Nationals Baseball: Less confused. Not "unconfused" but less confused

Friday, December 17, 2010

Less confused. Not "unconfused" but less confused

Let's start out with something obvious, none of "us" know what the trade market is for Josh Willingham. It could be that this was a very fair deal for the Hammer, based on what Rizzo was seeing on the market. We don't know. I have trouble seeing that, but as I've said we tend to overrate the guys we look at everyday. Ok admitting our lack of knowledge, why do the Nats make this deal?

Well gambling on how Willingham did this year to see if you could increase his value is risky bet. Turning 32 in February, he's not young. He's also coming off surgery. Expectations were that he'd bounce right back into his usual productive self but that's probably a bit optimistic. Of course that risk is fine when you are paying Josh 3-5 million dollars a year, but that would be ending soon. Josh was out of option years, and next year would be a free agent. He was going to get a decent raise if he was any good this year. The Nats weren't likely to dole out a bunch of cash for Josh's 33+ years. Trading him now, when the Nats could be sure he still had value, was an understandable move.

The curious thing about the deal isn't that the Nats traded Josh Willingham, however; it is who the Nats got back. You would hope they Nats would get either (1) a couple of allright starting pitching prospects (quantity, people!), or (2) a decent major league contributing player better than what the Nats have now. Instead the Nats got one pretty good relief prospect and a major league hitter not better than what they have.

Henry Rodriguez is a classic relief prospect. Super fast pitcher. High K's (11.4 K/9 in minor leagues in 2008, 15.2 in 2009, 13.4 2010) High BB's (6.5 BB/9 in 2008, 7.2, 3.8). Most encouraging is that he doesn't give up homers - 0.4 HR/9 in the minors. So far averaging 10.5 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in the majors. That isn't bad but it is still too many walks to rely on. Since everything else looks ok though, I think if he's able to improve his walk rate, even just a little bit, he could be at least useful with the potential for a lot more. The problem is last year's 20 games in AAA was the only time he ever did that. I'd fell a little better if he was 21 next year not 24 but he's an ok pick-up, controlled through 2016. Of course relievers are a dime a dozen so you don't necessarily need to deal for them.

Corey Brown is an old 25 (turned it in Novemeber). He was kind of shuffled up the A's minor league system for the sake of doing so until AA where he got better as he got older than the surrounding competition. He takes a lot of pitches, which fits in with Rizzo's philosophy and he has moderate power. The question is whether he can maintain a high enough average in the majors to stick. When I see a guy bouncing around .260-.280 over many years and levels my opinion is probably not. Fitting somewhere between Maxwell and Bernadina on the prospect scale I just don't see the point of this guy. Wait, was he drafted by the Diamondbacks? Nope. Ok still don't get it.

It could turn out better, or another deal could be made, but the way I see it Willingham was dealt for basically organizational depth.

16 comments:

ckstevenson said...

I'm not saying Brown is a sure thing prospect (he obviously isn't if he and another player were traded for Willingham), but I think his OBP shows that he does a pretty good job of getting on base. He has decent speed and a good SB success rate.

I also don't personally view 25 as old. If he has a decent season in AAA he'll definitely get some ABs for the Nats. Which means he's poised to be our 26 year old starting CF in 2012, we'd have 5-6 years of prime play from him. Some baseball people are too often stuck on age stuff. If he were 28, well heck yeah that would be very late to be getting your first cup of coffee in the bigs. But he's not 28, he'll play this entire season at age 25.

He's shown clear progression between levels in the minors, and as Rizzo noted he has struggled at first at each level and then done well. So he struggled at AAA last year, and hopefully does well this year like his track record indicates.


Lots of Nats people seem to be falling over themselves to find every reason to hate this kid. You can't hate Nyjer Morgan and hate every alternative to him, someone has to stand out there.

Hoo said...

25 isn't old. it's old for AA ball. It's like a 6th grader playing hoops with the 3rd grade class. You have to discount his success b/c he's so much older than everyone else. He's at least a year behind Bernadina's path to the big leagues (although roger got hurt).

I don't think Brown is one of the top 3 ofs in the nats farm system. Harper is 1...But Burgress really came on. Burgess looked real strong at AA and is younger than Brown.

I think Brown could fill the Maxwell, Jorge Padilla, Corey Patterson role.

This trade only makes sense b/c Rizzo loves, loves, loves no control power arm pitchers. He follows in the great tradtion of Mike Macdougal, Brian Bruney and others who threw fast with no control.

But given up a solid postion player for a relief pitcher is not a good deal. for a relief prospect is pretty marginal.

Brown isn't in the org's plan unless something goes terribly awry.

Donald said...

I think Rizzo had three options -- trade him this off-season, trade him mid-season at the deadline or lose him to free-agency next year. Presumably, this was the best offer Rizzo has seen during the off-season so far. I'm also going to assume that Rizzo saw offers at the deadline last season that weren't any better. So waiting until mid-season in 2011 would be very risky unless Willingham had a GREAT first half. If his production were off at all, though, we'd get bumpkus. If he waited until free-agency, he'd get a draft pick or two, but why would that be any better or less risky than Brown who was a former #1? I think it boiled down to doing this deal now or hoping for something better that may never materialize in the next month or two. And this deal has potential for being really good if they pan out.

The other option is that this deal is part of a larger transaction yet to come, but I doubt it.

pdowdy83 said...

Brown is about 1 year behind what his age is due to a knee injury in 2009. If was 24 right now going into his first full season at AAA nobody would be complaining. Just scratch the mostly lost season off and go from there. The guy struggled in AAA but his power still translated with 5 HRs in 140 at bats. He had 10 HRs in AA in over 2 x the at bats so that seems to be consistent.

He very well could be a guy that hits 15 HRs, steals 20 bags and hits .260 - .270 with an OBP around .355 and plus defense.

Hammer was overrated. Injury prone and lacking defensively. I don't understand why people thought we were going to get a massive haul for him. To get a CF w/ upside and a guy who regularly hits triple digits and can contribute this year seems like an even swap.

Anonymous said...

We traded Willingham for a couple of lottery tickets. We may hit it big, just win a few bucks, or get nothing.

Harper said...

ck - Brown could get some at bats in the majors this year but saying he's poised to be the starting CF next year is a bit of a stretch. Age is important. For example its unlikely a 25 year old will suddenly develop power - so the moderate power we see now is the best he could do and it's likely that'll drop down a bit in the majors too. That's not to say Brown is too old or anything is decided, but a year or two from now it's not worth the time to the Nats to see if he'll be able to put it together. They'll have younger guys to pay attn to. Oh and I don't hate Nyjer.

Hoo - agreed on all counts. To me, Brown is not anything particularly interesting and Rodriguez, while he could be special, is still just a reliever.

Donald - and that's the saving grace for Rizzo - we really don't know.

pdowdy - I can scratch 2009 but it's would be better for brown if 2008 and before weren't as equally as meh. Nothing there screams major leaguer. Only that AA line last year. Could be a sign of healing, a sing of "getting it", an age advantage, a lucky half-season. this will be the telling season for Brown.

Anon - at least the proceeds are going to the schools right?

killertestudo said...

Though I don't seem to ever really seeing this much in baseball, would it be possible that the hes getting the minor leaguer's to possibly provide more support in a Greinke trade? With the one/two prospects outside the organization that might prevent the nats from having to part with Storen/ZNN AND Norris and other top nats farm products. A long shot, Im sure, but otherwise Im in agreement that trading away an above average position player for organization depth doesn't seem like the best move.

Wally said...

I agree that the make up of the trade is still puzzling. perhaps Brown was acquired as the 4th piece of a Greinke offer, and/or Storen is in play. But HRod (yes, I just went there) seems more than just organizational depth, in Rizzo's mind at least, so I don't think it is quite as bad as your conclusion.

Hard to believe that the Hammer couldn't have brought back a Seth Smith or Matt Joyce or Chris Heisey, but your lead paragraph is probably most accurate. The Hammer just didn't have a lot of trade value. Would love to see another corner OF so that Bernie and Morse could be part timers that are used to maximize their strengths, but not sure how that happens now. Or a 2B with more offense.

Olney says Jzimm, Espy and Storen get a Greinke trade done. I pass on that one, but if Ramos or Norris instead of Zimm works, I would jump on it.

Gina said...

By the way, in case you haven't seen it, this is hilarious. WARNING: Foul language

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foKhrNPxJPE&feature=youtu.be

Harper said...

killer, Wally - I guess it was possible, though if you do that you better make sure that the trade will go through.

Anonymous said...

As I see it, the Nats are looking to get younger, better defensively, faster and more athletic. Willingham didn’t fit that matrix, although he is a plus bat and has become solid defensively – better than I thought he would. But he’s not a plus defender, and is also 32, has a balky knee and has not yet played a full season (his MO is that he tails off after the all star break) at a high level. That said, he may work better in the AL, where he can be given occasional days off while still getting to DH, especially against lefties where Matsui might sit. But unless the Nats sign Pena (IMHO a real possibility) they will miss the Hammer’s bat big time in 2011. I do expect that LF will be manned by a platoon of Roger Bernadina and Mike Morse.

If the Nats were going to contend in 2011, they would have kept him. Dunn too, for that matter. But Strasburg getting hurt made that difficult, and with the Phillies getting Cliff Lee – well, I’m not betting on the Nats winning the division in 2011. Finishing 4th and near .500 would be another step up and heading into 2012 and especially 2013. But after 2011 Hammer will be a free agent, and gone or (if he’s good in 2011) must be signed to a multiyear extension. Problem: the Nats now have Jayson Werth in one corner OF position, and Bryce Harper on the way. What the Nats don’t have is a CF (other than Nyjer Morgan … no wait, I stand by my original assessment). The Nats have solid prospects coming up in the middle infield and at catcher, with some potential pitching help a bit farther off. But their best CF prospect is Eury Perez, and he’s going to be at AA for the first time this year – and has no power. Justin Maxwell was going to be that guy, but he has struggled to hit big league pitching and just underwent Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected back until April.

So the Nats move Willingham for a prospect who might become a CF, not to play now but as insurance in case Morgan stays a head case, Bernadina plateaus and Maxwell stays Maxwell. They also get a power pitcher who has shown signs recently of solving his control problem. The Nats have enough rubber armed nibbling control types, so a potential power arm is something they are always looking to add. Did they get any guarantees? No – but I’m not surprised that they didn’t get an offer that they liked better for Hammer because of his knee, injury history, defense and age. So they bit the bullet and made the move when it’s on the table.

John C.

Anonymous said...

As I see it, the Nats are looking to get younger, better defensively, faster and more athletic. Willingham didn’t fit that matrix, although he is a plus bat and has become solid defensively – better than I thought he would. But he’s not a plus defender, and is also 32, has a balky knee and has not yet played a full season (his MO is that he tails off after the all star break) at a high level. That said, he may work better in the AL, where he can be given occasional days off while still getting to DH, especially against lefties where Matsui might sit. But unless the Nats sign Pena (IMHO a real possibility) they will miss the Hammer’s bat big time in 2011. I do expect that LF will be manned by a platoon of Roger Bernadina and Mike Morse.

If the Nats were going to contend in 2011, they would have kept him. Dunn too, for that matter. But Strasburg getting hurt made that difficult, and with the Phillies getting Cliff Lee – well, I’m not betting on the Nats winning the division in 2011. Finishing 4th and near .500 would be another step up and heading into 2012 and especially 2013. But after 2011 Hammer will be a free agent, and gone or (if he’s good in 2011) must be signed to a multiyear extension. Problem: the Nats now have Jayson Werth in one corner OF position, and Bryce Harper on the way. What the Nats don’t have is a CF (other than Nyjer Morgan … no wait, I stand by my original assessment). The Nats have solid prospects coming up in the middle infield and at catcher, with some potential pitching help a bit farther off. But their best CF prospect is Eury Perez, and he’s going to be at AA for the first time this year – and has no power. Justin Maxwell was going to be that guy, but he has struggled to hit big league pitching and just underwent Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected back until April.

So the Nats move Willingham for a prospect who might become a CF, not to play now but as insurance in case Morgan stays a head case, Bernadina plateaus and Maxwell stays Maxwell. They also get a power pitcher who has shown signs recently of solving his control problem. The Nats have enough rubber armed nibbling control types, so a potential power arm is something they are always looking to add. Did they get any guarantees? No – but I’m not surprised that they didn’t get an offer that they liked better for Hammer because of his knee, injury history, defense and age. So they bit the bullet and made the move when it’s on the table.

John C.

Anonymous said...

As I see it, the Nats are looking to get younger, better defensively, faster and more athletic. Willingham didn’t fit that matrix, although he is a plus bat and has become solid defensively – better than I thought he would. But he’s not a plus defender, and is also 32, has a balky knee and has not yet played a full season (his MO is that he tails off after the all star break) at a high level. That said, he may work better in the AL, where he can be given occasional days off while still getting to DH, especially against lefties where Matsui might sit. But unless the Nats sign Pena (IMHO a real possibility) they will miss the Hammer’s bat big time in 2011. I do expect that LF will be manned by a platoon of Roger Bernadina and Mike Morse.

If the Nats were going to contend in 2011, they would have kept him. Dunn too, for that matter. But Strasburg getting hurt made that difficult, and with the Phillies getting Cliff Lee – well, I’m not betting on the Nats winning the division in 2011. Finishing 4th and near .500 would be another step up and heading into 2012 and especially 2013. But after 2011 Hammer will be a free agent, and gone or (if he’s good in 2011) must be signed to a multiyear extension. Problem: the Nats now have Jayson Werth in one corner OF position, and Bryce Harper on the way. What the Nats don’t have is a CF (other than Nyjer Morgan … no wait, I stand by my original assessment). The Nats have solid prospects coming up in the middle infield and at catcher, with some potential pitching help a bit farther off. But their best CF prospect is Eury Perez, and he’s going to be at AA for the first time this year – and has no power. Justin Maxwell was going to be that guy, but he has struggled to hit big league pitching and just underwent Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected back until April.

So the Nats move Willingham for a prospect who might become a CF, not to play now but as insurance in case Morgan stays a head case, Bernadina plateaus and Maxwell stays Maxwell. They also get a power pitcher who has shown signs recently of solving his control problem. The Nats have enough rubber armed nibbling control types, so a potential power arm is something they are always looking to add. Did they get any guarantees? No – but I’m not surprised that they didn’t get an offer that they liked better for Hammer because of his knee, injury history, defense and age. So they bit the bullet and made the move when it’s on the table.

John C.

Anonymous said...

Argh! A Triple Post! Not sure how that happened, but apologies all around.

John C.

Anonymous said...

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