It's become a virtual folk legend around these parts that Jim Bowden did the right thing when he didn't trade Alfonso Soriano at the trade deadline in 2006, because when he signed with the Cubs we got two compensatory picks, one of whom became the eighth wonder of the world, the flow o' the century... oh it's timeless... HOVA!
Now I love Jordan Zimmermann as much if not more than anyone. Josh Smoker is an utter flop, but there's little question that Zimmermann is a more valuable player to the Nationals than Alfonso Soriano or probably anyone we'd heard about being offered in a trade.
NTP reminds us that the best offer that was rumored at the time was Soriano was Jason Kubel and Scott Baker. Now, make no mistake--Kubel and Baker are hardly chump change. Baker is a solid mid-rotation starter, and he would have been the Opening Day starter for the Nationals this year. And Jason Kubel has busted out this season with a monster .307 / .377 / .553 line that bests even Soriano's excellent 2006. Had JimBo made that deal, he would have done just fine.
Of course the team later denied that this deal was ever offered, and Dave Sheinen later reported that Kevin Slowey was the best offer, though it's not clear whether that was straight up. In any case, we don't know what the team was offered. Kasten insists they were offered less value than Jhonny Nunez, but what-ev... that lacks a certain truthiness.
If we assume though that Jordan Zimmermann is better than anything we were offered, shouldn't we conclude that Bowden did the right thing?
The answer is yes, but really it's no. Huh? OK, hang with me.
The key for any team is to focus on using good method and worry less about the outcomes. If you're using a sound process, including a smart overall strategy, considering the best data and scout evaluations, etc., then you're going to come out ahead more often than not.
Sometimes, you'll make the right decision and it won't work out. Boz is right--Strasburg could get hurt. That doesn't mean that if he gets hurt the Nationals were wrong to draft him. Or that if he stays healthy that means we were right. Drafting and paying for the best player available is the sound decision, so that's what you should do. You just have to accept that shiznit happens, and you can only control the things you can control.
Also, sometimes you make a dumb decision and you get lucky. Like not trading Soriano and hitting on Zimmermann.
Consider the list of #67 overall picks in draft history. Since 1980, you have Kurt Suzuki, Chad Qualls, and Wally Joyner. No other players drafted in that spot in 30 years had any kind of career on MLB, until Zimmermann. The history of the #31 pick (the Smoker pick) is a little better, especially with that guy Greg Maddux drafted by the Cubs in '84. But it's not that great. In 30 years, you have Maddux, Kirt Manwaring, Aaron Heilman, Jarrod Washburn, J.P. Howell, and a couple other marginal guys.
Those are bad odds. Much worse than the odds of grabbing Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, or Jason Kubel. Like choosing Rollins College, Bowden made a dumb decision and somehow it worked out for him anyway. But most of the time his methods resulted in Daniel Cabrera-type moves.
So when you're evaluating Rizzo or any other GM, focus on method, not so much outcomes. And be careful, when a team does something dumb but lucks out, chalk that up to good luck, and don't draw the lesson that it's good to be dumb and hope for luck.
P.S. Rizzo!! Take the Marlins deal for Nick!!!