Thursday, September 22, 2005

An Eye Towards the Future

What do you know, the Nationals were nice enough to put a primer of their off-season direction in today's Washington Examiner. Jim Bowden talks about who is arbitration eligible and who is a free agent from the Nationals, not to mention a brief description of Type A/B free agents. A conspiracy theorist could look at the names written and the order in which they were written and try to extrapolate the off-season direction of the Nationals.
Examples of Type A free agents are pitchers Kevin Millwood and A.J. Burnett and outfielders Johnny Damon and Brian Giles.
This is the second time Bowden has mentioned Burnett, Millwood, and Giles. Burnett and Damon will likely command the most on the free agent market and honestly should not be in the Nationals' plans. Millwood is an intriguing name but as fans of the Phillies will tell you, he's a crapshoot plus I don't believe he's worth surrendering a first round draft pick for. Currently, the Nats are not in the top 15 picks of the 2006 draft so their 1st round pick would not be protected. While Brian Giles is intriguing, there are two things that he brings that do not necessarily help the Nationals. First, he's 35 years old, not the age you want to bring into a developing team. Second, he's an OF, a position the Nationals seem to have an abundance of options.
Type B free agent (which would cost a second-round pick) would be pitchers Jarrod Washburn and Brett Tomko.
Tomko and Washburn also both make a second appearance. I would definitely consider both of these guys with one caveat to Bowden. Wait until after December 7, 2005 to make an offer. That would be the arbitration deadline, a date Bowden ignored last year whe he signed Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman thereby costing the Nationals a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick. He should talk to these guys but wait and hope their current teams not offer them arbitration.
The players we have eligible for arbitration are: Marlon Byrd, Luis Ayala, Jamey Carroll, Alex Escobar, Brian Schneider, T.J. Tucker, Brad Wilkerson, Nick Johnson and Junior Spivey. Only Nick, Brian and Brad have a chance of being awarded $3 million or more.
I don't see much to the listing here. Though I suggest you remember who Bowden highlights as the three players he believes will crack $3M in arbitration. My guess is one of them will be moved prior to 2006, most likely Brad Wilkerson, an OF who looks like he may age quickly with a quick skill drop-off who also happens to have Scott Boras as his agent.
Our free agent list includes: Esteban Loaiza, Preston Wilson, Tony Armas Jr., Hector Carrasco, Joey Eischen, Mike Stanton, Gary Bennett, Carlos Baerga, Deivi Cruz, John Halama, Antonio Osuna and Keith Osik. We'll rank these players 1-12 and when there's a new owner in place, we'll pursue the ones we want to re-sign. Some we'll want back; others we won't because maybe we can do better through our farm system, free agency or by trading.
Here is where my conspiracy theory kicks in full force. I could see that order above be the Nationals' preliminary wish list in order of preference. Loaiza is listed as a free agent because it seems apparent that Loaiza will not exercise his part of the mutual option for 2006 in hopes of signing a long term/higher dollar deal. I'd be wary to go anywhere beyond two years and no more that $3-3.5 million/year. Wilson being listed second is troublesome. He cannot be offered arbitration from a common sense perspective. According to the rules, he cannot received anything less than 80% of his 2005 salary in arbitration. That means he would have a minimum salary of $8M in 2006. Way too much. Additionally, if the Nats do not offer him arbitration, their window to negotiate is reduced down considerably, making a deal much tougher to complete. If Wilson is willing to come back for a 1 year/$4 million deal with some sort of option, he may be worth it. Otherwise, thank him for what he's done and move on. Armas. He has been nothing but a question for the Nats since he was acquired. Constantly injured and never living up to his expected potential. I believe it's time to let him go someplace else to see if he can live up to his promise. Carrasco. He has been a wonderful story for the Nats this year. He is yet another of the RHP RP salvaged from the scrapheap who pitches brilliantly. There are at least one or two of them every year. I worry that Carrasco's performance has set a salary expectation that makes his return on investment in 2006 too low to bring him back. If he's willing to come back at something of home team discount, maybe. But I agree with people (Yuda) who have said they expect a team like the Pirates will offer him a 3 year deal. If that's the case, pass. Eischen and Stanton are both LH RP, I see only one of them returning. Flip a coin. Draw a line after Mike Stanton. Everyone after that point is not coming back. The best thing that Bowden said?
...this won't change the way we build this franchise. We have to build through development like the small-market A's and Indians have -- whether it's by me or a new GM.
Let's hope this is true in an edited version:
...this won't change the way we build this franchise. We have to build through development like the small-market A's and Indians have -- [with] a new GM.

No comments: