Saturday, December 4, 2010
Trade vs. draft picks
A lot of people have been wondering the last two days why the Nationals didn't simply trade Dunn in July instead of letting him walk as a free agent now and getting the two draft picks as compensation. Many fans are suggesting Mike Rizzo blew it by not dealing Dunn to the White Sox at the trade deadline in exchange for promising young pitcher Daniel Hudson.
Well, that's probably not a fair criticism, because as best as I can tell, the White Sox never offered a Hudson-for-Dunn trade.
I happened to have MLB Network on yesterday afternoon during their marathon showing of "The Club," a show about the White Sox's front office and clubhouse. I hadn't previously seen much of the show during the season, and perhaps some of you did, but I was most interested in the episode that centered around the July 31 trade deadline. MLB's cameras were right there in the conference room with Chicago GM Kenny Williams and his staff on July 31, and while they didn't come all the way out and acknowledge it, it was obvious they were in talks with the Nats about Dunn.
That part wasn't surprising, of course, because we knew Rizzo and Williams were engaged in talks down to the wire and that Williams had serious interest in acquiring Dunn.
What I found most interesting, though, was that it became very clear the White Sox were not offering Hudson (or Edwin Jackson, for that matter) to the Nats in a Dunn trade. Quite the contrary, Williams was absolutely intent on keeping his big-league rotation intact. Williams' No. 1 priority at the deadline was ensuring he had a quality No. 5 starter for the stretch run. He liked Hudson's long-term potential but wasn't confident the rookie could handle the pressure of a pennant race. Jackson seemed a more reliable choice at that point, so Williams was willing to send Hudson to the Diamondbacks for the veteran right-hander.
I know there was speculation at the time that the White Sox acquired Jackson only to immediately "flip" him to the Nationals in a Dunn trade, but that was never going to happen either. Again, Williams' top priority was having a capable No. 5 starter. Had he sent Jackson away after dealing Hudson for him, the Sox wouldn't have had anyone to take that last spot in the rotation. At one point in the show, someone asks Williams about the potential for a Jackson-for-Dunn deal, to which Williams responds: "There hasn't even been an offer. I'd rather keep Jackson."
Point is, the White Sox weren't going to trade any major-league starting pitchers to the Nationals in a Dunn trade. The player Rizzo had his eyes fixed on, meanwhile, was not a pitcher but second baseman Gordon Beckham. And Williams had zero interest making that deal. He said he would not remove one member of his current big-league lineup just to add someone else.
So the talks never really went anywhere, and that's why Dunn wasn't traded to Chicago in July. Rizzo would only have done it with Beckham included (something I was hearing myself at the time). Williams wasn't going to offer Hudson or Jackson.
Does all that mean Rizzo made the right choice keeping Dunn for the remainder of the season and now taking two draft picks for him? Not necessarily. We'll probably never know what the absolute best trade offer for Dunn was (and it could very well have come from another club, not the White Sox).
But as this debate rages on, and as we analyze it several years from now once we see who these two draft picks turn into, let's not argue that Rizzo gaffed by turning down a Hudson-for-Dunn trade. Because it's pretty clear that was never a possibility.
Posted by Mark Zuckerman at 11:30 AM