Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rizzo, Beane, Willingham speak

Read my full story on the trade on

The Nationals and A's each just had dueling conference calls a little while ago. I was in on the Nats' call with Mike Rizzo, who had some interesting things to say about today's trade and why it was made. My colleague John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, was on the A's call with Billy Beane and Josh Willingham and was kind enough to share what both men said.
Here you go...

On Henry Rodriguez (top left)
"He's a guy we've scouted a lot lately. We see a big physical, big-armed guy, with two plus-plus pitches, 23 years old, and a guy we feel can fit comfortably in our bullpen, now and for years to come. We foresee him down the road as the possibility of a guy who can pitch at the back end of the game, either set up Storen in the eighth inning or pitch in the ninth inning. It's just an attractive alternative, another 23-year-old power arm that adds to our depth at that position, and a guy we think has big upside. He's been scouted a lot lately. His numbers are trending positively, as far as the walk numbers are going. The walk numbers are going down, the strikeouts are going up. He's getting much more acclimated to the reliever role. He was switched from a starter two years ago, I believe. From then on, we've scouted him a lot and he's really taken off. We have high hopes for the guy, a 23-year-old guy who we feel is a big-arm guy who can fit in the back of our bullpen."

On Corey Brown (second on left)
"He's a guy we've always liked since the draft days. We feel that he's got a big tool package. He's an athletic guy that can run, hit, hit for power and play really good defense. He's a guy that has the ability to play center field, but also has the power to play both corners."

Where do you see both of these guys starting the year? "From everything we've seen in his recent outings, we believe that Rodriguez is going to make our big-league club in our bullpen somewhere [note: he's out of options]. And I believe that Brown will come to major-league camp; we'll see what we have there. But I foresee him starting at Triple-A and helping us in the big leagues in the near future."

Any sense of why Brown struggled at Triple-A?
"From the information we got, he's actually struggled at each level, early at that level. He dominated the Double-A level very well. He dominated the Arizona Fall League. We feel that he's going to adjust quite comfortably to Triple-A and ultimately will help us out on the big-league roster in the near future."

Was Willingham's injury history a factor in not wanting to keep him longer?
"I think that had something to do with it, but there's so many tentacles to those questions. A lot of information goes into the decision we make on that sort. There's a lot of things that went into the decision to trade Josh now instead of waiting until spring training or waiting until the trade deadline. We felt that this was an attractive package that we have right now. It was a better package than we got last year at the trade deadline for Josh. So we felt like this was an opportunity for us to really cement a big-armed relief pitcher at 23 years old and a toolsy outfielder that hits from the left side. It was more on the side of the return that we got for Josh now as opposed to what the returns were at the trade deadline last year."

Who's your left fielder now?
"Not sure. You know, the easy answer would be a platoon situation with Bernadina and Morse, which we feel that the productivity offensively should be consistent with what we've had there in the past. I think with Bernadina out there, we certainly have supreme defense in left field and a really athletic, defensive outfield. That's not to say we're finished this winter with doing what we're trying to do in trying to strengthen and bolster the club offensively and defensively."

Does this trade now allow you any more flexibility now to go out and spend money on something else?
"The decision to trade Josh was not based on his salary or on money whatsoever."

How much interest was there in Josh at the Winter Meetings, and did this deal start to come together then or only in the last day or two?
"There were three or four teams that checked in on Josh. There were no former offers made. It was more parameters and philosophies. Then it heated up with Oakland just in the last couple of days."

Where do you stand right now with Chien-Ming Wang?
"We're in discussions with his representatives."

Reaction to the trade:
"I wasn't really surprised. I sort of expected to be traded during winter meetings. It didn't happen; it died down a little bit; my first thoughts about it, I'm excited because I know what [Oakland] has. Really, really, good young pitching, and they've already upgraded the lineup a little with the acquisitions before adding myself, so I'm excited. This organization is ready to win, and the moves they made proved they're ready to win as well."

What do you add to A's?
"I'm going to bring some power to the lineup. I'm not a guy who'll hit 40 home runs. I've had some freak injuries. I was on the way to over 20-25 homers and driving in 80 runs [before the knee surgery]. I bring some power and balance to the lineup. I get on base and walk a lot. I'm not going to get 40 homers and 100 RBIs every year but will bring a lot to the lineup."

Do you know any A's?
"I really do not. That's the funny thing. I know somebody on just about any other team. That's one team I don't know anybody on. But I'm a pretty outgoing guy. I've been traded before. I went to Washington without knowing anybody."

How is your knee?
"The knee's great; 5-6 weeks of rehab on it. The timing was so bad, because I had to have the surgery because I couldn't play on it any more. If I just made it through the last month and a half of the season..."

Is it 100 percent now?
"I'm through with rehab. Done since October, doing normal offseason workout and going good."

On his interest in Willingham:
"We actually pursued Josh earlier in the winter when we were trying to acquire David DeJesus; we had interest earlier going back to Florida. Over the course of the week, it picked up steam."

Was it difficult to give up Rodriguez?
"It was difficult. There's no getting around the fact he's a unique talent with a 100 mph fastball. We knew we had to give up something and felt like at this time with the attraction of bringing Josh on board, we couldn't pass him up."


The Great Unwashed said...

Uh oh, Rizzo called Brown a "toolsy outfielder." Where have we heard that before? Hmmmmm...

Souldrummer said...

Solid to see this stuff in one place. Thanks a bunch. I'm not crazy about the deal. I thought we were deep in the bullpen as things stand, and I don't think the outfield prospect is any great shakes, basically J-Max from the left hand side to me. He's 25.

Rodriguez is nice, but last year he talked big on a guy who had everything but the walk numbers in Brian Bruney and we saw how that worked out. If he's going to move a reliever as part of a package for another need, I'm okay with this. Otherwise, we've limited the flexibility of our roster by signing this guy without options and strengthening an area we don't have a major need in while weakening an area we did have a need in. Willingham was one of the best OBP guys on the team and still is a possible Type A guy. He will also still have value during the year.

What would make this deal look especially foolish is if the A's struggle in the first half of the year and move Willingham for more than we're getting in this deal.

Doc said...

Good luck to The Hammer, hope he does well.

Doc said...

Corey Brown tootsy?? We may need a re-definition of that term. .193 in 40 games at AAA??

Feel Wood said...

Look at it this way. Rizzo has now replaced Peralta in the bullpen with a much younger power arm. He's clearly not done dealing yet. The replacement for Willingham is yet to come. You can't look at these transactions on a one-for-one basis. Building a team is a process.

Anonymous said...

Great post, thanks. At least Rizzo's moves are all following the same blueprint: power relief pitching, defense and athleticism. You can argue with his priorities, but at least his moves seem coherent.

JD said...

Common Doc,

What do you want him to say? 'he is a middling prospect we got as a throw in?'.

This trade is all about:
1) Willingham is not part of the future.
2) He is eligible to earn north of $6 mil in 2011.
3) Rodriguez has some serious upside potential.

Anonymous said...


A week or so ago you had an article that mentioned the Nats were pursuing someone big in a trade but you could not say who. Who was it and is it still a possibility?

JD said...

Buster Olney reports that LaRoche is seeking a 3 year deal; that's why he is not signed yet. I'd take Derek Lee for 1 year any day and consider better options next year.

David said...

40 games is not a great sample, especially when it's the players first stint in AAA. his AA line before going to AAA, was .320/.418/.502 with 49 RBI's and 10 hr's in 339 AB's. I don't think his first 135 at bats at AAA takes away from his potential. I think it's fantastic we got a young speed guy with power that can play a plus-defense CF. Morgan is officially on notice! Why so much love for Willingham?

Anonymous said...

Corey Brown may never be a major league all-star, but he is a Reggie Cleveland all-star!

Anonymous said...

Look at it this way. Brown is definitely an upgrade over Burgess who was drafted in the first round in the same year? He has yet to get past AA and IS NOT a five tool outfielder as Brown is. Brown actually hit 30 home runs in the minors in 2008. Burgess the big power guy never did that. Burgess is not as fast as Brown. Burgess can't run the bases like he can. Burgess is not even close to as good a fielder. Yet Burgess was the next guy up? Now he has competition below from Harper and above from Brown.

That has to be good.

Luis said...

The Wang is back!!!

Anonymous said...

Looks like Greinke is out. According to MLBTR the Nats are on his 15 team blocked without permission list. Now we know why Garza's name comes up more often.

Big Cat said...

Love the Hammer....however, he's 31 coming off knee surgery. He has always been a liability in left and in my opinion, good pitching eats him up.

This Rodriguez guy looks to good to be true, stat wise. Last year in AAA he threw 21 innings in 20 games, had 11 saves and fanned 31 with an era of 1.69. He was called to the bigs and had a 4.55 era but his innings/hits/bb's/k ratio was outstanding. Right now he is in the Venezualian winter league with an era of .070 with 21 k's in 10 innings allowing only 3 hits. Maybe the A's know something about him we don't.
Corey Brown hit .350 in 98 games in Midland of the Texas League. Midland is in the Western Div and the ball flies in that dry air. He was promoted to AAA where he hit .190 in 41 games. My opinion of the trade.....BRAVO! to Rizzo.

Also....this trade opens a spot for you know who. Thats right....The Chosen One....Teddy Ballgame....The White Cobra....whatever you want to call him. You heard it here first. Harper will go north with the big club out of spring training next year and start in right field with Werth in center and Morse in left. PLAY BALL!!!!

Anonymous said...


Burgess is 22, and was drafted out of high school. Brown is 25, and was drafted out of college. Burgess made AA as a 21 year old; Brown didn't get there until 23. I'm not terribly high on Burgess, but to just make a straight-up comparison based on last season is not appropriate.

Stranded_in_Philly said...

@ Great Unwashed and Souldrummer

I'm right on board with the Maxwell comparisons. That was my first thought as well. His age is definitely a concern.

If this trade really was just for Rodriguez, and Brown was a throw in... I'm a little underwhelmed. Its always tough to see quality position players be traded for relief pitchers. That being said... I'm curious to see if Rizzo uses these guys as chips in another trade.

Theophilus said...

Somewhat more sold on Brown than when I commented on the previous post. Seems to be at least enough substance to let him play everyday when Rizzo and Riggleman finally are exhausted w/ Morgan (A) running through stop signs; (B) getting picked off; (C) whiffing on curve balls in the dirt; (D) throwing to the wrong base; (E) flipping off fans; (F) picking fights w/ guys twice his size; (G) making a run at the ML record for most outs under the infield fly rule, etc.

Morgan is the real blind spot in the front office if not in the manager's office (writing his name in every day).

Will said...

David, the fact is Brown couldn't hit AAA pitching at age 24.

And, Anonymous, comparisons to Burgess aren't fair. Burgess came out of HS. At least he's three years younger and can't AA pitching (well). But at no point did he bat .193. I think the best we could hope for is Brown to turn into a 3 WAR-type OFer, which is ironic because we just traded away a guy who IS a 3 WAR OFer.

Suicide Squeeze said...

Candidate for quote of the year:

"We feel that he's got a big tool package."

Anonymous said...

Considering this is basically trading an established everyday player for a relief pitcher prospect (Brown doesn't seem to have much of a real future if he can't hit AAA pitching by now), it actually doesn't upset me too much.

Souldrummer said...

Brown is a Syracuse Chief until further notice. He's not ready to put pressure on Morgan and I've got to believe Plush will get a full trial next year. The best I've heard about this is that there was a whisper that Werth might play some centerfield against lefties. Got to believe that's dropped down a bit until we see what they do for first base.

Anonymous said...

Can Wang duplicate his performance of last year?

The Great Unwashed said...

Sorry to disappoint, Stranded in Philly. I didn't mean I'm skeptical of the trade. I was referring to Jim Bowden's fascination with "toolsy outfielders." I think he said that about Wily Mo Pena. Anyway, when Rizzo said it, it came across like he was channeling Jim Bowden. And it was déjà vu all over again.

NatBiscuit said...

Not that Baseball America is the best ever resource ... and certainly they are inconsistent year to year ... But from 2008 to 2010 Brown was ranked 16, 6, and 12; Rodriguez ranked 4, 14, and 13. And, Oakland has been judged to have a pretty good farm system overall, so there is ample reason to believe these players would have had much higher ratings in the Nationals system each year.

NatBiscuit said...

Nats have completed resigning Wang. So who gets dropped from the 40 man?

Stranded_in_Philly said...

@ Great Unwashed

Ah, fair enough. The "toolsy" tag has been stuck on Maxwell so many times I just immediately assumed thats where you were going.

As for the Bowden deja vu... *shudder.* Don't remind me of that dark time...

patkeane13 said...

what is better? two draft picks (probably not even that) or an additional young arm in the bullpen along with a position player in a the minor leagues at a spot where we have no depth. Willingham is not in the future of this team and I am pleased to learn that Rizzo learned from Kasten's mistakes and got valuable pieces, as opposed to hoping that draft picks work out 5 years in the future. Save Strasburg, we all know how well our first round picks have worked out thus far.

I understand the argument that Brown is pretty old for the level he is at, but he took way to few AB's to evaluate his AAA performance. He will be in the big league camp and be a starter at AAA. Rizzo pointed out (accurately as well) that Brown has struggled upon arrival to each higher rung of the minors, only to succeed later on (a pattern most players follow).

Personally, I think this is a win trade, whether we package the picks for a stud frontline starter or hold onto them. You can NEVER have enough young arms or position player talent in your system. I do think Garza-Greinke/Carmona would cost us too much. Lets hold off for now on those trades (that being said, if we get either of those guys I will immediately order their jersey)

Kudos to Mr. Rizzo!

patkeane13 said...

All I want for Christmas is a left-handed first baseman

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing that Brown couldn't hit Triple A pitching. That is just not true. He got off to a terrible start and was sent to Double A after 34 games. Was named team MVP for Double A. Got called up to Triple A and hit .341 with 3 home runs and an OPS over 1000 the last 7 games of the season.

Rodriguez stats are misleading. He has an 100mph fastball and not much else. It is why he dominates at the lower level and gets hit in the bigs. If he can throw off speed for strikes he is a closer. If not he is an average middle relief guy.

Two huge upside players for the Nats. Great trade and much better than fans realize now.

pdowdy83 said...

Actually Anon 10:12, Rodriguez giving up hits is not the problem. He walks too many people but in 2010 he made a decent amount of improvement in that category. If he can cut into that just a little more he would be a decent power arm.

hscer: Brown was drafted in 2007 and had a knee injury in 2009 which is why he is a bit on the late side as far as AAA. Also saying he can't hit AAA pitching yet is a bit of a misnomer. He has only had about 40 games in AAA and next season would be the season to watch for him. He has crushed A and AA pitching after making adjustments, maybe he can make the same in AAA this year.

Anonymous8 said...

Anon @ 10:12. Good insight into looking at the positives of this trade.

If those last 7 games in AAA were close to what his whole season could be then this could be a diamond in the rough!

David said...

thanks guys for agreeing with me. it's crazy to say Brown is a dud cuz he only hit .193 in his first 135 AAA at bats, but can crush AA pitching. aren't the pitchers at AA the REAL prospects anyway? Brown gives us power hitting depth at CF. something we've never had during the Nats time in DC. if he has a hot spring he could easily platoon/beat out Morgan. he's only 25 and is close to being major league ready.

N. Cognito said...

At 31, with recurring injury problems and one year left on his contract, the Nats responsibly had no desire to keep Willingham beyond this upcoming season anyway.
Unless a player is elite, a status which does not include Willingham, those same factors reduce what you can get in return for a player.
Willingham was never, by himself, going to return a top player or top of the rotation pitcher, and the Nats, again responsibly, were not going to add young ballplayers to a deal.

And this deal had nothing to do with reducing payroll or freeing up money to sign someone else.

Anonymous said...

I think it has also been reported that Rizzo generally prefers college players who have had more coaching and "big-game" experience over high school players. That makes Brown's age less problematic and explains Burgess's age (as a Bowden pick). I think Brown's success at OK State and the Texas League point to sucecess at Syracuse. If Morgan steps out of line one time, we may see Brown sooner than we imagine. ST will tell the tale.

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