Good morning from the D concourse at Dulles International Airport, where my flight to Chicago awaits. The Nationals open a three-game series tonight against the Cubs, which means another reunion with old friend Alfonso Soriano.
It's hard to believe it's been four years since Soriano roamed left field at RFK Stadium, mashed 46 homers (still a Nats record) and stole 41 bases. That remains, in my opinion, the best individual season in Nats history, though a case can certainly be made for Ryan Zimmerman's Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo last year.
It's easy to forget now, but there was plenty of uproar over the Nationals' decision to let Soriano walk as a free agent in the winter of 2006. They took plenty of heat from fans and media alike who felt they should have made a better offer to keep Soriano ... or at least traded him at the July 31 deadline.
Four years later, though, I think it should be noted the Nats made the right call. Soriano hasn't been close to the same player he was in 2006. He's battled several injuries, he's lost both power and speed. And last week he was chastised by Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly for failing to hustle.
Oh, and did we mention Soriano is only in the fourth year of an eight-year, $136 million contract? Would you prefer the Nats were on the hook for that right now?
Seems to me the only remaining debate is whether the Nationals should have traded Soriano instead of letting him go as a free agent. What could they have gotten for him in a trade? Well, the best offer I ever heard for him was right-hander Kevin Slowey of the Twins.
The Nats did get draft pick compensation for losing Soriano as a free agent, two picks actually. Those turned out to be left-hander Josh Smoker (who has battled injuries and inconsistencies) and is pretty much a bust at this point, and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann, of course, was the organization's top pitching prospect and was off to a strong start last season before Tommy John surgery derailed his career.
If Zimmermann returns as hoped and becomes a solid big-league starter, I think the Nats come out on top in the end. If he doesn't make it back ... well, then there's an argument to be made the club made a mistake.
What do you think? Did the Nats make the right move with Soriano? Post your comments and I'll check them out when I arrive in Chicago.