I've read a lot of comments on the trade, and it's clear, as I predicted Monday night, that most fans would be cheering this deal. And some of them made good points that caused me to re-consider my initial opposition. But after thinking and re-thinking, I'm still strongly against it. Not because I think we got fleeced--we didn't. We got solid value, arguably more talent, and it's because we leveraged a contract situation where the Marlins wanted to dump salary for whatever they could get.
So here's where I'm coming from. First, of course, there's a gap in how I evaluate Olsen versus where a bunch of other people are at. I just think he stinks and will be a clubhouse cancer. I hope I'm wrong. We'll see.
But it's clear from the comments that a lot of people would be happy with this deal even if it had been Willingham alone for Smolinski, Dean, and Bonifacio. If Willingham gives us 25 HR and a .270 BA for 2-3 years, as I would expect, that'll be worth it for most Nationals fans, it would seem. Even if let's say one of the guys we gave up (Smolinski's the most likely) becomes a solid starter himself. People want to see the Nationals get better now. For a lot of fans, the Nationals don't need to get great, they just want to eek towards respectability, and they want to see that improvement NOW.
If that's you, I can totally understand that. There's no right or wrong answer here. It's a value judgment. But you're going to disagree on my take on this deal, and not necessarily because of any difference in our player evaluations.
For me, I want to see the Nationals win the World Series, or at least contend. Nothing less particularly interests me. It's clear that's not happening in 2009, and probably not in 2010 even. So I'm not sweating those years. And I don't really care about the difference between 60 wins and 72 wins. Either way, you stop paying attention in June. And with the 60 wins at least you get a top draft pick.
To win a World Series, we need to assemble a roster of players who are all going to develop together and play well at the same time. Willingham may have a career year, hit 30 homers, and play in All-Star game this year. For me, it just doesn't matter all that much, because it'll be on a losing team. There's virtually no chance that Willingham at 30 years old will ever play for a contender in DC, because we're more than 3 years away, and he's most likely not even going to be a starter in MLB by then.
Smolinski, Dean, and Bonifacio may not pan out, but on the other hand, they might all be good enough to contribute to the First Great Nationals Team. It's not hard to imagine Smolinki being a solid .280 BA / 15 HR 2B by 2012. Certainly that's a high-end upside, but it could happen certainly. Bonifacio could be a gold glove 2B with 30 SBs and a .330 OBP in 2012 or sooner, which if he's your worst hitter, that's someone who can help a team contend. Dean could be a good fifth starter or bullpen arm for a contender. Those are all totally realistic upper-end projections.
So what are we doing? Are we working to build a contender, or using our assets to tread water around 70-75 wins? To me, with this move, it's patently obvious that the answer is the latter, not the former. Some people will say they want the team to do both--get better now and try to contend asap. And of course that'd be ideal. But I don't think it's realistic. There are trade-offs, and we just traded off the long-term for the short. And that's why I will never support this deal, period.