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Reasons to Retain Willingham

OK, I admit. The timing is a little off. This might have been a better chin-stroking disquisition, say, 24 hours ago -- before those two grand slams and eight RBI. Now, the question of the moment (Should the Nats trade Josh Willingham?) and my thoughts (No, they shouldn't) probably just sound like choir preaching. Just speaking generally here, one day after a two-slam performance, public sentiment about trading said performer probably isn't too favorable.

Willingham, in the final days before Friday's trading deadline, will draw plenty of suitors. But the Nats should not deal the guy unless they're absolutely blown away. In this case, they have all the leverage. This is not some trade-him-or-you-lose-him scenario. Willingham is under club control through 2011. He's arbitration-eligible, but he'll be making less than his value on the open market. And these are his peak performance years. Let's just say -- in the best-case scenario -- that Washington has a chance to contend in 2011. A corner outfielder who hits .285 and gets 25 homers ... and is probably making no more than $6 million ... is definitely worth having around. And the reasons go deeper than that.

Here are a few points about Willingham:

* Yes, he is 30 years old. Doesn't sound like a building-block kind of player. But age is a distraction here. For as long as Washington retains his rights, Willingham will remain in his prime, probably with bargain value. He'll be 32 when he finally hits the free agent market, barring a contract extension. By then, age becomes a part of the conversation. In the meantime, he should be measured by performance and salary. Both of those make him valuable.

* He is below-average defensively, but his versatility helps a bit. Since taking over in right field, Willingham has been steady. Certainly not horrific. UZR is a defensive metric that measures how many runs above or below average a player is. UZR/150 averages that out over 150 games. Having now started in RF in 25 games, Willingham has a UZR/150 of -4.4, just a touch below the 50th percentile. Among the 45 players who've spent at least 150 innings in right, Adam Dunn (-33.9) has the worst UZR/150. Austin Kearns is a -0.9. A team can certainly live with Willingham in RF, particularly if Nyjer Morgan is patrolling center.


* Nick Johnson might be traded before the deadline. Even if he sticks around past July 31, his contract expires at year's end. And right now, the Nats don't have an immediate backup plan at first base. Chris Marrero, the 2006 first-round pick, is probably two years away. So 2010? Though I haven't heard this from anyone in the organization, Willingham might just be the best option. He played there sparingly with Florida. Yeah, he'd be a major downgrade over Johnson, but he'd play the position better than Dunn. And that might give the Nats a final chance to try Elijah Dukes in right field.

* Willingham's numbers this season, if anything, are probably a bit deflated because he needed more than a month to break free from a crowded outfield and become an everyday player. Willingham was hitting .143 entering May. Since May 1, he's batting .326 and slugging .658.

Here's a pretty crazy stat.

I present the MLB leaders in slugging percentage since May 1 (min 175 at-bats)

1. Albert Pujols (STL) -- .692
2. Josh Willingham (WAS) -- .658
3. Prince Fielder (MIL) -- .634
4. Raul Ibañez (PHI) -- .624
5. Derrek Lee (CHC) -- .609

By Chico Harlan  |  July 28, 2009; 12:26 PM ET
 
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Next: Lineups From Miller Park

Comments

Ah, and the excuses for no deadline deals are being prepped.

I think we'll also get more for Dunn so trade him. Johnson needs to go because we won't retain him and his defense is slipping.

But I love how the excuse articles start showing up this time of year.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 28, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if 3 career innings qualifies as playing sparingly, but Dunn is so bad at 1B it might work.

Posted by: sect104 | July 28, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see some reasons to retain Rizzo, given a blurb from SI's Tom Verducci. He claims that Jerry DiPoto is the frontrunner for our GM job.

http://tinyurl.com/kve3cl

Posted by: VelocityAtrocity | July 28, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

"Right. Add Flores to the current line-up and I don't think you're that far away from a .500 team (that has aspirations for a wild card)."

Why trade anyone? ...so long as the kool-aid is flowing...

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 28, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"Willingham, in the final days before Friday's trading deadline, will draw plenty of suitors. But the Nats should not deal the guy unless they're absolutely blown away. In this case, they have all the leverage."

If some other team approaches Rizzo with a proposed blow-him-away deal for Willingham, his only prudent response would be to say "Let me take a little off that price and slide you into a nice little Elijah Dukes instead." Willingham is the kind of character guy you build a team around, while Dukes is the kind of character you want to get rid of. A Willingham in hand is worth two Dukes in the bush (leagues).

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | July 28, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Not sure why i'm in a vindictive place today, but this fan account of a recent AAA game caught my fancy:

"Lamb's single was a bit of a puzzle -- Lamb took a looper into left field, right at Tribe LF Lastings Milledge, who didn't charge in but appeared to freeze in his tracks. The ball bounced a few yards in front of Milledge, who then played the hop and threw it back in to the infield. It turned out that the hit didn't matter, as McCutchen struck out the next batter to end the inning, but it did back up Milledge's own admission that he has a lot to work on here in Indianapolis ...

"Bison starter Lance Broadway held the Indians to two hits and a walk over the first 4 innings. He struck out two in the first inning, including Lastings Milledge. Milledge disagreed with the umpires (two photos) about whether or not he had actually swung, or managed to hold up, on the last strike, and after what seemed to be some words with home plate umpire Lance Barrett, then slammed down his helmet and bat after being called out. At that point, Barrett ejected Milledge."

Posted by: Bethesdangit | July 28, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

To me Willingham is the kind of bargain you keep, not trade. He'll be a solid, middle of the order hitter for a couple of years. Corner OF defense is not all that important.

As we are evaluating the Nats future prospects (meaning performance, not individual players)please keep in mind that there is no way Nyjer Morgan will be as good over the long haul as he has been for the past 25 games. The guy's hitting almost .400 since the trade. He's about due for a 2 for 30 stretch. Don't get me wrong though. I like the guy. His defense won't go in a slump; neither will his speed. I've spent my whole professional life telling young athletes to play multiple sports. I love that he was a pro hockey player. Imagine him coming down the left wing with Ovie. That would be quite a site. Nonetheless, he simply a good piece to the puzzle, not an all-star as he has been this month.

BTW, if Desmond is really a major leaguer as some think, he should bat #2 and Morgan #1. The better power threat should always bat there. I still like Dunn in the #2 hole. Imagine all the fastballs he'd see with Nyjer on first. It's why LaRussa batted Larry Walker 2nd for years.

#4

#4

Posted by: db423 | July 28, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

> I'd like to see some reasons to retain Rizzo, given a blurb from SI's Tom Verducci. He claims that Jerry DiPoto is the frontrunner for our GM job.

Just because they hire someone else as GM doesn't mean that Rizzo is gone. He could slide back into his old asst GM job which is still vacant, or he could even be given a title of VP of baseball operations while the new guy is called the GM. There are a lot of ways this could play out. It's not like the manager job where someone is either in it or they're not.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | July 28, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

After two grand slams, it's time to change Willingham's nickname from Ham Solo to Ham Slam (with apologies to Denny's since it sounds like one of their breakfast specials).

Posted by: UnionStation | July 28, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Willingham will be making aroudn $6 million next due to arbitration. He isn't worth it. he can't play right because he doesn't have the arm, although he read the ball better than he does in left. I'm not sure he can play first either (you really want a left hander). Also, you didn't mention that he has back issues that could flair up anytime. They need to keep Dunn in Left, put Dukes in Right where he belongs and trade Willingham. I would try and sign Johnson to an incentive based contract extension. However, you need to trade Willingham. They should also look into extending Dunn's contract. Willingham has been on fire and it time to sell high.

Posted by: brothbart | July 28, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

@db423: Not to be too harsh but I hope the advice you've spent your professional life giving to young athletes is better than your game management theories. Batting DUNN second? I get the whole thing about seeing fastballs but really? A 6 foot 6, 275-pound 2-hitter? Your Larry Walker reference is more apt for NJ... solid hitter to all fields with a great eye and below average speed. Dunn's not slow; he's a statue.

Posted by: outsider6 | July 28, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I agree with soundbloke about possible excuses for no possible deadline deals by Rizzo. The difference between good teams and bad teams is that bad teams are more easily seduced by sporadic production. They look at what Willingham did last night and think "We've got to hold on to this guy." Good teams leverage sporadic performance in deals with bad teams,

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 28, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

That DiPoto report really doesn't make sense. DiPoto basically has the job that Rizzo had with the D'backs before he came to the Nats. Why prefer him over Rizzo, especially with the way things have been going in Arizona since Rizzo left?

Posted by: sjberke | July 28, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

One thing to keep in mind about trades, and who's hot and not: most GMs (I'd like to say all, but I'm not that naive) aren't as stuck on what-have-you-done-lately as many of us in here. As #4 points out, Nyjer is not a .400 hitter, even though he's hitting ~.400 since he got here. Willingham is a known quantity, and barring injury, will be for a few more years. He'll have good days and bad days (and may he have many more great ones like yesterday), but overall, he's a league-median corner outfielder with good power and a pretty decent average. Apparently, Rizzo thinks he's worth more than one single-A pitching prospect to this team, or he'd have been with the Giants yesterday, and maybe we'd be [complaining] about Dukes having struck out twice with the bases loaded.
His "back problems" are a red herring--nobody's unbreakable, and so far, it's mostly kept him from catching, which they don't need him for.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 28, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

In the end Rizzo said he would make deals that make "baseball sense". So far that is what he has done. I can't seem him doing anything different before or after the deadline.

If a team or teams want these guys and are willing to give up what amounts to future winning teams spanning 5 years or more ... he will probably do it.

So, for no one has been willing to ante up.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

It might be that Rizzo doesn't want to be GM. He may feel more comfortable scounting players etc. than being in a managment position. He might not like being in charge of trades etc.

Posted by: brothbart | July 28, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I think Rizzo wants to be the GM. His problem is that he needs more time than this season to prove it. He may not get it.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"hey need to keep Dunn in Left, put Dukes in Right where he belongs and trade Willingham. I would try and sign Johnson to an incentive based contract extension. However, you need to trade Willingham. They should also look into extending Dunn's contract. Willingham has been on fire and it time to sell high."

"Posted by: brothbart | July 28, 2009 1:18 PM |Report abuse"

I disagree so very very much. Why would you sign a declining, injury prone player to an extension? Nick Johnson, though a good hitter, is a injury time bomb waiting to happen..and he needed to be traded yesterday.

I dont even think Dukes may even belong in the Major Leagues, let alone in our Right Field. He has a terrible attitude, is a poor base runner, poor defender (though with a strong arm, and an absolute head case. And his average, hitting doesnt really make up for all of the above.


While I like Dunn, he is obviously meant to be a DH. He is utterally abysmal in the outfield. Now, he may be even worse at First base...but I think, he needs more time play that pos before a final conclusion is made in that regards....


Now I can go both ways on Willingham, I dont mind if we keep him for as Chico says..he is a good Hitter/ servicable fielder that we have under control for a couple more years at a very cheap price...

At the same time I wouldnt mind if Rizzo made some baller trade with him, because his stock is very very high right now.

Remember what this team really really neeeds, is Bull Pen Help, Middle Infield Help , and some more Bull Pen Help

Posted by: Cartaldo | July 28, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

For those interested in the origin, development and worthiness of pitch counts, there are a block of interesting stories on ESPN.com's baseball home page. I remember when Ted Williams managed the Senators, he had a limit on the amount of pitches he would let his starters throw. Teddy Ballgame also insisted that all of his pitchers throw sliders because they were the hardest oitch for him to hit. All Senators opponents had to do was wait for the slider and then tee off.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 28, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Rizzo is probably working on trying to get Strasburg and Karns into the fold.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Leetee, I think we're saying the same thing, and yet coming to different conclusions on Willingham.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 28, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Sec3

That's what this forum is all about....disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 28, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Arguments are in 11-b. This is "being hit on the head" lessons.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 28, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Rizzo will be back if he isn't named GM. Barry did a piece about him two years ago when he interviewed with Pittsburgh (I believe - and maybe somewhat ironically). He wanted to be a GM then - I suspect that holds true now. There will be other GM openings (Arizona, Mets?) in the offseason and Rizzo will be a candidate for all those jobs unless the Nats make him an offer.
_________________________________
Just because they hire someone else as GM doesn't mean that Rizzo is gone. He could slide back into his old asst GM job which is still vacant, or he could even be given a title of VP of baseball operations while the new guy is called the GM. There are a lot of ways this could play out. It's not like the manager job where someone is either in it or they're not.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome

Posted by: lowcountry | July 28, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

The orthography is making me queasy but this is a good point to add to the macro, and don't forget Roster Depth.

*********
Remember what this team really really neeeds, is Bull Pen Help, Middle Infield Help , and some more Bull Pen Help
Posted by: Cartaldo | July 28, 2009 1:34 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 28, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Sec3

I also remember reading in the now-defunct pulp Baseball Digest about how the Yankees of the 50s used to fleece teams by trading sporadic performers like Irv Noren, Jerry Lumpe and Norm Siebern to second-division teams. What Casey Stengel would do is to play his sporadic producers against pitchers whom he thought they would excel to pump up their value and then get back in trade a lot more than they were worth. Baseball Digest? Yes, I am old.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 28, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Though the 2 GS homers were fun, let's not get carried away. What did JW actually do? He hit two home runs in a game - a nice feat but not all that remarkable. As a batter, he has no control over how many runners are on base. As previous posts show, his BA w RISP is quote low, which explains his low RBI total.

Posted by: mherd1 | July 28, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that they wouldn't keep Rizzo. Why would they have hired him unless it was as a potential GM.

And what has he done to warrent losing the job. Besides not flipping Dunn, Johnson, Guzman, Belliard and Kearns for prospects. Which was a admittedly a tall order to begin with.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 28, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I think I'm with you, soundbloke. So far, Rizzo has done a pretty good on-the-fly patch job on a terrible bullpen, made what looks like a great trade with the Pirates, and started laying down the law to guys like Milledge and Dukes. I think he'd be ticked to lose out to the guy who (I think) replaced him in Arizona.

In the meantime, how does he function with any effectiveness in making trades and negotating with Boras as an "interim" who may not be the frontrunner for the job? Lerners and Kasten, does that make any sense?

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Bullpen help there was ... but a good part of the young "prospects" / "hopefuls" kind of flopped? Hanrahan, Hinckley, the jury isn't back on Bergmann. O'Connor.

There appears to be more "prospect" bullpen types to feed the fire. There are 2-3 in Syracuse, (Wilkie, Zinicola, Novoa, Segovia) 1-2 in Harrisburg (Everts, Spradlin, Alaniz). Advanced A Potomac (Storen, Carr).

Middle infield help in the form of Ian Desmond appears to be just about ready. There's Espinosa in Potomac. Kobernus is on the DL, that's a set back.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

leetee1955, don't be ashamed of your age, as that old country song says. Baseball Digest is well worth remembering. I used to love reading their umpiring quizzes; very tough.

Speaking of the old Yankees, did you ever notice that Whitey ford never won 20 games under Casey Stengel? Supposedly, Casey was in cahoots with the GM and would limit the number of starts his pitchers got so they wouldn't win 20 and use that as a bargaining chip with the team. FWIW, from 1953 to 1960, the Yankees won six pennants and had one 20-game winner total in those years.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

So let's sum up. Our choices are:

1. Trade him now when someone might be interested in him.

2. Let him play for 2 years on last place teams while his skills erode to the point that no one wants him.

Wait, is there really a question here???

Posted by: sbiel2 | July 28, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Slightly OT, but it looks like Bobby Valentine is officially available:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/27/AR2009072700674.html

Posted by: Juan-John | July 28, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I believe the only player we have to deal is Johnson and then maybe Beimel. Like Chico, pointed out, JW has been productive and is young enough to make a difference in the coming years. Dunn's value as a power hitter will be hard to replace, but we just can't have both JW and AD in the same outfield. Johnson, on the other hand, will most likely be gone at the end of the year (and Beimel too). The lineup has produced (especially with Flores) so I don't understand the desire to blow it up.

I also believe that trading an everyday player for relief pitching is crazy. Look how Rauch has worked out, or Majewski, or Bray, or Cordero. They are all bums now.

Whatever trades we make better help out for next year, not three years down the line. I'm tired of watching terrible baseball.

Posted by: sec307 | July 28, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

one less suitor for Nick Johnson - the Giants just picked up Ryan Garko from the Indians to play 1B. i think it will be a big failure for rizzo to not get a worthwhile prospect for Nick since he is as good as gone.

Posted by: DCPowerGator | July 28, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Counter-argument: You may now get MORE for him, and you still aren't winning a WS under his contract, so get some help for the future. 32 may not be pretty with him

http://nationalsreview.wordpress.com/2009/07/28/thatll-help-the-trade-value/

Posted by: CharlieF | July 28, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Just because they haven't removed Rizzo's interim tag and are clearly looking for another guy does not mean they intend to can Rizzo as soon as they hire someone new. Keep in mind that when Bowden left and Rizzo took over his duties, no one was brought on to do Rizzo's old job. They are most likely trying to find the person out there who would bring the most to the organization if hired, and once they find him/her and hire them, they can sort out the titles then. If the new hire is someone more prestigious than Rizzo, then he/she becomes GM or VP or whatever, with Rizzo working under him/her. If it's someone less prestigious than Rizzo, the titles are reversed. Either way you have to figure Rizzo would welcome the addition of someone to take back the additional workload that was thrust upon him when Bowden quit. He also seems to be the prototypical "organization man" who's more concerned with doing the best job possible for his team rather than pumping himself up personally. Bowden used to talk about the name on the front of the jersey being more important than the name on the back. With Bowden that was all just talk, but Rizzo seems like someone who walks the walk rather than just talking the talk.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | July 28, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Prospects are a pipe dream. Productive players need to stay and unproductive players need to go. Pittsburgh will be crying for a long time over Nyjer Morgan. Lastings will never be as good as Morgan......

Posted by: punchdaclock | July 28, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I think a lot of us are still floating on the buzz of last night's game, when I read something like this:

"The lineup has produced (especially with Flores) so I don't understand the desire to blow it up."

The Nats have the worst record in baseball and it's not all because of lousy pitching, fielding and the aura of Manny Acta floating around in the minds of the players. This team somehow is second in the NL in on-base percentage, and ninth in runs. The lineup really hasn't produced that well and it contributes to the bad fielding in the process.

Let's not let a three-game winning streak cloud our vision. Rizzo should be actively seeking a lot of trades and if he gets good offers that enables him to put together a more balanced and effective team, he should take those offers.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"one less suitor for Nick Johnson - the Giants just picked up Ryan Garko from the Indians to play 1B. i think it will be a big failure for rizzo to not get a worthwhile prospect for Nick since he is as good as gone.

Posted by: DCPowerGator | July 28, 2009"

He may re-up. I think that is what Rizzo may be looking at. Again, Nick's injuries have limited his power this year. With some additional strength training in the off season it may return. As someone said prospects are pipe dreams. That's why you collect as many as possible hoping that one or more percolate to the top. Nick is not a pipe dream.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Outsider:

Not harsh, I laughed. Speed for a two hitter's overrated. High OBP with power is ideal. Dunn actually has some SBs in his career. He's not that slow. He actually made a very good baserunning play yesterday on a ball that squirted away from Kendall.

Now I know Dunn will never bat 2 regularly. It's too outside the box for any manager to do. He stats in limited ABs are good though in the 2 hole. I looked it up.

#4

Posted by: db423 | July 28, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

"Let's not let a three-game winning streak cloud our vision. Rizzo should be actively seeking a lot of trades and if he gets good offers that enables him to put together a more balanced and effective team, he should take those offers.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009"

Not letting the desire to trade just for the sake of a trade cloud judgement as well. I'm not sure but I don't think you'd be happy with a trade of Nick for someone else's Hanrahan or Milledge. That **WAS** Bowden's specialty wasn't it?

Rizzo seems far less likely to do that.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Trading Willingham makes no sense. He has above average power, hits for a decent average, and can play corner outfield for a contending team. If the Nats trade him, they will have to find another player just like him to take his place.

The only way a Willingham trade does make sense is if we get a near major league ready OF prospect who projects higher and a solid reliever or other quality arm. Does that seem likely?

I love Dukes' potential, but I am not ready to commit to an outfield of Dunn-Morgan-Dukes as part of a one-day contending Nats team. Keeping Willingham provides both protection and flexibility. Dunn is great for the lineup at the plate, but is a defensive liability. Without Willingham on the team, the Nats HAVE to re-sign him. With Willingham, we can wait and see if Dukes delivers and then decide what to do with Dunn.

And I don't understand the push to trade Johnson at any cost. If you look at the prospects the Pirates and Indians got for LaRoche and Garko, its certainly not anything we would really want or need. I doubt he will draw huge interest in the still-depressed free agent market and there is a decent chance the Nats could re-sign him on a bargain 1 or 2 year deal. If he goes in the off season, he goes, but we shouldn't give him away.

Biemel is the best trade option. He is definitely gone and could bring a power arm prospect in return. Maybe even another 1b prospect to push Marrero.

Posted by: natshopemonger | July 28, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

> This team somehow is second in the NL in on-base percentage, and ninth in runs. The lineup really hasn't produced that well

Yes, but which seems more easy or likely - taking a group of guys who obviously know how to get on base and coaching or training them to do that in RISP situations, or getting rid of them and bringing in new guys who can't even do as good a job of getting on base at all? You can take someone who's a hitter and make them into a good situational hitter, but I wouldn't count on turning a non-hitter into one. If you have guys who are second best in the league at getting on base, I say you keep them.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | July 28, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Just for my 2 cents: The only position players we need to hold onto are Zimmerman and Nyjer Morgan. I think Morgan has proven to be too valuable defensively to move (unless we get another true CF from another trade).

I would move Nick for the best deal we can get, as he has little value anymore due to his declining defensive skills, undewhelming power, high injury risk and his status as a free agent after the season. If all we can get is a mediocre prospect, we have to take that. I would move Guzman for a ham sandwich to get rid of his glove and his salary before the amount of luck his BA is reliant on slaps us in the face. His numbers from the second week in May on are not good, and I don't think they will get better. Willingham is one of our most valuable trade pieces right now, and I would see if anybody is willing to match that value. We shouldn't give him away, as we can use him, but if we had a chance to get a good prospect or 2, I hope we jump on the opportunity. Same with Dunn. This team as its constructed can never win, so I think we need to get as much value as we can from the pieces that are better than the whole. Also, put some defense behind our young pitchers, especially up the middle infield!

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | July 28, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Everyone outside of Lannan, Zimmerman, Morgan, and Flores certainly are trade possibilities. For the right price ... and all of the "rumors" sites espouse the opinion that he is trying to make what some consider "painful" bargains ... for the other teams.

The Nats aren't a farm team for the rest of MLB anymore. That's the message and its a good one I think?

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Amen. That is why I am glad that we did not trade Nick to the Giants for a single A prospect. It is a fine line that we are walking.
______________________
Whatever trades we make better help out for next year, not three years down the line. I'm tired of watching terrible baseball.

Posted by: sec307 | July 28, 2009 2:15 PM

Posted by: lowcountry | July 28, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

lowcountry, you are so right about the "fine line." First up, the current team is just not that good and it doesn't look like it's going to get better soon. A three game winning streak doesn't change things.

Second, don't overemphasize offense. Focus on improving defense and pitching and if you have to give up some offense to do it, go for it.

Third, make trades that help now. Don't go for single A pitchers, get whatever AA, AAA or major league talent you can.

Fourth, be patient, fair and hold your ground. If the trades aren't worth making then don't make them. Make your changes in the offseason.

But make them.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm in total agreement, baltova.

Posted by: lowcountry | July 28, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

GOOD LORD, ARE YOU NUTS?

"Just speaking generally here, one day after a two-slam performance, public sentiment about trading said performer probably isn't too favorable."

Only if the town has gone completely brain-dead. This is a sub-.300 team we are talking about, have you blotted that out of your consciousness? We are NOT building for 2010 (in which case Willingham MAY still have his health and have extended his current hot streak into another full season) or possibly even 2011. These rebuilding projects take time, and if ever there was the definition of a rebuilding franchise, we're staring at one. Even if Willingham does miraculously keep this up, he'll be busy turning a 67-win team into a 70-win one for the next two years. Ooh, now doesn't that just send a thrill up your leg. Meanwhile, the prospect(s) you could have gotten for him will be developing and emerging on someone ELSE'S team, just in time to contribute (and possibly star?) in 2011, 2012 and beyond.

Nothing against Willingham (who also is a decent OBP guy, which few ever mention), but his value will NEVER BE HIGHER than it is today, July 28 2009. His two grand slams of last night will linger in other GMs minds in an exaggerated significance. They need a bat now, and Willingham is a big one at the moment, as Chico's final stat demonstrated.

Most importantly, Elijah Dukes is rotting in AAA right now. I know he committed the unpardonable sin of hitting .198 for 3 weeks after coming back from an injury, but jeez. Go back and look at the 24-year-old seasons of players like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Eric Davis, Sammy Sosa and the like and I bet you can cherry-pick a 21-game stretch that's equally as unimpressive.

My God. Elijah Dukes is in AAA and observers of a sub-.300 team are falling in love with a 30-year-old with back problems as a build-around guy? No wonder this team is in such bad shape. Shortsighted fans and writers. Good luck Nats. You'll need it with that combo pushing you to make bad decisions.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 28, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Dukes is in AAA because he went into a slump. Just my opinion.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

In fact, I'd be in favor of trading Dukes as well, if you get the right offer. I'd encourage it.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps DiPoto comes over as Rizzo's 2d in command. If the Lerner's are smart (I know ..a big *if*), they retain Rizzo, allow he and Kasten to make all baseball related decisions w/a minimum of interference and right the f'in ship. And also, remind Riggs if he re-ups not to treat SS like he did K. Wood when he was managing the Cubbies.

Posted by: terrapin31590us | July 28, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

@B202

Where have you been the last 4 years? If the "writers" and "fans" had anything to do with the NATS' management, Acta would not have seen, June and half the team would be gone by now (which half, ah there's the rub, major disagreement thre). The team is run by the Learners, Stan (Still the Man with a Plan) and Rizzo.

@All Wanna be GMs Posting on This Thread

The key is offers, friends, offers. They were, are and/or will be made to Rizzo who decided or will decide if they are worthy or not. Please come quick July 31st, one is tired of the discussion. I want to hear everyone bemoan the fact, as the NATS win 55 games, how the number one pick for next year was blown.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 4

Posted by: adhardwick | July 28, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

From Ken Rosenthal's blog:
Beimel might be the Nat on the move — 2:23 p.m.
Could it be that left-handed reliever Joe Beimel is the National most likely to be moved?


Joe Beimel: '09 stats

Joe Beimel
Washington Nationals
Relief pitcher
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

G W-L IP ERA K BB
44 1-5 39 3.43 24 15


The Nats' price for Josh "Grand Slam" Willingham remains high, and the team might choose to build around him. Willingham, currently sporting a 1.006 OPS, is a high-character type and the Nats can control him for two more seasons.

The market for first baseman Nick Johnson, meanwhile, appears all but dry: The Red Sox acquired Adam LaRoche, the Giants acquired Ryan Garko and the Mets are in no position to buy.

Johnson might be the perfect August acquisition for an American League team with a sudden need for a hitter, presuming he clears waivers.

That leaves Beimel, who has a 3.43 ERA and .716 opponents' OPS in 44 games

Posted by: FloresFan | July 28, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

B202 just compared Elijah Dukes to Hank Aaron.

Posted by: Cartaldo | July 28, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Pssst... Josh Willingham is batting nearly 30 points over his career average and slugging over 100 points higher than his career average... his value doesn't get much higher than that...

Posted by: Section506 | July 28, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Baltova, spot on regarding importance of defense. It may surprise people that Tampa scored fewer runs last year than the year before and yet won ~30 more games. Most analyses of the turn around credit their improved defense (70% of their innings pitched were by the same pitchers each year), particulary the addition of Longoria, Bartlett and Akinori.

Posted by: slewis1 | July 28, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse


I guess this means the Beimel will get traded in the offseason :)
_______________________
From Ken Rosenthal's blog:
Beimel might be the Nat on the move — 2:23 p.m.
Could it be that left-handed reliever Joe Beimel is the National most likely to be moved?


Joe Beimel: '09 stats


Posted by: lowcountry | July 28, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't think we should trade Beimel, unless we get some serious prospects in return.

Won't he be a type A free agent? Offering him arbitration doesn't seem like too much of a risk considering his deflated '08 salary, plus he should be able to get a multi-year deal elsewhere.

The two compensation picks we would get from Beimel would in a sense replace any picks we'd lose for signing a free agent this offseason.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 28, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

"Pssst... Josh Willingham is batting nearly 30 points over his career average and slugging over 100 points higher than his career average... his value doesn't get much higher than that..."

Maybe it is because he is healthy...
knock on wood. put voodoo doll in locked padded case.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 28, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Not only is Willingham playing above his career numbers right now, but he is 30, which is not 26. As others have said, his value will never be higher. I would really prefer that the team not "build around" a 30-year-old having a career year.

Posted by: Section220 | July 28, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Haven't you heard, 220? 30 is the "new" 26.

Also, there is a new post. . .
_______________________
Not only is Willingham playing above his career numbers right now, but he is 30, which is not 26. As others have said, his value will never be higher. I would really prefer that the team not "build around" a 30-year-old having a career year.

Posted by: Section220 | July 28, 2009 4:06 PM |

Posted by: lowcountry | July 28, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Hey everyone, who is going to be flucky tonight??? Kearns one night , willingham the next. Any predictons??????

Posted by: bsballu5 | July 28, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

re: Posted by: B2O2

The problem with your logic, which sounds good on the surface, is that Acta had corrupted everyone's performance so badly after 2.5 years in a coma without holding anyone responsible, that they can't have an honest appraisal about the players/team they have now. You'll invariably end up unloading someone too soon because of their performance under Acta. They're already playing a lot better, so they need to be SURE when they trade someone that they're not doing it prematurely, because they have no depth in their system to replace someone. Their offensive stats are on only bad with RISP, but most of the stats are near the middle of the pack.

It's something as simple as Zimmerman making accurate throws now - it's because they're practicing more, that's all it was. He's also starting to elevate the ball and hit it out of the park, which comes with a greater understanding of what a #3 hitter needs to do, which he wasn't doing during his hit streak. Team errors are down the last few games. Everything's sharper and smarter, and the pitching has improved steadily over the season too. They're not that bad. They never were, they just had a bad record. Two different things. The problem is gone now, and it's time to evaluate what you really have. Although, if I got a ham sandwich for Johnson, I'd have to unload him because he ain't the answer at first...

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

@Cartaldo:

"B202 just compared Elijah Dukes to Hank Aaron."

The point being that even the very best in baseball history hit .198 for a small-sample short stretch if you look for it. Dukes has 30-30 written all over him. Rizzo has buried him for No. Good. Reason.

Maybe you want him to star for another team just to stroke a sanctimonious streak, since he hasn't exactly been a boy scout (though he was turning the corner on that this year just before we punished him for it). But you can't simultaneously pretend that you also want the Nats to be a winning team while burying precious talent.

And a question in general to all the "rah rah character" booster here: How many wins in the standing is character worth? How many extra runs does it produce or prevent? Please be specific. Thank you.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 28, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Brue - not sure what post of mine you're replying to, but I did defend Acta when he was fired.

My only thought to your post is: what is this, little league? These are million dollar players. Surely they know when they "need to practice" more. It really takes some parent figure to say, "hey Zimm, you're making bad throws. Take some infield."?

I have a hard time believing that the small sample since Acta's departure has anything to do with a fundamental change in managerial style. Maybe, but it is more likely simply fluke - or the psychological lift of an artificial "fresh start", which is provided by any change, however arbritrary the reasoning for it may be.

Just my angle on that.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 28, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Dunn should be moved to 1st base after Johnson is traded which should be by Friday. Trading Willingham who is serviceable in RF weakens the batting order and provides no protection for Dunn. All good teams have strong 3-4-5 hitters who can hit for power or average (or both in many cases). The Nats aren't losing games because Willingham doesn't play RF like Nick Markakis.

As for his trade value, Willingham will still have it next year as he continues to produce and we'd only get back some second tier minor leaguers who are years away from ever making the majors. I think he's one of the 4-5 solid everyday players that the team should build around along with Zimmerman, Dunn, Morgan, and Flores.

Posted by: wizfan89 | July 28, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks Willingham is a fluke never saw a Nats/Marlins game -- the guy used to kill us routinely. And he has improved in RF by leaps and bounds, and is not bad out there anymore.

Its interesting, people here want the servicable major league players traded for prospects, yet criticize Bowden for doing exactly that. Milledge for Schneider and Church. How did that work out? I'm wondering how many people complaining about 'excuses' being offered for not trading servicable major league players are actually paying for tickets to go to games. The team is actually getting better now that the management is ridding it 'its okay to lose' culture that Manny Acta offered, and some of analysis here is to trade the major league talent we have for more 'hope' and 'prospects'. I'm having a hard time making sense of that.

Posted by: raymitten | July 28, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, you know I hate to be disagreeable, but that's just stupid. Hitting .198 is not the mark of greatness just because some HOF's did it sometimes. LOTS of people hit .198.
That's like calling him a rock star because he writes lyrics like Jimmy Hendrix and plays guitar like Bob Dylan.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 28, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

>Brue - not sure what post of mine you're replying to, but I did defend Acta when he was fired.

My only thought to your post is: what is this, little league? These are million dollar players. Surely they know when they "need to practice" more. It really takes some parent figure to say, "hey Zimm, you're making bad throws. Take some infield."?

Well, pro sports is unique because they're the only ones getting paid. How does a manager get their attention when he's getting paid less than all of them? These contracts are guaranteed, so where's the incentive? That's the manager's job - he has to find out what makes each individual tick, exploit that opening, and get them on edge enough to produce. It's also not an individual sport, although it's full of individual performances, but you can lay blame on any number of players for failures. Pro athletes have to get their egos massaged not because they're superheroes, but because management doesn't have much leverage in requiring them to perform. They're all getting paid up front. Look, these guys can smell a fool a mile away - they didn't make it to the majors by being dumb, and if a guy like Acta doesn't have any answers for them, then pretty soon they're going to ignore him. That's just the way it is when you're making a couple million a year and the guy you're dealing with is going season-to-season for 1/2 million. Riggleman doesn't have any security, but it appears as though he's stepping into the coaching void, because players want to be coached and brought together as a unit so that all they have to do is concentrate on their own jobs, which are extremely difficult. Acta was leaving people out to dry, and they had to get by on their individual talent, and you need 9 guys getting by on their talent at the same time, generally, to win a game. Just watch their body language on defense. More communication, people walking around with their heads up.

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

The thing about "the people here" argument is that there is no "the people" here. There's a camp that wants to rebuild, period, they just don't like the way it's being done, and there's a camp that wants to keep the team watchable in the meantime, even if that means our guaranteed WS rings get put off until 2014 or even 2015.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 28, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Willingham is a keeper, a solid guy who has something to teach any up and comers in the organization. And he's a bargain.
I like Nick but it's time to deal him and move Dunn to 1B. Adam will never be able to cover much ground in the outfield but with time and effort his foot and glove work might make him serviceable at 1st. Besides, where else are the Nats going to get another big bopper for what they're paying Dunn?

Posted by: icefandc | July 28, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

I love that phrase that has stuck this year: "crowded outfield". There wasn't a decent two way major league outfielder on the team but it was a "crowded outfield" that Willingham had to break in to.

Posted by: hz9604 | July 28, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Dunn at 1B. Somebody's gettin traded.

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm definitely of the opinion that we should keep Willingham. I couldn't stand him as a Marlin as he tore us apart, but I love him as a National and want it to remain that way. He's our 2nd best power option on the team and forms a very nice offensive nucleus with Zimmerman, Dunn, Morgan, and Flores. There's no reason to trade him because he's 30. I also feel that he's an adequate fielder.

Posted by: curlyWfan | July 28, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Give Bowden some love. He traded Bonifacio for this guy and Olson. Assume Olson is shot, Nats still win that deal. I'm still glad he's gone, but give him his due.

As for Rizzo, I am pretty sure there are better GMs out there, but he at least has a vision that makes sense. I'd give him the non-interim shot.

Posted by: gbooksdc | July 28, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

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