Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Trade Never Considered

In a recent post about the Nationals' failure to nab any of the talented young center fielders that have come available in the last few seasons, I tossed off a remark at the end that I wouldn't do a Drew Storen for Denard Span

I was taken to task in the comments and realized pretty quickly that I was wrong there. As NTP Nate asked, "You don't trade a right-handed reliever for a 27-year old with a .366 career OBP and plus defense in CF who's on a reasonable (5 yr/$16.5M) contract through 2014? Where are these type of guys growing on trees?"

In part, my error was that I hadn't really paid that much attention to Span this year. I remembered his down year in 2010 and assumed he wasn't doing much better this year given how the Twins are doing as a team. But he's actually having a nice bounce-back year, and it's looking like his down 2010 is the aberration.

After that, the argument for the deal is simple: every day players--especially up-the-middle players--are harder to find and worth more than relievers. If the reporting is accurate and the Twins were asking for Storen and a so-so prospect like Steve Lombardozzi, then I would have made that deal. (Of course, we don't really know whether it was Mike Rizzo or the Twins GM Bill Bill Smith who walked away, so I'm not going to get too worked up about this one rumor.)

But here's the real reason my knee-jerk reaction was to say no to Storen for Span: I was reacting as a fan. I like Drew Storen, and it's been exciting to see him come up and perform right away. It's really hard to say goodbye to your team's home grown players, and my heart said no before my head got a vote.

Which brings me to the real topic of this post: Setting aside my feelings as a fan, it's becoming increasingly clear to me that the player the Nationals should have traded last week was Ryan Zimmerman.

First, even despite losing a bunch of time (again) with an injury, Zimmerman's trade value is sky-high. Dave Cameron argued on Fangraphs that Zimmerman has the 10th highest trade value of any player in baseball, which may be a little high but is close. We all know he's one of the game's elite all-around players, and he's signed to a really team-friendly contract through next season.

But let's look at where the Nationals are at as a franchise. This year, they have met or exceeded any fan's highest expectations, and they are sitting in last place at 53-57 on pace for 78 wins. And while a few key things have gone wrong for the team this year (Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth), look at the things that have gone right.

Mike Morse has made it impossible to miss Adam LaRoche. Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos have done very well in their first full seasons. The bullpen has been very good. Laynce Nix? And really every single starting pitcher other than maybe Tom Gorzelanny has given the team a best-case-scenario performance.

The reality is that the window of opportunity to win with Ryan Zimmerman could very well be next year and the year after, as his contract expires in 2013. He's going to be a free agent going into his age 29 season and will command a huge contract, assuming nothing goes wrong for him over the next 2 years.

And let's face it, even if you project a healthy Strasburg, continued development from the young players, and a bounce-back year from Werth, the team still doesn't have enough to make the playoffs next season, barring some massive spending spree that starts but doesn't end with Albert Pujols.

Now, I'll admit that there's been a lot of progress for this team. It's damn hard to go from 59 wins to 69 wins to 78 wins in three consecutive seasons. I can see how some fans might feel like the team is getting close. But it's really not. Look at the Nationals rotation. Now look at the Phillies' rotation. Back to the Nationals. Now back to the Phillies. Sadly, they aren't them, though in all fairness they probably smell about the same.

And here's the best news of all for the Nationals: they've had a nice little year on the farm. Brad Peacock is getting a lot of ink as the big breakthrough of 2011, but other guys like Sammy Solis, Robbie Ray, Tom Milone, and A.J. Cole are having very nice developmental seasons as well. That's a lot of arms coming together all at once, and draft picks Alex Meyer and Matt Purke are two more potential impact arms to add if they sign.

They still don't have impact bats in the system, and Derek Norris still hasn't really been able to follow up on his breakthrough in 2009, but Anthony Rendon will change that as soon as he signs (and oh by the way, you know what position he plays).

Bottom line, the Nationals have the best farm system they've had since coming to DC. And a lot of these guys aren't that far off. You can really see the makings of a contending group taking shape around Strasburg and Harper--a rising core of talent that can get good together at the same time from from 2013-2016.

Now, let's imagine the kind of prospect haul the team could get for Zimmerman and add that group to what they already have. If the Nationals had put Zimmerman on the market last week, he easily would have been the most valuable player on the market--far and away more valuable than Hunter Pence, Carlos Beltran, or even Ubaldo Jimenez. And all those guys fetched top-shelf prospects. And with third base so thin around the league, there would be no shortage of suitors.

With the internal development they've had, plus the 2011 draft, plus a blockbuster package of prospects, their under-25 organizational talent would suddenly be right up there with Kansas City and Texas as the best in baseball. And with that you really could be looking at a sustained run of playoff appearances and a World Series.

The first alternative is to resign Zimmerman to another long-term deal, which may or may not even be possible and will likely cost over $170 million, and keep trying to win now with a team built around him, Werth, Strasburg, maybe Harper, and whatever else you're willing to pay for in free agency. In this scenario, I think the Nationals can expect a sustained run of respectability, but it's hard to imagine how a true contender comes together.

Of course the other possibility is that they lose Zimmerman in free agency after 2013 and get a couple draft picks as compensation (and please Nationals fans stop cherry-picking Jordan Zimmermann to overstate the value of a second round draft pick, ok? Good luck does not make good process.)

Add all this together, and it's kind of surprising to me that there hasn't been any discussion of moving Zimmerman. It just makes a lot of sense if you can stop and think about it without getting emotional about The Face. And it's certainly not too late--they should be able to put him out on the market next year at the deadline and get as much or more in return assuming nothing else changes.

Of course, there's one other complicating factor here: Jayson Werth and his $126 million contract. Could the team really sell off a piece like Zimmerman while sitting on a contract like that for a 32-year-old? Most teams wouldn't, but that doesn't mean it's not the right move. It would just make one more way in which the Werth signing will likely be more of a hindrance than a help for this team.

41 comments:

traderkirk said...

I wouldn't call it cherry picking, it's merely a fact.

Trading isn't any more of an exact science than the draft. So saying that it is always a mistake to not trade is itself a mistake.

The Jordan Zimmermann example is just the most obvious counter example of the oh what a failure it was to not trade Soriano/Dunn/etc. argument. The decision faced by the FO wasn't do we get something for an asset that is of no value to us (Carlos Beltran for example) it was are we getting more in prospect value by trading or by reaping TWO picks. Would you trade Jordan Zimmermann for anyone the Twins had in their system in the Soriano year?

I don't have the time nor the inclination to come up with other examples but suffice to say there are a plethora of really good players right now who started out as compensatory draft picks.

And there are just as many can't miss prospects who did.

If a GM decides he'd rather take his chances in the draft than accept marginal prospects then OK. That's a perfectly defensible position. And the decision needs to be evaluated after sufficient time has passed to determine if it was right or wrong. So my point is: I'd say they got the Soriano decision right so why is it still being brought up as a failure?

Steven said...

Would you trade Jordan Zimmermann for anyone the Twins had in their system in the Soriano year?

No, I'd trade Josh Smoker and take Zimmermann with the sandwich pick. See? Anyone can play this dumb game.

If you want the team to adopt a policy of valuing draft picks higher than prospects who have already signed and demonstrated some level of performance in pro ball, fine. But it's bad process, and just because Jordan Zimmermann worked out doesn't mean that it was smart to let the 2006 trade deadline pass without moving Soriano.

Jon said...

Not necessary at this point. Still got two more full years on his contract and will have value next trade deadline, the offseason after that, and the next trade deadline.

Eventually, it may have to be done, if we get a good haul of prospects back. But its too soon, and I'm not ready to say this team won't contend as early as next year with one more free agent signing.

Steven said...

This is what @kevin_reiss is arguing on Twitter, which I think is reasonable. My questions are:

1. What if there's a Herschel Walker offer out there this off-season (or last week) and there's none next July for whatever reason? Gotta take the oppy when it presents itself.

2. Will the Nationals EVER have the guts and judgment to move Zimmerman, even if such an offer is available? My gut is no, because they worry too much about perception and the sunk costs on Werth.

burns15 said...

First of all trading Zimmerman now is idiotic. He is one of the top 5 third baseman in the game, and trading him for a top prospect haul would be too big a risk. I mean how many times have bunches of "cant-miss" prospects missed? It happens all the time. Instead keep the young, proven, face of the franchise commodity at third base. Maybe you should looko at the fact that he has a top 10 trade value as a statement that the other 29 teams would consider the Nationals moronic to trade Zimmerman. Add to that the fact that he has stated many times that he wants to be here his whole career. Finally, if you trade away your best position player in his prime, just as the team is coming into contention (which by the way will be much sooner than you think, in fact challenging for a playoff berth is not out of the question next year) sends a terrible message to potential free agents. It shows that you are not serious about winning, even if thats not the case.

On another point, if the Nationals did not get enough value in offers for Soriano and Dunn to make up for the compensatory picks, then they absolutely made the right move. For you to suggest that 2nd round picks rarely become good to great major leaguers flat out shows your lack of knowledge of the game. The difference between players in the last half of the 1st round and the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds is minimal. Take Matt Purke for example, he was a projected top 15 pick before shoulder soreness caused him to fall to the 3rd round. Do you think he is any less talented or capable of making the major leagues then he was 1 year ago? No,he isnt. Also for your edification, here is a short list of notable players picked in the 2nd round and below (I think you will find that good players are found on a regular basis by dozens of teams after the 1st round)....
Since 1990 (just in the 2nd round):
Jon Lieber
Todd Helton
Jason Giambi
A.J. Hinch
Scott Rolen
Chris Singleton
Jeff Suppan
Jay Witasick
Brad Fullmer
Troy Glaus
Jarrod Washburn
Carlos Beltran
Sean Casey
Brett Tomko
Jacque Jones
Milton Bradley
Jimmy Rollins
Randy Wolf
Jeff Weaver
Rick Ankiel
Chase Utley
Adam Dunn
Brandon Inge
Gary Majewski
Carl Crawford
Brandon Phillips
Ryan Doumit
Ryan Ludwick
John Lackey
Xavier Nady
Joel Hanrahan
Kelly Shoppach
JJ Hardy
Dan Haren
Joey Votto
Jon Lester
Jonathan Broxton
Brian McCann
Tom Gorzelanny
Andre Ethier
Yovani Gallardo
Seth Smith
Hunter Pence
Dustin Pedroia
Kurt Suzuki
Yunel Escobar
Brett Anderson
Trevor Cahill
Justin Masterson
Jon Jay
Jordan Zimmerman
Mike Stanton
Freddie Freeman

Plus top prospects:
Zack Cosart
Tanner Scheppers
James Darnell
Tyler Chatwood
Xavier Avery
Billy Hamilton
Jason Kipnis
Stetson Allie

Jon said...

It would certainly be a gutsy move to do it now. If the s hits the fan though and they still look bad in 2013, I can't see the fans really blaming them for dealing Zimm, for the right package.

Again, its variable though because it will have to be a very very big haul of top prospects to move a guy like Zimm. It might just not be possible to even get value for him.

Steven said...

@burns--Look at what the Teixeira trade did for the Rangers. Trading a guy like Zimmerman can completely change a franchise, if it's the right deal

Sure, it's bold and risky, but I'd rather go for the gold than be safe and mediocre.

burns15 said...

For every Teixeira trade, there is a Mark McGwire trade (essentially the Cardinals got him for free). The 2nd round of the draft is not safe and mediocre, nor is the current state of the Nationals organization. In a year and a half the Nats lineup will be:
C Wilson Ramos
1B Mike Morse
2B Danny Espinosa/Steve Lombardozzi
SS Ian Desmond/Danny Espinosa
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Jayson Werth
CF Denard Span/ BJ Upton/ Jacoby Ellsbury/ etc.
RF Bryce Harper

SP Stephen Strasburg
SP Jordan Zimmerman
SP Brad Peacock
SP Ross Detwiler
SP Free Agent/Sammy Solis/Yunesky Maya
RP Colin Balester
RP Ryan Matheus
RP Henry Rodriguez
RP Tyler Clippard
RP Drew Storen

Add a few scrap heap relievers and that is easily a club that will be in playoff contention. The lineup is absolutely stacked, the rotation has 3 guys who could/should be absolute studs, and the bullpen is solid even if Storen or Clippard was traded. Add to this the fact that the Phillies window is closing as Rollins, Utley, Howard, halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Lidge, Ibanez, Ruiz, Victorino are all either past their primes or on the back side of their primes. Plus at this point if they have not already made the big club, Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, AJ Cole, possibly Brian Goodwin, and Robbie Ray will be waiting in the wings. How can you consider that safe and mediocre?

A final point, the reason why the Nationals farm system may be short on high-end position players is that their C, 2B, SS, 3B, and OF of the future are already on the roster (Ramos, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimm, Werth), plus another OF, and 2B/SS of the future are already in the minors (Harper, Lombardozzi). Anything else is gravy. Listen to everytime savy baseball minds around the league discuss the Nationals and their upcoming seasons, every single time one word is used... "Special." Mike Rizzo has done phenomenal job restocking the farm, not making trades because he feels he has to but rather making savy trades, putting together a good mix of veterans to help each set of prospects as they come up. If you want to see how to build an organization from the ground up, look at how Rizzo has done it

Steven said...

I'm not saying they should give him away for free. I'm saying they should try to get a Herschel Walker trade. And if there isn't one, then you don't do it.

Anyway, I admire your fandom (and list-making ability) but I think you're probably overrating the team's prospects. They have some nice pieces, but the 2013 lineup you project isn't stacked. It's not awful. They might play meaningful games in Sept, and that's a lot of progress. Kudos to Rizzo. I didn't think that would be the case. But it looks more like a decent .500 team than the core of a sustained contender.

If you're right, then it's going to be a wild ride come 2013. I'll even make the trip down to DC for the WS opener so you can say "I told you so."

burns15 said...

On that projected lineup, where would you improve? Who do you not see as the answer at a position and why are they not the answer? I'm interested to see what you see in these guys. I'm not saying the Nats have a farm system like the Royals did at the beginning of the year, but Rizzo has taken it from a bottom 5 farm system into the middle of the pack, and with the current group of high-end, young, low-level (A ball) talent, the system should continue to rise.

peric said...

Hmmm well I have considered the notion of trading Zimmerman as clearly the Nats brass has. Rendon falling in their laps in the draft was just what the doctor ordered given them additional flexibility in their planning.

However, I take task with your notion of "impact" bats and folks bandying about names like Pujols and Fielder.

First the Nats 1st base depth looks better than decent next year: LaRoche, Morse, Marerro, and Moore. You forgot to mention how first base down on the farm has developed two potential impact bats! The problem is 4 guys can't play the same position. The oldest, and next year's free agent is the only lefty.

You failed to contrast with a plan which puts these impact bats in the same batting order: Zimmerman, Rendon, Harper, Morse (or Marerro/Moore), Espinosa (we know he will improve even if it means giving up the platoon bat). Throw in an Upton and its a pretty decent lineup all things considered.

In the end though, you are right it does seem to make an abundant amount of sense to trade Zimmerman (not now but perhaps next year) NOT FOR a CF or impact bats but for dominant starting pitching. That has to be the price period.

Why? You can almost assume that Rendon will end up ahead of Harper as the #1 prospect in baseball. You have to assume that Rendon will move rapidly to the majors as Zimmerman did and perhaps hit even better from the get-go. Have to assume both Harper and Rendon will make it to the majors at the same time. When that happens all that's needed is dominant YOUNG starting pitching to compete with the Phillies and Braves.

Steven said...

@peric--I'd probably just shop for the best 2-3 prospects I could get, rather than trading for need, but a couple young cost-controlled potential front liners would be just fine with me.

@burns--I only see 1-2 true first division starters in that line-up, so there are plenty of places to upgrade.

Grover said...

Good stuff here, Steve. Two points I would make, though:

1. While Zimmerman will be expensive to re-sign, it's possible (probable?) he'll give the Nats some kind of hometown discount if they make a reasonable offer, allowing them to get him for less than market value. The value of that potential discount should be considered in weighing his value vs. the prospects he would return.

2. You're right that our 2012/2013 rotation vs. the Phillies' 2012/2013 rotation is not encouraging. But what about the other side of the ledger? Already their offense is nothing special- 7th in the NL in runs scored. It's very easy to envision a significant falloff in the next few years given the ages of their best offensive threats: Howard (will be 32 and 33 in 2012 and 2013); Utley (33/34), Victorino (31/32), Rollins (33/34), Polanco (36/37), even Ruiz (33/34). Even newly acquired Pence will be 29/30- he won't start fading, but he won't get any better. The only young talent they've got that you'd expect to make an impact in 2012/2013 is Dom Brown. There are no hitters in their Baseball America Top 10 still with the team that is above A ball, and even the A ball guys don't look like anything special.

As hard as it is to compare our rotation in the next year or two to Philly's, comparing that lot's future to the likes of Morse, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmerman, Werth, Ramos, Harper and maybe Rendon by 2013 is a lot easier on the eyes.

Steven said...

1. No, and I certainly wouldn't count on it. This could be Zimmerman's last best chance to set himself and his family for life. He'd be a fool to let sentimentality enter into the most important business decision of his life. If he did, I'd be sincerely bummed for him.

2. I dunno--the Nationals are competing against 29 other teams, 15 in the NL, not just one. But the NL is incredibly weak now, and the best team in the league is the Phillies. So I think that's probably a good benchmark of where they need to get. Whether the Phillies are still the best team in the NL 2 years from now or some other team like Atlanta or Cincinnati or someone else is the top of the heap, it's hard to say. I do think Halladay, Lee, and Hamels are all reasonably good bets to remain among the best SPs in the league for the next few years, so that alone makes them tough.

burns15 said...

so 1 to 2 first division starters... clearly Zimmerman and Morse are... so you are saying that Espinosa is not a top of the line middile infielder? nor is Wilson Ramos at cathcer? andy jayson werth who is now hitting like he did the last 4 years is not? I mean thats just borderline crazy for you to call Werth who was a frontline starter for the Phillies, no longer one...and for Espinosa, who could win ROY, not a frontline starter? Lombardozzi/Desmond might not be an All-star solution, but how many teams have their whole lineup without one lesser hitter (note not a "hole)... nobody, not even the Red Sox

So you are saying the Nats in 2013 would be playnig meaningful games in September possibly but more likely a decent .500 team... let's look at the logic for this. Currently the Nationals hover around the .500 mark, give or take a few games. The two best players in the organization have not played a signle pitch for them this year (Harper, Strasburg), nor has another top 50 prospect Brad Peacock. And you think when adding those guys to the current core, plus a couple free agents, that they will not get any better and continue to hover around .500? C'mon man

burns15 said...

ignore my terrible spelling mistakes

Steven said...

I was counting Zimmerman and Harper.

You sure Mike Morse at age 31, 2 years from now, will be in the top half of starting 1Bs in MLB? You know how many good 1Bs there are?

OK, we'll see. I'll bet the under, given his lack of track record, unsustainable BABIP, and extreme BB:K ratios.

Desmond is awful. Lombardozzi you're getting waaaay ahead of yourself. Werth? I hope so, but you certainly can't count on it after this year.

Espinosa might continue to develop and be a consistent above average performer. Saying it's a lock is a lot to put on the kid. He's way ahead of where people expected him to be at this point. Ramos should be average.

burns15 said...

1B in front of Morse:
Pujols, Freeman, Davis, Votto, Fielder, Teixeira, Gonzalez, Hosmer, Morales, Howard... yea that would be top half

Ramos is already well above avergae defensively, and I think you will find he is hitting about major league average for a catcher, and he will improve.

Espinosa can flat out pick it and has already produced offensively as one of the better second basemen in the game. So we are at least at 4 now.

Werth has hit like his track record since the All-Star break, thats five guarantees. Add a quality CF, thats 6.

Lombardozzi will be at least big league average, the kid can hit. If he and Ramos are the worst two hitters in your lineup, that is a stellar lineup. Lombardozzi is far better than Michael Martinez... and I think Ramos has a worst case scenario of Carlos Ruiz, to compare to the Phillies.

The Nationals may not win the World Series in 2013, or ever for that matter. But the front office has put the organization in a position to contend for one starting next year by acquiring lots of quality young talent. Now its up to the players to perform and luck.

sjb said...

A couple of things:
1). My main problem with the Span trade wasn't sentimentality about Storen but Span's concussion. It can be months before you're sure how something like that will play out. If Span gives you five years or so of good service, you can justify that trade even if Storen becomes the next Mariano Rivera. But if you make the deal and it turns out later this year or next that Span can't play anymore, the impact is devastating.
2). The big free agent possibility next winter will likely not be Albert Pujols--the Cardinals will likely do whatever it takes to keep him--but Prince Fielder--the Brewers seemingly will not do what it would take to keep him. And a number of the big market teams that would normally bid for him are either in no shape to do so (Cubs, Mets, Dodgers), or are set at the position and would want him to DH (Yankees, Angels, Red Sox only if they want to nudge Big Papi aside). Even with that it will take a bigger contract than Werth's to sign him--are the Nats willing to take the plunge?

Steve said...

I'd say the main reasons not to trade Zimmerman this year are 1) they don't have to yet with two years left on his contract and 2) the fan base would revolt if the team tried to turn him into prospects at this point.

If we're at the same point with this team in two years, treading water around .500, a Zimmerman trade might make a lot of sense. Barring a catastrophic injury, his value should not degrade significantly between now and then.

However, if the Nats do get to that point and do trade Zimmerman, it's going to be just as much of a signal of "we're giving up on the near future, and on paying for elite talent" as what it would be taken as now.

peric said...

On Morse. The guy is excellent condition. Far better shape than Mr. Fielder that's for certain. If he continues to come into seasons in this kind of shape I don't see why he can't sustain and even surpass what he has already done?

Its very consistent pattern offensively after his return from a season ending shoulder injury in 2008. He shredded two AAA leagues, the PCL and the IL before getting a sustained chance in the majors. His numbers really haven't dropped between AAA and the majors. That's consistency across 3 years.

If Werth is good until his mid-30's I suspect Morse should follow suit. He is stronger physically.

peric said...

Let's say SF offered Lincecum or Cain? Plus a prospect.

Could you say no to trading Zim and say, Lombardozzi?

Yes. And I am being completely unsentimental.

Zimm's wins above replacement are higher than those two guys' are. He is consistent. He and Morse are the only 'A' ranked players the Nats have on the Elias list. (Speaking of Morse's purported lack of consistency how about that?)

You would almost have to get two top of the rotation starters/prospects. Close to or major league ready for such a trade to be worth it for the Nats.

peric said...

1B in front of Morse:
Pujols, Freeman, Davis, Votto, Fielder, Teixeira, Gonzalez, Hosmer, Morales, Howard... yea that would be top half.

The only 1B ahead of Morse probably would be Texiera, Pujols and Fielder. And Morse is the superior fielder to Fielder.

Hosmer isn't even close yet. Nor is Freeman in spite of his great rookie year. Their only real advantage is that they are still prospects or just past being prospects. In other words they are still very young.

Check that stats dude. Measure Morse across the last two years. Morse is definitely hitting at an elite level and fielding pretty far above average.

Harper said...

My issue isn't with trading Zimm, (he's a victim of his own success, and having Bowden be his GM for a while) it's with finding a partner. While 3B is down, most of the teams in the hunt either have one or don't have a strong farm system. Could you get the Braves to do a deal (and sit Chipper?) The Cardinals? It's different with Walker because you could load up on draft picks, something you can't do here.

You can consider it - see what comes back but I just don't see where it would be this year.

peric said...

By measurable, unsentimental measurements in 2011 Morse is very close to if not at elite levels.

Joey Votto 4.8 WAR
Prince Fielder 3.6 WAR
Mark Texiera 3.6 WAR
Albert Pujos 2.9 WAR
Michael Morse 2.5 WAR

Freddie Freeman 1.7 WAR
Ryan Howard 1.3 WAR
Eric Hosmer 0.5 WAR

Ryan Zimmerman 1.1 WAR

Harper said...

oh and when are you going to update your pic? I think that kid is driving by now.

Steven said...

I'd say the main reasons not to trade Zimmerman this year are 1) they don't have to yet with two years left on his contract and 2) the fan base would revolt if the team tried to turn him into prospects at this point.

#1 I think is a good point, and if the Nationals trade Zimmerman at the July deadline next year for a Teixeira-like package, then I won't be griping that they waited too long.

#2 is the worst reason not to do it, and unfortunately it's probably the reason it's not on the table. Fans care about winning. If they build a winner, fans won't care about Ryan Zimmerman. If they don't build a winner, fans won't care about Ryan Zimmerman. And teams that don't have the guts to make smart, bold baseball decisions are teams that remain mediocre indefinitely.

Wally said...

I think that your premise is a plausible one. I don't know if I would do it, but everyone is available for a price, it just has to be high enough. But you omitted one thing that would have gotten more open-minded reactions: put a face on the prospects, as opposed to a generic category.

If Seattle offered Pineda, Walker and Ackley, yeah or nay?

What if Tampa offered Matt Moore, Desmond Jennings and Hak-ju Lee? You get my point; that at least can be evaluated on how much you like those prospects.

Because only those kinds of deals would be worth it. But they would be worth it (to me).

Steven said...

What if Tampa offered Matt Moore, Desmond Jennings and Hak-ju Lee?

In a heartbeat.

Section 222 said...

There seems to be an assumption here that the Nats won't be able to re-sign Zimmerman. I know it's simplistic but THE LERNERS ARE BILLIONAIRES. The are the RICHEST owners in MLB. There is no reason, if they really want to win world championships, that they can't sign Zim to a long term extension, whatever the Yankees are offering. And sign Reyes (please rid us of the forever underachieving Ian Desmond). And sign Pujols or Fielder (or keep Morse if they think he's as elite as Peric does). And sign a premium free agent pitcher in 2013 to go with Strasburg and Zimmermann.

Once we're a winner, the money will come rolling in from nightly sellouts and Pujols/Reyes merchandise. They can afford to overpay, but as time goes on that shouldn't even be necessary since they'll be offering the chance to play on a virtual all-star team with Strasburg, Harper, Pujols/Fielder, Reyes, and Zimmerman.

Of course they won't do they above, but they should. What else are they going to spend all their money on? Having suffered through seven years of .500 or lower teams already, I don't think that Nats fans should have to endure another iffy five year "Plan." Money just isn't an excuse. We can and should keep up with the Yankees, Red Sox, and other big market teams.

One thing that hasn't been discussed here is whether Zimmerman's value really is as sky high as we think/hope it will be. Although his hitting seems on the way back, his power hasn't quite returned. More importantly, his throwing is pretty suspect at the moment. I'm a little worried that he could be our 1B of the future because his arm becomes too unreliable.

Nick said...

After Tulo signed his extension with the Rockies, Zimmerman professed an interest to signing something similar with the Nationals. Trading Zimmerman would be crazy considering the incredible dearth of 3b in baseball right now. If he has professed an interest in signing a relatively below market extension now for extra years, why wouldn't the Nats take him up on that? Zim is literally one of the best players in all of baseball at a really weak position. Rendon has the makings of being a stud, but nothing is guaranteed. Look at his injury history. I was hoping Rendon could make the switch to 2b and move Espinosa to SS if anything. Elite players don't grow on trees, and if he can be brought back at a reasonable price the Nats should absolutely keep him. With a few breaks there is no reason this team can't contend in 2013, and trading Zim would greatly impact that. Why not trade Strasburg if he can command a ridiculous return? You can argue this all day, but at the end of the day, if you want to trade the best 3b in the MLB, you better be damn sure about it. It's a move that could set the franchise back and drive the fans away. It would be wise to sign him to an extension sooner rather than later.

peric said...

It is true Zimmerman certainly is THE elite player on this team and he continues to show that on the field and it is reflected in his overall WAR.

His value is so high its hard to see the Nats getting it back in trade?

The Nats are in a position now where they absolutely need top-of-the-rotation starters. Two would be optimal. They can come up with relievers and back end starters internally. To compete in the NL East you have to have that kind of elite pitching.

If Zimmerman is traded it would have to be for elite starting pitching period. At least one pitcher with a major league track record IMO. The other could be a close-to-major-league ready prospect.

The best place to get that without unduly affecting the other team is in fact Tampa Bay. The problem is that they already have their own Long Beach Grad Evan Longoria.

So, in the end it seems most likely that they renew Zim's contract and after doing the due diligence of reaching out and seeing if such a trade could be lined up with an American league team.

Coach Steve Roggie said...

Interesting thinking. I heard Peter Gammons say during the All Star Break that he believes the Nats will eventually put Ryan Zimmerman at 1B. That would make room for Rendon at 3B.

Lombardozzi looks like trade bait to me. If the Nats really are committed to Desmond at SS, then it's effectively already been decided.

Lombo belongs in a package that brings an every day CF.

Who else should the Nats trade? Much as it pains me to say it, I think that Morse is the guy. Is this a career year or the start of a great run? Who knows? If Michael Morse reverts back to being Mike Morse, then the Nats will look dumb for having not traded him when his value was sky high.

Could Morse and Lombardozzi bring a quality every day CF to the Nats? If so, then it seems like the other pieces would all fall into place so long as Rendon is MLB-ready in 2013.

Todd Boss said...

I'm not sure if you're just looking for a ton of comments, but to say that you recommend trading one of the top players in the game, one of the best defensive players, a local guy who the team is clearing building an identity around, just because he's a free agent at the end of 2013, is just nuts.

Simply put; Zimmerman is a building block, not a trade candidate. You build around marquee players, not look to flip them for prospects and push your rebuilding out 3 more seasons.

There's no reason not to think this team will be in a position to compete in 2013. Frisky in 2012, potentially powerful in 2013. If they're in the playoff hunt and looking like a team on the rise in 2013, you're not going to be worried about whether or not he leaves via FA ... HE is going to be worried about resigning and extending he legacy and leadership on a newly powerful team.

Will said...

I'm late to this conversation, but factor in a natural regression to the mean for Zimmerman and Werth, as well as moderate improvements from the likes of Espinosa, Ramos and whoever is manning shortstop next season and the return of Strasburg and you're looking at a team capable of 85-90 wins.

Factor in potential break out performances from the likes of Peacock, Milone, Meyers, Marrero, Harper, Rendon, Lombardozzi and the team could compete for a wild card next year, especially if this second WC idea gains traction.

The subtraction of Zimmerman deflates any chance at the playoffs until 2014 or so, when the prospects in the low minors start reaching the majors like Ray/Cole/Meyer/Purke and Harper comes into his own offensively. But by then we'll be having the same conversation about trading Strasburg and Zimmermann.

peric said...

Now, its onto Morse? ;)

Honestly, I really can't see them trading Morse unless they get a front line top-of-the-rotation starter. They won't trade him for a CF sorry folks. It would absolutely make no sense from any perspective. It would be idiotic.

People continue to underestimate Morse. From his time in AAA and as he entered the majors. He is and was a better hitter than Jason Heyward. He is the better hitter over Freddie Freeman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Adam LaRoche. Dunn and Willingham were never able to hit like Morse has and continues to.

Who does he compare to?

Batting average leaders.
1. A Gonzalez .353
2. J. Reyes .336
3. M. Young .336
4. C. Kotchman .332
5. R. Bruan .329
6. J. Votto .322
7. M. Morse .320

Fielder is no 36th.
Texiera isn't even in the top 40.

Slugging percentage leaders.
1. J. Bautista ..655
2, L. Berkman .593
3. R. Braun .586
4. M. Kemp .583
5. M. Holiday .572
6. C. Granderson .567
7. A. Gonzalez .563
8. M. Morse .555

Fielder is 11th.
Texiera is way down at 19th.

Morse finishes 12th in OPS just in front of the Nats new CF BJ Upton.

Fielder is 8th.

The Nats cannot afford to give up their one pure ELITE offensive threat unless they did sign a Prince Fielder. And he honestly doesn't look better much less an upgrade over the 4 players they already have for first base?

And Morse plays multiple positions in the infield and outfield, Fielder does not. Morse is the better "fielder" period. And Fielder would cost a whole heck of a lot more and the Nats would not get back the kind of value for Morse, LaRoche, Marerro and Moore that they should? It seems pretty ludicrous.

Coach Steve Roggie said...

Peric - it isn't that I'm keen to trade Morse - far from it. I agree with your assessment. He has demonstrated elite skills... for three months.

But he's going to arbitration, he's about to become expensive, and he's no spring chicken. He's not worth a top SP. If you're the Angels and you need a power hitter, are you willing to trade Weaver for Morse? I'm not. I would at least want to see Morse do it for a full season.

LaRoche doesn't even enter the equation, IMO. He's injured and he's signed for only 1 more year. He's a non-factor with regards to long term planning.

Frankly, I'm nervous about Morse's pending move back to LF when LaRoche returns. Morse is an average outfielder at best. He's a very good 1st baseman. I would prefer that the Nats keep Morse at 1B and plug Bernadina in at LF until Harper is ready to go.

I would much rather see the Nats keep Morse and solve their short-term CF problem with a mid-tier FA like David DeJesus or Melky Cabrera.

But if the choice is either Morse or Zimmerman, then I would rather have the latter. The better solution, finances aside, would be to keep both and wait to see whether or not Rendon is the real deal.

Mississippi Snopes said...

This isn't football, where the players wear helmets and appear 16 times a year. It's baseball and we know them and we can see them sweat and laugh.

I know (and more important, my wife knows) where Sandtucket is and where Zim's condo near his mom and dad is ... that Liberty Tavern is his favorite restaurant ... and that he supports MS charities because of his mom ... and that he has a really cute smile (again, more important, my wife knows) ... that he has a penchant for walk-off grand slams ... after midnight ... in a stadium full of Philthies.

You write, by far, the best analysis of the Nats, and gratis, but you are so wrong about trading Ryan Zimmerman that it makes me think of the clock that struck 13.

Baseball is a business ... and Ryan Zimmerman is good business (show business).

Let's see sabermetricians mesure the effects of walk off grand slams against a stadium full of asshole Phillies fans. o

jon antonucci said...

Hey Steve,

I love your blog but this post seriously makes me upset. You should think twice before posting this nonsense, if you don't have a story just don't write one.

THE IDEA OF TRADING ZIMMERMAN IS ABSOLUTELY IDIOTIC. There is no way an organization trades their CORNERSTORE player who is not in a contract year without an absolute ransom in return. Your argument about Zimm is wrong as well. His value actually can increase still. There is no reason if he stays healthy that he can't have an MVP caliber season this year or next. Would his value increase then? Of course.

Also, it's a LOSERS mentality to trade your best player. WE SHOULD BE TRYING TO LOCK ZIMM (AND OTHERS) UP IN DC, not ship them off and continue to get prospects. Prospects, generally, are 2 or 3 years off and WE ARE ALMOST READY TO COMPETE NOW. A big free agent singing in the offseason and a little help to this pitching staff and the nats are wild card contenders. Think before you write, Steven...didn't your mother tell you that?

Jon

Steven said...

Sorry you disagree, but I've thought about it a lot and presented a pretty good case I think.

You're saying you'd never trade Zimmerman for any offer? You wouldn't trade him for the Teixeira package? How about for Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips?

I guess what you and Mississippi Snopes are really saying is that you'd rather have the Nationals remain a 70-ish win team with Zimmerman than have them take the next step into contention.

That's fine. You're fans of the Z-Man. I am too. I just wouldn't make that choice.

jon antonucci said...

Personally I wouldn't trade Zimm for the Tiexiera package. Relief pitchers generally don't impress me and I'm not willing to give up a cornerstone, marquee third basemen for that and the SS. While the latter is impressive, I'd much rather have Zimm. The other package, well sure in retrospect that looks great Steven. We can all selectively pick the package in the past that you want for Zimm in the present. I bet you won't trade Zimm for what the Twins traded Johan for. Trading Zimm only sets this organization back 2-3 years....we need to push it forward. Fans are starting to come out and this team is competitive, there's a reason your writing this column and that trade was as you put it 'never considered.' It's totally ridiculous to even consider!