Since baseball came back to Washington, it has been at least in my eyes an easy call to say this team is on the downside of the win cycle. Moves need to be made with an eye to X, Y or Z years out and patching holes with overpriced FA or desperation trades would be a major mistake.
That cannot be said this offseason.
80 wins with a team that was essentially at the end of the season an 80- win team means the organization must make the all-important decision this off season: is it time to operate as a winning franchise, a contender or are we still in the building phase?
Normally, I would say this team is still in the building phase. I'm pessimistic by nature anyway.
But a GM can't be bound by such things. A clear eyed assessment of the situation is what is called for.
I'm struck by this when I consider one of the items in the piece linked above. It regards one of the principles in what I consider the original sin of the National franchise: the Bartolo Colon trade.
Grady Sizemore is going to be non-tendered. My immediate reaction was to say: Grab him. Roll the dice on those stitched together knees because he'd be exactly what you needed: a high OBP CF to leadoff.
But then I wondered if such a gamble befits a team that actually is trying to contend? Should a team with aspirations of at least contending for the playoffs go into the season counting on the spit and bailing wire holding Sizemore's knees together?
And that's the dilemma. To contend or not contend. I always assumed that it would be an easy call. The tipping point would be easily apparent.
Aside from the Sizemore conundrum, I read something about how the Nats weren't even comparable to the four teams left playing right now. That got me to thinking, if the Nationals and the Tigers were merged, who would have more important players:
OPS+ for hitters and ERA + for pitchers
C Alex Avila 143 Wilson Ramos 113
1B Miguel Cabrera 181 Mike Morse 147
2B Ramon Santiago 89 Danny Espinosa 102
SS Jhonny Peralta 123 Ian Desmond 80
3B Brandon Inge 51 Ryan Zimmerman 118
LF Brennan Boesch 117 Laynce Nix 103
CF Austin Jackson 89 Rick Ankiel 81
RF Magglio Ordonez 74 Jayson Werth 97
DH Victor Martinez 132 Roger Bernadina 92
SP Justin Verlander 170 Jordan Zimmermann 122
SP Max Scherzer 92 John Lannan 104
SP Rick Porcello 86 Chien Mein Wang 96
SP Brad Penny 77 *Stephen Strasburg 261
CL Jose Valverde 183 Drew Storen 141
RP Phil Coke 92 Tyler Clippard 211
RP Joaquin Benoit 139 Henry Rodriguez 109
Daniel Schlereth 118 Todd Coffey 107
RP Al Alburquerque 220 Sean Burnett 103
That's 4 clear Tiger Winners 3 clear Nats winners and two toss ups. A lot closer than I would have suspected.
But look at the pitching.
Cancel out Verlander and who's got the better staff? And Marquis's ERA+ of 98 fills the Wang spot for the whole year. Given that talent pool wouldn't the next four starters after Verlander all be Nats?
Lets not forget that those Tiger starters pitched half their games in pitcher friendly Comerica Park so their low numbers aren't a fluke.
Its a lot closer than you think. Now the superstar status of Verlander and Cabrera skew it somewhat in Detroit's favor but that's why they are playing in October. They aren't that much better all across the board.
Is 2012 the year to go for it? I'm glad I don't have to make that choice. I just get to criticize it if its wrong.