Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Center Fielders Who Got Away

All the talk around the Nationals these days is how they are "feverishly" looking for a long-term answer in center field.

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.


Doc said...

Span certainly has talent. Unfortunately, he is also recovering from a concussion. Not much of a trade opportunity there!

Nate said...

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 that they should be so easy to acquire, and why don't the Nats (or Braves for that matter) have one?

Steven said...

It's not totally unreasonable, but I think you're probably overstating Denard Span's value. He was a 2.6 WAR player last year. He's doing a bit better this year, but there are a lot of teams with 3.0 WAR CFs.

And then I think to just dismiss Drew Storen as just another RHRP probably understates his value a bit. At least I hope it does, because I was just starting to feel a little less bad about that draft pick.

amo said...

Wow, I am very surprised. I most often agree with you, and your points about Rasmus are dead on, but Span?? If Storen was the key piece on the Nats' part in that deal, I would do it in a heartbeat. In fact, I think it's almost a no-brainer. Storen might not be just another RHRP and might well be a good reliever for several years. We all know relievers are the most volatile commodity in baseball. Besides, Storen's current BABIP against is .221. But even if Storen ends up being a better player than he is right now, you still do it (even if he was the ninth pick in the draft).

If you don't flip a first-round reliever for an above-average centerfielder on a very team-friendly contract, which on top addresses one of you most glaring needs, there are not many deals you will be able to make at all. BTW, Span's 2.6 WAR last year came on the heels of the, by far, worst BABIP of his career.

Steven said...

You know, you convinced me. I'd deal Storen for Span. Mostly I hadn't looked at Span's bounce-back year. I remembered how he tanked after he signed the big contract and kind of assumed with the Twins awful start to the season that Span was probably still sucking it up. But you're right the OBP is back, and relievers are much more replaceable.

ff said...

It's easy for you to say it in hindsight, but you never said anything about Cameron Maybin in the offseason because you knew you would have been laughed off if you suggested the Nats should have preferred him over Span. The guy had a .663 OPS last year with a 29% K% rate.

Steven said...

Good point. You're right, before I ever post anything, I stop and think, "ok, will anyone laugh at me?"

amo said...

If Lombardozzi/Storen for Span was on the table - and since it's Ladson, that's a big if - Rizzo's crazy.