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Trade Deadline Moves: Johnson To Florida, Beimel To Colorado

The Washington Nationals on Friday traded two veteran free-agents-to-be, first baseman Nick Johnson and Joe Beimel, in separate deals right before the 4 p.m. deadline. The team shipped Johnson to Florida in exchange for Class AA starter Aaron Thompson. Beimel was sent to Colorado for minor league pitchers Ryan Mattheus and Robinson Fabian.

The deals were not surprising given Washington's record, but within the visiting clubhouse at PNC Park, the Johnson deal created a stir. Johnson, the longest-tenured player in the organization and the last remaining Monteal Expo, only received word of the deal minutes after 4 p.m., while he took batting practice in the cage. Johnson, hugging teammates, held back tears.

Acting general manager Mike Rizzo said the team had recently discussed a contract extension with Johnson, who is in the final months of a three-year deal that is paying him a total of $16.5 million. But the sides couldn't immediately get anything done. Both Rizzo and Johnson acknowledged a chance that the first baseman will re-sign with the Nationals this offseason as a free agent.

Of the three pitchers Washington acquired, Thompson is the most promising. Three of the Washington's pro scouts recently watched Thompson, 22, who was 5-9 with a 4.11 ERA with Class AA Jacksonville. All, according to Rizzo, evaluated him as a future middle-of-the-rotation pitcher.

Mattheus and Fabian are bigger projects. Mattheus, 25, was among Colorado's top prospects entering the season, but he recently tore ligaments in his elbow, and had reconstructive surgery earlier this month. Fabian, 23, had a 3-6 record and a 6.24 ERA with Class A Asheville at the time of the trade. Both Mattheus and Fabian are relief pitchers.

"We felt it was a risk worth taking to roll the dice and see if this guy returns to his pre-injury form," Rizzo said, speaking of Mattheus. "If he does that we've got a steal here for a situational left-handed reliever that was going to walk away in two months."

Just as noteworthy for Washington is the players it did not trade. Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn were never a part of serious trade talks.

Rizzo explained his reasoning.

"We are not tearing this thing down to the foundation and rebuilding it," he said. "We have a good core of young major league starting pitchers. We've established a good inventory of power arms in the minor leagues. We have a good core of controllable, talented position players, two of them being Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn. ... We are not rebuilding. This is a team that, in my opinion, is not far away from being a good, solid baseball team."

By Chico Harlan  |  July 31, 2009; 5:46 PM ET
 
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Next: A Few More Trade Notes

Comments

I love Mike Rizzo, but I think this line will come back to haunt him: "We are not rebuilding."

Fill in your own joke here.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 31, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Its encouraging that the option to resign Nick in the off season is at least a possibility, if not a probability. I doubt we'll see much of any of these arms in Washington, though the minor league teams at least will have some roster spots filled.

Posted by: cokedispatch | July 31, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Rebuilding?? The Nats would have been better off taking Nick and Beimel across the street to the cement factory, encased them in cement and thrown them into the Anacostia. At least the Lerners could have collected the life insurance policies.

For Beimel?? A guy who just had Tommy John surgery and a reliever with a 6.24 ERA in A ball??!! He'll fit right in with the Nats bullpen

Posted by: HistoryBoy | July 31, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

has the pendulum swung so that prospects are overvalued by baseball execs? it's great to stock your farm system, but right now the syracuse chiefs are on pace to win more games than the nats who could have used some major-league ready help for the parent roster. prospects are cheap and under team control until after they break into the majors. but if anyone posting here can tell me with any surety that the guys we got back in trade will ever have lockers at nats park or anywhere else in the majors i will be happy to be proven wrong.

Posted by: surly_w | July 31, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't have minded trading for a middle-infielder or two.

Posted by: Juan-John | July 31, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

"We are not rebuilding."

We are on pace to be one of the worst teams in the history of major league baseball. We have a bullpen of historically bad proportions. We have one of the most comically lousy defenses ever seen.

But no need to rebuild.

Posted by: KidTJ | July 31, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Guys....look clinically at what we had to trade:

Beimal: fairly competent lefty reliever, with flashes of incompetance.

Johnson: A historically-fragile pretty-good bat, with declining but still competent defensive skills.

We weren't going to get the sun the moon and the stars for either of them. There's a chance that Johnson could be back next year (which I'd have no issue with), so why don't we just see what happens with those arms, eh? You remember the start of the season? When we had NOTHING in the cupboard in terms of pitching?

I'm cool with keeping Willingham. His defensive skills are improving, his bat is on FIRE, and he seems like a truly beneficial clubhouse presence. Unless someone had made us a HELL of an offer for him, I'm fine with him being here next year.

Posted by: AtomicOvermind | July 31, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Here's the thing ... Rizzo's right.
Guys who were in the last year of their contract and drew interest from other teams, sure, like he said, roll the dice. But now is not the time to be trading guys like Dunn and Willingham, when you know they will be back in 2010, when everyone starts over at 0-0.
Now, if the team is terrible again next year at this time, again, send em on. But not this year.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | July 31, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

The Beimel trade was a complete waste. They should have held on to him and hoped that an injury occurred in August, he would have cleared waivers. If not he might have been a type b free agent and they would have picked up a better choice in the draft. Neither of the players traded for him will ever make it to the bigs.

Posted by: sdrappa | July 31, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Mike. Rizzo. Has. No. Clue.

Why is designated hitter Adam Dunn still on the Nats?

And as for the clueless Dukes bashers (yeah Mikey, that includes you), I repost this response from the last post:

----

"Dukes isn't going to help anybody win... He doesn't take walks and strikes out way too much."

I see you are suffering the same cognitive impairment that Mike Rizzo is. Last year Elijah Dukes walked 50 times in 326 PA for the Nats. I don't have the league average handy, but that is easily a WAY ABOVE AVERAGE MAJOR LEAGUE walk rate. What is this garbage about him not knowing how to take a walk??

Ah yes, as Mike Rizzo will tell you with glazed-over eyes, a small three week window after Dukes came back from an injury is a much better indicator of his talent (and future projection) than his entire pre-2009 record.

Mr. Rizzo, I'll spell it out to you simply. Bring the guy back up, apologize to him for screwing with his head, and remember what a rebuilding team is about: developing young talent.

[Extra free hint: Adam Dunn is not in the dictionary next to "young talent". His picture is next to the entry for "juicy trade chit who should be off your roster after the trade deadline".]

Posted by: B2O2 | July 31, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

So a team that is 32-70 thinks they are just oh so close to being really good?? Rizzo is really smoking something here - dude, the Nats are terrible and there is nothing in the minors that gives you any indication that anything will turn around anytime soon. Dunn is certainly not a part of a competitive future, but given the return they just got for NJ and Beimel they"re certainy better off using him another year I guess.

Posted by: bendersx6 | July 31, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

"But now is not the time to be trading guys like Dunn and Willingham, when you know they will be back in 2010, when everyone starts over at 0-0."

Good lord. Do you know how many 30-win turnarounds from one year to the next have happened in all of MLB history? I think we're talking deadball era -- if you find one.

Because that is what it would take for this team to contend next year.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 31, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

peytondowdy says: "So EdDC, you are saying you want the Nats to take on bigger contracts so they can trade them at the deadline? I'm not sure I follow your logic there. I'd rather see them build up like the Rays did and not have to sign over priced, over the hill players. It took the Rays several years but now they will be in the thick of the Wild Card race for the next several years."

That's not it. I am not advocating signing over-the-hills. Just look at the only two guys the Nats did get in trade or sign as free agents, under the entire time under the Lerners, who made decent money: Dunn and Willingham. My point is to do more of that! Then you have tradable commodities.

Posted by: EdDC | July 31, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

"I love Mike Rizzo, but I think this line will come back to haunt him: "We are not rebuilding."

Fill in your own joke here."

It's no joke. You can't rebuild something that was never built in the first place.

Posted by: nunof1 | July 31, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Here is the point I am attempting to make. Is it reasonable?

The tradable guys were Willingham and Dunn.

Consider that Dunn was the Nats' ONLY free agent signee under the Lerners that made any kind of decent salary. Consider that Willingham was the HIGHEST salaried player the Nats ever received in a trade since the Lerners took over (even though his salary is still just $2.95 million).

The Nats had very little else highly marketable to turn into significant prospects. And the Nats could not trade Dunn and Willingham without being even bigger jokes--jokes to an unacceptable level, even by Nats' standards. So they had to hold onto those two guys just to be in shouting distance not of respectability but of minimal acceptability by Nats' standards.

If the Nats had taken in higher quality guys in trade (guys who made decent salaries) and if the Nats had signed more than just one high-salaried free agent under the entire term of the Lerners' ownership, then the trading deadline would have been a lot more interesting. The Nats would have had several tradable commodities if they had spent up to MLB-average over the last three years.

Posted by: EdDC | July 31, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

"Mike. Rizzo. Has. No. Clue.

Why is designated hitter Adam Dunn still on the Nats?"

I made this post already but I will say it again, Dunn is not a good trade chip this year. Too much money (12 million still owed next year) still on his contract. He will be excellent trade bait next year and Rizzo knows this. Plus there is a surplus market for DHs so many teams won't take on that kind of contract unless they were desperate. Rizzo did what he needed to today, waited a bit too long but I will take what we can get. We were lucky to get what we did.

Posted by: hleeo3 | July 31, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

"Dunn is certainly not a part of a competitive future, but given the return they just got for NJ and Beimel they"re certainy better off using him another year I guess."

Actually, Rizzo said 3 weeks ago that he wanted Dunn to play out his contract with the Nats next year. Yes, he really said that. So it sounds like he didn't even dangle the guy. So we'll never know what a real GM might have gotten for him.

But you gotta like his logic. It's important to keep a 10 million dollar designated hitter on your roster when you're a 32-70 National League team.

It's also important to get the recommended daily allowance of strychnine in your diet each day.

Thanks Mike.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 31, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

One more thing. Why are we trading Nick and Beimel for low-end pitchers when basically all we drafted this year were pitchers? Our minor league system is not exactly loaded with position players! If we are going to make a crap shoot on some young players how about a second baseman or a first baseman?

Posted by: HistoryBoy | July 31, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I they tried the lineups without Dunn ... there is a significant drop-off. Now its time to see where he fits best, left field or at first. Rizzo now has 3 slots open on the 40-man roster. Wonder how they will be filled?

Posted by: periculum | July 31, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Johnson and Beimel are not valued good position player prospects. Rizzo asked for top 2B prospect Eric Young Jr for Joe Beimel but the Rockies said no. SO all we were gonna get was pitching prospects.

Posted by: hleeo3 | July 31, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I guess our hopes exceeded possbilities. The key factor was that Beimel and Johnson were only rentals, limiting their value. The Nats clearly are gambling that Mattheus can bounce back from Tommy John surgery and be a good pitcher, which can happen but will likely take a few years.

I was definitely in favor of making deals, but I don't see a lot of immediate help, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but I wasn't the one trying to make the deals. Maybe nothing better was there.

Forget today. Does this make the team better in the near future? The long term? Hard to feel real confident about this.

You have to give these trades some time but I can't deny I'm disappointed.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 31, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Could it be that GMs so highly value prospects that aren't close to major-league ready is they're afraid to trade value for value on the major league lavel because there is no grace period for evaluations? I heard Kevin Kennedy once allude to that on XM Home Plate. Kennedy said a GM once told him that prospects allow for "cooling off" periods for trades because most likely they won't immediately promoted to the bigs for comparison to veterans for whom they were traded.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 31, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Johnson and Beimel are not valued high enough to get good position player prospects (thats what I meant)

Posted by: hleeo3 | July 31, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

"One more thing. Why are we trading Nick and Beimel for low-end pitchers when basically all we drafted this year were pitchers? Our minor league system is not exactly loaded with position players! If we are going to make a crap shoot on some young players how about a second baseman or a first baseman?"

You are right about the position players. But in Syracuse and Harrisburg, outside of 2 or 3 prospects the pitching is older vets trying to regain enough of their form to make it on a major league roster. Most of the pitching resides in A and advanced A ball and the GCL.
The farms still need to be replenished after being almost completely depleted before the Expos moved to Washington. That job is not yet done.

Posted by: periculum | July 31, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

"You have to give these trades some time but I can't deny I'm disappointed.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 31, 2009"

There is a dearth of prospective left-handed pitching again. Rogers will help with that in Harrisburg/Syracuse.

Posted by: periculum | July 31, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

"I made this post already but I will say it again, Dunn is not a good trade chip this year. Too much money (12 million still owed next year) still on his contract. He will be excellent trade bait next year and Rizzo knows this."

1. Why would Dunn be more marketable next year at $12 million (and a year further past his age-26 peak) than he would be this year at $10 million?

2. He's actually not overpriced to virtually any team out there, with this year or next year's salary, given his production. There certainly *would* be suitors out there, if Rizzo had a clue that he should be shopping him. Even if no AL teams needed a DH, the Braves are still hurting in the OF for a big bat - ditto for the Giants. That's just off the top of my head.

3. Keeping him guarantees a waste of his production. Whether he turns the Nats from a 52-win team to a 55-win team this year or not, NO ONE ON THIS BOARD WILL REMEMBER OR CARE once the Nats are respectable again. What he is doing right now - every home run he hits - is utterly wasted.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 31, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

nunof1 has it right. There is nothing here to build with. These are the sort of pieces were can expect back because frankly weren't giving much up in return..

I think it's a shame he couldn't trade pieces like Dunn and Willigham who would have yielded a higher return. But, Johnson needed to go.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 31, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

syracuse, harrisburg and hagerstown are the winners in today's trades.

Posted by: surly_w | July 31, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

It's times like this I miss Capital Punishment.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 31, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

"I they tried the lineups without Dunn ... there is a significant drop-off."

From what to what? Pathetic to... ? And will you really care three years from now, when the team *is* respectable, whether the team wins 52 or 57 games this year? Are we that instant-gratification (such that it is) oriented?

"Now its time to see where he fits best, left field or at first."

That's been settled, by every scout around. He fits best at DH.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 31, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Look at it this way: they traded ABC gum for an uncooked hamburger.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 31, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

30 losses left to make 100.

Posted by: periculum | July 31, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I can't say i like what the Pirates have done, but there is some logic to a complete overhaul - don't call it rebuilding cause there ain't nothing to rebuild - in the Nats case. That means everyone from Dunn, Josh, NJ, Guzman, and Dukes has gotta go. Then you would've got a respectable haul of position talent (much more needed BTW) like the Bucs got back.

Posted by: bendersx6 | July 31, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

If Beimel left, we were getting a compensation pick. A 1st/2nd round guy.

Rizzo forgot to mention that.

Posted by: inthestreetindustry | July 31, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Never mind the D-Backs going from 65 wins to 100 between 98 and 99 ...
Obviously, I'm not saying this is going to happen here. But it's also obvious that Rizzo was not blown away by any of the offers for either Dunn or Willingham, which he would need to have been in order to trade them while they are still under team control.
This is already not the same team that took the field in April and May. If you can't see progress from then until now, then I can't help you. And honestly, are you advocating the Pirates approach to this season?

Posted by: mjhoya12 | July 31, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

The more I think about these deals the more I think they should have stood pat. The spent about 2.5 million in cash and two serviceable MLB players for 3 only fair pitching prospects (one who won't be usable for a year and a half). Where is the value obtained.

I'm sorry Mr. Rizzo but somebody saw you coming. I hope you can explain this trade.

I know its a business but I will miss Nick Johnson. Joe Beimel not so much.

Posted by: WashOut | July 31, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

This wasn't a sterling day, but I also don't think it was as bad as some of the posters apparently do. The hard part in evaluating how Rizzo did is that we rarely get to know what he turned down. But generally speaking, I do not think that our guys have as much value as we might think, including Willingham. They all have some kind of flaw to them and if rizzo was offered a big package of prospects for them, I bet he would have jumped. I am sure that he would have taken the Victor martinez deal for Dunn, but it wasn't there.

In Rizzo's defense, reports had the Marlins pushing Tucker and someone else for NJ, and then walking away, but he held his ground for Thompson and appears to have won. I think that he has done a good job evaluating talent, so I trust his judgment on that. My question here is, is Thompson better than Scott Barnes?, because I assume that the Giants would have wanted NJ over Garko. And Tommy John surgery is not the career-derailing injury it once was - it takes about 18 months to get all the way back but pitchers generally (not always) can recover to pre-injury form. It is disappointing that Willie Harris and maybe another bullpen piece couldn't be traded, but I am sure that Rizzo exhausted those possibilities.

It was the right thing for the team to trade NJ, but he always played hard and professionally while he was here, and he will be missed.

Posted by: Willy2 | July 31, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

@B2O2: Dunn serves a couple of purposes on the current Nationals team - 1) He makes both RZim & Willingham see better pitches, because he's a legitimate long-ball threat, and 2) he puts a few more "butts in the seats", because he's a legitimate long-ball threat. Yes, he's a defensive liability, probably best suited for an AL team as a DH in the long run, but power hitters aren't normally available during the season, and the Nationals don't have this big a bat in high minors yet.

Posted by: BinM | July 31, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

"And honestly, are you advocating the Pirates approach to this season?"

Oh my goodness yes. Are you joking with that question? What is there NOT to like about the Pirates approach to this season (please, tell!)? Neal Huntington is on a 4-trade winning streak in rebuilding that team. He's doing *exactly* what a team in his position needs. In contrast, Rizzo's trade record is looking like Loss-Loss-Suspended-Rained out-Loss.

Seriously, what is there not to like about stocking up on real prospects (as the Bucs are doing) when you're a last place team? The embarrassment of it is that one of those deals was with a like team, the Nats (Rizzo handed him our struggling upside players for nice predictable low-ceiling filler). Is it that tempting glory of the possible strong 60-win finish again?

I REALLY do not get the "hold the line" clamor I hear from some here. I mean, I can understand it from the guy's 12-year-old who has a crush on Nick Johnson, but I mean other than her.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 31, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

@EdDC - Gotcha, I think I misread what you were trying to say. I will say I am holding back judgement of the Lerner's until this offseason. With Bowden gone and a new GM, be it Rizzo or someone else, I am interested to see what happens.

@inthestreetindustry. Beimel isn't even guaranteed to be a type B free agent. There would be no first round pick for sure and there might not have even been a 2nd round pick. Why not take a shot at a guy who was just recently turned into a reliever in the minors (Fabian) w/ a 2.5 to 1 k/bb rate. Maybe his ERA is terrible because he doesn't have enough pitches to be a starter. His numbers as a reliever are better.

Posted by: peytondowdy | July 31, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Based on all the reports ... Rizzo did in fact try to renew Johnson's contract. It may be that Nick himself wanted a trade like this to happen as much as anyone else ... Rizzo got what he could for a 2 month lease of Johnson's services. He may be back.

Meanwhile a left handed arm has been added to the inventory to help replace the left-handed "prospects" that didn't work out: Hinckley, O'Connor. I don't think Hector Ramirez in Syracuse is all that great a solution for that problem.

Posted by: periculum | July 31, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

All of the comments lead one to believe that at least one good non-decision has been sustained. We still and will continue to have an "Acting" GM.

Posted by: navboss | July 31, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

new post.

Posted by: surly_w | July 31, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Lord have mercy...the infield is taking the night off for crying out loud. What a dunderhead play by Hernandez.

Posted by: cokedispatch | July 31, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

@periculum (and everyone else who keeps imagining that Dukes needs to stay in the minors to "learn how to walk more"):

This is courtesy of baseballprospectus.com (needs a subscription but you can probably get these #s elsewhere).

2008 NL
League average RF: 9.5 BB/100 PA
League average CF: 8.3 BB/100 PA

Elijah Dukes: 15.0 BB/100 PA

Nearly twice the walk rate of the rest of the league at his position. Oh yeah, and he was only 23.

Next specious argument for keeping the guy rotting in AAA, please.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 31, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Adam Dunn is worth at least 20% more next year as a trade and maybe 50% more. Why? Any team could have signed him for 20 mil for 2 years but didn't. His contract is back loaded 8 mil this year and 12 mil next year so..... it would have been a 15 mil obligation that the trading team does not want. So... next year he will cost about 5 mil be used for a playoff run cast aside and that team could also get a supplement 1st round pick. Yes this is contingent on him having an Adam Dunn year and not getting injured.

Posted by: sdrappa | July 31, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

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