal not to happen.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | February 21, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

With the glut of Nats outfielders and their weakness at 2B and with the Dodgers' signing of Orlando Hudson and their weakness in left field (Juan Pierre), a trade of one of the outfielders (Willingham?) for the now out-of-a-job Blake DeWitt makes a lot of sense for both teams.

Provided the Dodgers don't sign Manny, of course.

Posted by: DougHerbert | February 21, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse


Your article from today is a bit confusing on Zim's incentive clauses, since it mentions both plate appearances and at-bats. Are the contractual incentives tied to at-bats, as the article stated, or instead to plate appearances??? I'd be surprised to see Bowden create a contractual disincentive for Ryan to draw some walks.

"The incentives were tied purely to plate appearances -- i.e., health. If Zimmerman reaches 500 at-bats in 2009, he'll earn $75,000. If he reaches 550 at-bats, he'll earn another $50,000. If he reaches 600 at-bats, he'll earn a final $50,000."

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | February 21, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Dukes have the ARM?????

Did you miss the season last year? He has the best arm on the team and likely in the top 5 in can he stay our of trouble and not be a problem in the clubhouse and with Manny....that is the question, but yes he has the arm for RF.

Posted by: JayBeee | February 21, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Here's a fun link for ya, natscan:

The upshot is that Austin Kearns did pretty poorly last year at holding and throwing out runners, but has done very well in the past when his shoulder wasn't hurt. Elijah Dukes compared well (about average) to other major-league right fielders.

So yes, Dukes has the arm. JayBeee's observations are borne out.

Posted by: Scooter_ | February 21, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Okay, hang on. I just looked at the list of baseball resources on the left-hand side. (Superb addition.) I'm fairly certain it's a violation of federal law to list baseball resources and NOT include I know one can't list everything, but ... I mean, honestly. b-r (with fangraphs posing a strong challenge) is the #1 place to go for stats and such. No?

(Plus, Hardball Times should have an S on the end, I believe.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | February 21, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

If you disagree, let me know in the new post.

Posted by: Scooter_ | February 21, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

jdschultz50 - do we need corner outfielders, or could we use some more middling infielders? Maybe JB could get one of each!!

Posted by: 1of9000 | February 21, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I'm not in the new post yet, having been away all day and still catching up, but I agree that should be represented (I also like the baseball almanac site).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 21, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

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