Friday, January 16, 2009

Winter time blues

I suppose a baseball beat writer in the winter, used to frantic pace of game stories every day during the season, must feel like winter goes by at a snail's pace.

So, unless you cover the Yankees, its almost inevitable that a "no big moves" article will appear. Here it is

So far, there hasn't been an FA signing that looks like a even a good deal for the team. CC, AJ and Tex all overpaid. Derek Lowe? Good to great pitcher very overpaid. F-rod? How'd that Billy Wagner signing work out in terms of stabilizing your bullpen Omar?

The main move so far is one that fits right in with the Plantm. Dealing three ho hum prospects for two arb-eligible major league ready talents that their teams can't (or won't) pay for. Not to say that Olsen and Willingham are going to set the world on fire or even that they will be key pieces of a great Nats team but for the cost (virtually nothing except Uncle Ted's money) there are two more legimite major leagures on the roster than there were at the end of the season.

And I know the doubt among some fans about Olsen. ERA+ of 101 in 200ip. That's almost exactly league average. What's that worth on the open market? Tim Redding got what $2.5? and he's a far cry from league average. Olsen likely to get just north of $3m. A tidy profit to be turned there.

As for other signings, what's the hurry? The price is rapidly plunging. How many teams are looking at the 2009 projected payrolls, looking at the economy and saying OH MY GOD we are so screwed!

Long term deals for FA's of questionable value just aren't going to be there . . . unless you find the greater fool. In this game of chicken, the teams with payroll flexibility RIGHT NOW have a huge advantage.

I could live without Adam Dunn. Really, his maximum value would be as a DH. Playing him in the field even as a 1B just kills his value.

Orlando Hudson makes the most sense. 2B is a position in flux, lots of candidates but no one who looks more than a futility infielder at best. Belliard's bat vs. one of the Hernandez/Gonzalez's gloves? Either way its the position player most likely to significantly underperform the league average. Hudson would give us at least league average. He could lead off where the Nats don't really have a good option right now. And yes, he's not an ideal leadoff hitter but when your options are Guzman or Hudson he looks a lot better.

Signing Hudson means losing that first pick in the second round. Not sure its worth it but from the FOs perspective they might prefer to buy the FA rather than have to fork out another $2-$3m signing bonus on top of the Strassburg Brink's truck and the 10th picks demands.

So fret not Zuckerman. The hot stove season is not over. In fact, we may see at lot of action as ST gets closer as teams realize they have way too much payroll. Some arb-eligibles may shake loose and the Nats have just the right amount of almost prospects and payroll felxibility to go cripple shooting. Dan Uggla anyone? Prince Fielder? Zach Grineke?

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