Usually deals have upsides and downsides that make you hold off on passing judgment until you see some results. Other times deals are so obviously bad or good that you feel confident enough to declare it so before the ink dries on the contract. Pudge's deal was one of the latter types.
It's not that signing Pudge itself was terrible. The Nats had to hedge their bets with Flores' return in the hands of the Nats crack medical staff, but the deal was too expensive and too long. Remember, Pudge in 2009 signed a one-year deal for 1.5 million with Houston, and then proceeded to bat .251 /. 288 /.382 for them. The Astros, a team that put up with Brad Ausmus "batting" in the lineup for years, had enough and shipped him out to the Rangers, where Pudge hit a nearly identical .245 / . 279 / .388. Pudge's career was headed in one of three directions - (in order of increasing likelihoood), spot starter for a team loaded at every other position and in desperate need of someone to fill the catcher spot, defensive back-up, or retirement.
Yet here came the Nats with not a one-year, million dollar deal but a two year 6 million dollar deal. Getting terribly old and coming off the worst year of his career and the Nats essesntially gave him a raise. That's stupid bad and we all said so. But then came April.
Pudge hit like a madman in April, spraying the ball around and finding all the holes. He was hitting .413 by month's end, arguably his best offensive month since June of 2004. He was still hitting over .400 a week into May and thoughts were split between "maybe the Nats got lucky here" and "his .435 BABIp is just unsustainable". The winner? Well since then, through 3/4 of May, all of June and most of July, Pudge has hit .214 / .236 / .270. In short, since early May Pudge has possibly been the worst regular hitter in all of baseball.
Supporters early in the slump pointed to Pudge's "winning presence" helping the pitching staff and getting the Nats to .500. Now that .500 is in the rearview (I guess Pudge stopped caring?) all they have left to go to is his defense, which by all accounts is still good. But his offense is so bad that even peak Pudge would find it hard to make up for it with defense, let alone this one nearing 40. No the best argument for Pudge is that the current alternative is Wil Nieves, a player with all the hitting prowess of a 38 yr old Pudge and half the defense. Pudge is not the worst option now, so he needs to play, but that doesn't make the contract any more defensible, especially since it only seemed like a million dollars was keeping Orlando Hudson from landing here.
What's next for the Nats and Pudge? Prayers I guess. Prayers that he isn't as completely done as he seems and that he can pull out even a "just bad" .250 / .300 / .350 in his remaining time with the club. Prayers that the Nats don't let another free agent or draft pick walk away for the want of spending while Pudge earns a cool 3 million.