I know it's hard for us Scats fans to hear this just now, what with our historically intolerable bullpen and all. But to trade Nick Johnson for Manny Delcarmen would be just crazy.
Hey, I'm the guy who hit the panic button when we let Jesus Colome go because I could see this year's bullshitpen implosion coming back in December. I'm not saying you don't invest in relief pitching at all. Jeremy Affelt, Bob Howry, and Juan Cruz would have been good, smart investments this off-season. Add them to Beimel, Hanrahan, and Bergmnn and you have a damn good group for a reasonable price.
But individual relief pitchers just aren't that valuable, mainly because they don't pitch that much. In Delcarmen's best year he was a 1.5 wins above replacement player. Nick's given us a full win over replacment this year alone. In his best year, he was a 5.3 wins above replacement value.
They also aren't reliable from year to year, other than the very best of the best. We've seen that here in DC over and over. And honestly they aren't that hard to come by (I know, I know, it doesn't feel that way now, but...). You can take a fifth starter and turn him into a serviceable relief pitcher anytime. The average starting pitcher converted to a reliever will see his ERA improve by about a run. Now, our starters are pretty awful too, and the near-total absence of replacement-level major league-ready options within the organization is an indictment of Bowden's regime.
Nick's contract is up at the end of the year, and personally I'd like to see them re-sign him. Aside from the newly broken out Zimmerman, he's the best player on the team. Yes, yes, the injuries. Whatever. There are very few players on all of baseball that could ever produce a 5.3 wins above replacement value, and Nick's one of them. With Dunn in left, we have the perfect in-house plan B in the event Nick misses time.
Regardless, Nick for a reliever shouldn't even be a thought.
Update: Here's what Rizz said today on the matter, which I like: “He’s an extremely valuable player to the Nationals. We need him here, we like him here and we want him here," Rizzo said. "If someone overwhelms us with a deal that we can’t refuse, of course we’re going to listen to a deal about Nick or about anybody else. But he’s an extremely valuable player for us."
Hopefully the rumors were just that.