Saturday, November 10, 2012

Best and worst offseason moves

US Presswire file photo
Was the 2010 signing of Jayson Werth for $126 million a great move or a disaster?
Every offseason has its highs and lows, moments when teams are lauded for moves they make (or don't make) and chastised for other moves they make (or don't make).

Truth be told, it's almost impossible to judge the merits of those transactions when they occur. Only after the passage of time do we learn whether the moves were savvy or suspect.

So with that in mind, let's take a stroll down memory lane and revisit some of the most significant offseason transactions the Nationals have made since arriving in town. With the advantage of hindsight, we can now select the best and worst moves from each winter...

2005-06

BEST MOVE: Trading Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and Armando Galarraga to the Rangers for Alfonso Soriano

What was at the time perceived as a bold (and potentially foolish) deal by Jim Bowden proved to be one of the best the former general manager ever made. Soriano made a successful transition to the outfield (after a well-publicized hiccup in spring training) and wound up becoming only the fourth player in MLB history in the 40-40 club. Wilkerson and Sledge each saw their careers tailspin, while Galarraga went on to nearly pitch a perfect game for the Tigers before bouncing around the sport.

WORST MOVE: Selling Jamey Carroll to the Rockies for cash and signing Damian Jackson

Carroll was one of the most popular players on the inaugural Nationals (both among teammates and fans) and was a particular favorite of manager Frank Robinson. Bowden, though, didn't think he would ever amount to more than a utility infielder who couldn't play shortstop at the big-league level, so he shipped him to Colorado for $300,000 and signed veteran Damian Jackson for $700,000 to take his roster spot. Jackson was a disaster, a utilityman who lacked fundamental skills, was a clubhouse nuisance, was released in midseason after hitting .198 and never wore another major-league uniform. Carroll, meanwhile, hit .279 with a .357 on-base percentage over the next seven seasons and remains a quality big-league infielder to this day.

2006-07

BEST MOVE: Letting Alfonso Soriano leave as a free agent

Sometimes the best moves are those you don't make. Though many fans wanted them to re-sign Soriano following his 40-40 season, the Nationals weren't going to come anywhere close to matching the Cubs' eight-year, $136 million offer. It's a good thing, too, because that contract would have hamstrung the organization for years, especially for a player whose skills have declined drastically since his one season in D.C. Bowden happily took two compensatory draft picks in exchange for losing Soriano. One of those picks turned into left-hander Josh Smoker, who has been plagued by injuries and has never reached Class AA. The other, though, turned into Jordan Zimmermann, a stalwart in the Nats' current rotation.

WORST MOVE: Signing Austin Kearns to a three-year extension

Kearns was part of the biggest trade of the Bowden Era, acquired from the Reds with Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner in exchange for Gary Majewski, Bill Bray, Royce Clayton, Brendan Harris and Daryl Hamilton. Not that any of those players given up amounted to much, but Bowden's biggest mistake was signing Kearns to a three-year, $17.5 million extension after watching the outfielder hit .250 with eight homers in 53 games following the trade. Three sub-par, injury-plagued seasons later, the Nationals finally were able to part ways with Kearns.

2007-08

BEST MOVE: Traded Jonathan Albaladejo to the Yankees for Tyler Clippard

The Nationals' big deal at the 2007 Winter Meetings was the acquisition of troubled outfielder Elijah Dukes from Tampa Bay. Who knew this trade, which barely drew any attention, would prove far more significant for the franchise? Clippard, over time, blossomed into one of the best relievers in baseball. Albaladejo's only claim to fame is having an incredibly difficult name to pronounce.

WORST MOVE: Signed Paul LoDuca for $5 million

After packaging Brian Schneider with Ryan Church in a deal to acquire Lastings Milledge from the Mets, the Nationals needed a new catcher. Bowden wound up signing the man who would be replaced in New York by Schneider, giving LoDuca a $5 million contract. Two problems: 1) LoDuca was way past his prime and hit .230 in 46 games before he was released, 2) A couple of days after the signing, LoDuca was outed in the Mitchell Report for having purchased HGH from Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, further destroying his reputation.

2008-09

BEST MOVE: Signed Adam Dunn for 2 years and $20 million

Bowden desperately wanted his old slugger from Cincinnati, and he finally got his man only two days before pitchers and catchers reported for spring training. Dunn wound up costing far less than anyone expected, and he wound up producing right at his career norms, blasting 76 homers with 208 RBI over his two seasons in D.C. The Big Donkey was popular with teammates and fans, and though many were upset new GM Mike Rizzo didn't re-sign him when his contract was up, that proved the right decision in the end as well.

WORST MOVE: Signed Daniel Cabrera for $2.6 million

Dumped by the Orioles on December 12, 2008, Cabrera was scooped up by the Nationals only 17 days later, given a hefty salary by Bowden despite his erratic career and lack of interest from other clubs. And what did the Nationals end up getting for their investment? An 0-5 record, 5.85 ERA and this gem of a quote from Rizzo upon announcing Cabrera's release after only eight starts: "I was tired of watching him."

2009-10

BEST MOVE: Signed Matt Capps for $3.5 million

The acquisition of Capps, a quality reliever who was unceremoniously cast aside by the Pirates, was one of Rizzo's shrewdest moves as GM. Not only because Capps turned into an All-Star closer for the Nationals, but because he was so good that the Twins were willing to give up catching prospect Wilson Ramos for him at the trade deadline. Talk about a win-win for the Nats.

WORST MOVE: Signed Jason Marquis for 2 years, $15 million

The Nationals desperately needed a reliable, veteran pitcher to anchor their rotation. Rizzo thought he got the right guy in Marquis, but it turned out the right-hander had bone chips in his elbow that required surgery and left him on the DL for almost four months. Marquis rebounded the following year and pitched well enough to draw trade interest from the Diamondbacks. The Nats wound up getting a decent prospect for him, infielder Zach Walters.

2010-11

BEST MOVE: Signed Jayson Werth for seven years, $126 million

It's possible this won't be considered a great move by the time that mammoth contract runs out in 2017, but for now you have to applaud Rizzo for luring a player of Werth's prominence to Washington when this franchise was not an attractive destination for big-name free agents. Werth's debut season was awful, but he helped change the culture of Nationals baseball, and he was incredibly valuable to the club down the stretch and in the playoffs this season. The Nats can only hope he stays healthy and continues to make a difference for several more years.

WORST MOVE: Traded Josh Willingham to the Athletics for Corey Brown and Henry Rodriguez

Rizzo's motivation for trading Willingham was understandable. He was injury-prone, a poor defensive outfielder and was due to become a free agent the following winter. But, at least to this point, the Nationals haven't gotten much return for The Hammer. Brown appears to be a classic "Class AAAA" player who thrives in the minors but isn't quite good enough to stick in the majors. Rodriguez, meanwhile, remains a colossal tease, a flamethrowing reliever who dominates just enough to make some think he can overcome his complete lack of command all other times. Willingham, meanwhile, has 68 homers and 208 RBI the last two seasons with the A's and Twins and just won his first career Silver Slugger Award.

2011-12

BEST MOVE: Traded Derek Norris, Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole to the Athletics for Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam

This wasn't necessary an overwhelmingly popular move when it went down last December. Four top prospects seemed an awfully steep price to acquire Gonzalez, who some were worried wouldn't pitch well outside of Oakland. Well, the lefty did just fine, leading the majors with 21 wins and becoming a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award. Norris and Milone did prove to be two key pieces to the Athletics' division championship, and Cole remains an elite pitching prospect. But the Nats aren't complaining about the high cost to acquire Gio anymore.

WORST MOVE: Signed Brad Lidge for $1 million

The Nats knew it was a gamble to sign the oft-injured reliever, but Rizzo viewed it as a low-risk, high-reward move. Lidge looked great in spring training, then was a disaster once the regular season began. He wound up on the DL, then was released after making only four appearances following his return in June.

42 comments:

Gonat said...

2011 WORST MOVE: Traded Josh Willingham to the Athletics for Corey Brown and Henry Rodriguez
_____________________________

Yes, I agree it was a bad trade as Rizzo needed to get more in trade and if he couldn't he should have kept Josh. I agree with you on HenRod but lets be fair, Corey Brown hasn't been given an opportunity at the Major League level. Give him 2 weeks playing every day against RH pitching.

I still think a close 2nd to WORST moves was signing Matt Stares. Not sure if it was more painful watching LoDuca or Stares. Watching 3 straight fastballs from Halladay for Strike1-2-3 with less than 2 outs and a runner on 3rd was one of the worst moments of that year.

Gonat said...

For 2012, if Brad Lidge was your worst move, than it was a good year. Personally I think it was bringing back Wang.

NatsLady said...

AFL "Hot Sheet." Rendon.

3. Anthony Rendon, 3b, Salt River Rafters (Nationals)
Statistics: .538/.588/.923 (7-for-13), 4 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 1-for-2 SB, 1 Error
After claiming the fifth spot in last week's Hot Sheet, Rendon slugged his way two spots higher this week with three multi-hit games. After splitting time across four levels this summer, rehabbing from a 2011 shoulder injury and 2012 ankle fracture, a healthy Rendon has looked great this fall, batting .328/.416/.484 with eight doubles, second in the AFL. Overall, scouts have been impressed by his patient approach, strength and contact ability.


AFL Hot Sheet

http://ht.ly/2t8EQc

NatsLady said...

David Ross contract with RedSox is two years, $6.2M (pending physical). Can't figure why the Braves didn't match it.

NatsLady said...

Happy Birthday to Ryan Mattheus!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

These are all hindsight analyticals. How many questioned these moves before they happened. I also don't think Lidge was the Worst Move. I think it was not extending LaRoche mid-season.

Gonat said...

Overall, scouts have been impressed by his patient approach, strength and contact ability.
____________________________

NatsLady, great post on the scouting on Rendon. Its that contact ability especially in 2 strike counts which enhances his strengths.

SteveM, would you say Rendon is a hybrid of Werth and BHarper?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NL, big big Braves mistake. Why wouldn't they match that?

natsfan1a said...

grrr...that made me so mad (well, and sad, too)...grrr...

WORST MOVE: Selling Jamey Carroll to the Rockies for cash and signing Damian Jackson

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Gonat, good comparison but too early to say he has Jayson's plate discipline but he doesn't panic in 2 strike counts at this level and keep in mind he is a ringer there. The one comparison to Harper is barreling up the ball and quick hands and eye-hand.

Don't mistake Rendon's power to Harper. Rendon is a gap hitter and a contact guy. His power is he hits the ball hard which will help his BABIP.

Gonat said...

SteveM, thanks for the analysis. Its exciting to think of the possibilities.

UnkyD said...

Actually, worst move for '12 has to be Rizzo's shocking failure to assemble an adequate bench, right JayB? ;-)

slidell2 said...

I agree with most of the choices, though there were a ton of bad choices to choose from, mostly in the early years. What all that reveals, is that probably the worst choice of all time falls on the Lerners for choosing and sticking with Bowden for so long. (BTW; I especially get irritated whenever I see a box score showing Jamey Carroll doing good)

JaneB said...

I agree that this tear's worst move is not resigning ALR.

How can we assess ANY of these moves but in hindsight? Think of all the people you dated in life who looked promising until they kicked your cat or burbed after drinking right out of the milk carton (examples from a criend's life, you realize)?

I can still remember how happy I was when we signed Marquis. And I'll love him forever for plunking se D-back in an endless game in June '11 after they plunked a bunch of our guys (Danny and Wilson among them, if I recall). And he just turned to the Ump and shrugged. That awful day where they pulled him in the first, when he was injured, is still the nadir of my baseball watching experience. And yes, I was at Game Five.

Gonat said...

Ghost Of Steve M. said...
I think it was not extending LaRoche mid-season.
November 10, 2012 9:38 AM
_______________________________

Interesting. I think FP Santangelo would agree with you.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks for the much-needed laugh, JaneB. I have, um, friends who have experienced similar regrets. Although, on the plus paw, the experience also helped, um, my friends to recognize a good guy when he did come along. :-)

Also, having observed commenter mood trends on here when a thread was languishing for days and days in years past, I really appreciate Mark having taken the time to write up posts in advance before his vacation. I also appreciate the posts from Chase in his absence. New posts are a good thing, even if one does not agree with the premise, imho. :-)

Think of all the people you dated in life who looked promising until they kicked your cat or burbed after drinking right out of the milk carton (examples from a criend's life, you realize)?

natsfan1a said...

I wasn't there, it being a road game and all, but for me the game where Nick Johnson broke his leg is up, er, down there. (I was also at Game 5.)

I can still remember how happy I was when we signed Marquis. And I'll love him forever for plunking se D-back in an endless game in June '11 after they plunked a bunch of our guys (Danny and Wilson among them, if I recall). And he just turned to the Ump and shrugged. That awful day where they pulled him in the first, when he was injured, is still the nadir of my baseball watching experience. And yes, I was at Game Five.

LoveDaNats said...

Game 5. Sorry, just had a post traumatic stress flashback.....

Gonat said...

Free Agent Nyjer Morgan:

http://www.brewcrewball.com/2012/11/6/3609142/milwaukee-brewers-nyjer-morgan-and-alternative-histories

Theophilus T. S. said...

Apart from the fact they received nuthink! (except for petty cash) for Carroll, I don't feel so badly about it. He's been a fill-in starter for some teams (break glass in case of emergency), sometimes for long stretches but never really the first choice until this year w/ the Twins at age 30+alot -- and I watched a couple of Twins games this season and his range and arm were both suspect.

Nice player and someone you'd like to have on your roster if you didn't have Lombardozzi. My problems have been with the guys they signed/acquired (Milledge?), not the guys they got rid of, as to whom there never should have been any regrets.

rogieshan said...

Best Move: Zach Greinke vetoing trade from KC for rumored package of Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen and Danny Espinosa.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Any chance Cherington got his Ross's mixed up?

Signing David Ross to add to their catching stable is baffling on several levels.....for the Red Sox, Ross himself, and even the Braves for not poneying up to keep him what with McCann' issues.

I don't get it.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Rogie, yeesh, you aren't kidding. I went completely nuts when I heard the proposed trade and still think history will paint Greinke as a pitcher with 1 magical season and several good years. Unless Greinke refinds 2009, he will just be a decent and very expensive #2.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NatsJack, let's see what Wren does now. As a Nats guy, I live this Braves FAIL.

billyhacker said...

When your worst moves cost $5 million or less, you end up in the NLCS. Doing a best/worst for almost any other team (other than Oakland) will show many more millions lost on long contracts for declining players - let's hope we never get so successful that we are willing to go there.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Dodgers drunken spending spree continues. They just won the Ryu lottery for $25 mill.

Teddy Rochlis said...

can someone please explain to me how the dodgers are going to pay for all the hit and miss big contract players they are acquiring? There salary has to be around 180mil already plus they just got the rights to the korean pitcher, and they are talking about signing greinke, i don't know how they will be able to stay afloat.

MicheleS said...

Dodgers this off season equals Marlins last off season, the only thing the Dodgers have on the plus side is Donny Baseball vs Ozzie.

MicheleS said...

And this after all the beats announce davey staying for 13 only...(already one opening the door for more)

James Wagner‏@JamesWagnerWP

This is all barring a change of heart, though. Nats like to promote from within, so bench coach Randy Knorr is a leading candidate for '14.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Ghost......yep....makes me happy.

Definitely interested in what Wren does now.

Steady Eddie said...

Even assuming for the sake of argument that the Willingham trade was as bad as Mark paints it, remember that we COULD have signed Wollingham as an FA before this season if we wanted him back. IOW, all we traded was a one-year rental of Willingham to the As.

Rizzo traded him not only because of his injury-proneness but also because he didn't fit the athletic model of an outfielder that Rizxo was pursuing. Which makes it interesting to contemplate what Arizxo may or may not do in the outfield this offseason with Morse. (Largely moot if we can't resign ALR though.)

SCNatsFan said...

Ghost, what makes you think LaRoche would have signed mid season? He parlayed his comeback into a huge payday, the last of his career; the odds of him getting a better deal midseason as opposed to now is slim. If he was betting on himself to continue his great year then he was a very smart man and there wasn't anything Rizzo could have done at that time to sign him.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NatsJack, the Braves had the one Peachy injury and McCann was banged up so I consider them lucky so they take their questionable position in catcher given McCann's health and let their 1-B walk for $3.1 mill. Makes no sense.

I also believe it was Wren who badmouthed Rizzo during the playoffs.

whatsanattau said...

Other bad moves include giving Riggleman the full time job after Acta did not work out and keeping Felipe Lopez and Dukes as long as they did.

Other good moves include the trade for Michael Morse, the trade for Kurt Suzuki, the non-signing of Aaron Crow (and subsequent drafting of Storen), the refusal to give up on Desmond, and the signing (and re-signing) of Davey Johnson as Manager.

Bonus bad move: designing the stadium so that the upper deck patrons are so far away they have to pay Virginia Sales Tax.

natsfan1a said...

Another good move of 2012, letting Teddy win. :-)

SonnyG10 said...

At the time I didn't realize how bad a GM Bowden was. Looking back on it, he was really bad. Thank goodness he's gone and we have Rizzo.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Any list of bad moves is incomplete without including one more name:

Nook Logan.

d0e81e8c-9f37-11e1-a165-000bcdcb471e said...

I actually like Brown, he's shown great speed and Defense in all 3 OF positions, and given the chance, I see him as an everyday player. Maybe a trade pkg, and he will start for a team that can use him..

The Retired Journalist said...

From 07/08: "Albaladejo's only claim to fame is having an incredibly difficult name to pronounce." But it can be sung, to the tune of "Guantanamera".

Gardner said...

I am very thankful for the Bowden years...due to his epic stink we were able to snag Strasburg and Harper.

Gardner said...

I am very thankful for the Bowden years...due to his epic stink we were able to snag Strasburg and Harper.

slidell2 said...

Amazing how different Jayson looks clean-shaven.

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