Over the past eight months, two of the most talented young center fielders in baseball have changed teams. Both are 24 years old. One is under team control for the next three and a half years, and the other for four and a half. And both were traded for at most 60 cents on the dollar.
Still, despite the fact that the Nationals are "feverishly" looking for a long-term answer in center field (and have been for pretty much time immemorial, aside from brief, ill-fated love affair with Nyjer Morgan a couple years ago), neither Colby Rasmus nor Cameron Maybin are on the Washington Nationals.
Why? It can't be said that they didn't have the inventory to make deals. Especially in Maybin's case, anyone could have had him. He went to San Diego in exchange for a couple middle relievers. Maybin's been around for a long time, but he's still at an age that a lot of very good major leaguers are just getting their first taste of the majors. He hadn't put it together yet, but he's full of tools and the Marlins gave up on him way too soon.
Rasmus may have been a little tougher for the Nationals to pull off. Let's face it, Alex Anthopolous is proving himself to be one of the very best GMs in the game, and just being able to sniff out the opportunity to swing the complicated three-way deal that he made is impressive.
But even setting aside that part, do the Nationals have the pieces to make a deal like Anthopolous did? Maybe not. He gave up Zach Stewart, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, and Corey Patterson. Most teams including the Nationals could match the last four names on the list. Probably it would have cost Tyler Clippard and someone else out of the pen, but that's ok.
Stewart would have been the chip the Nationals would have had a hard time matching--a 24-year-old pitching prospect who some think could be a #2 but others think might end up in the bullpen. The Nationals probably would have had to offer A.J. Cole or Brad Peacock, and it's possible Williams would have preferred Stewart anyway, since he's closer than Cole and has better stuff than Peacock.
Still, everyone and their father knew that Tony LaRussa wanted Rasmus out of St. Louis, and that there was a deal to be made. Bottom line, Anthopolous made the deal, and Rizzo didn't.
The conventional wisdom is that the Nationals are hot on B.J. Upton, and maybe that's the deal that will get made. Upton is probably the most talented of them all, but he's also a free agent after next season and there are lots of questions about his work ethic.
From what I've read, it seems like the Nationals are offering something like Clippard, Ian Desmond, and maybe someone else, and the Rays are demanding at least Drew Storen. If that's true, I'm not sure it's a deal I want to make. I much rather would have gotten Cameron Maybin on the dirt-cheap.
We'll see what happens when the music stops, but right now it's hard not to look at Toronto and San Diego and wonder why we couldn't do what they did.
- Oh and I almost forgot. Denard Span for Drew Storen? No thanks. Span's a fine player, but you don't trade away cost-controlled assets like Storen for guys like this. You should be able to find them easier ways.