July 31, 2006

The Calm After the Calm

Come on now, you really didn't expect anything to happen did you? In Trader Jim's world, spin is inversely proportional to action. And he's been spinning like a top all weekend. When he does pull off a trade (Kearns/Lopez) we don't hear a thing about it until the press release. Remember all the pre-trade analysis of the Stanton for Martis deal? No? That's because there wasn't any. Bowden may be (and in my opinion is) a blithering jacka**, but he's a predictable blithering jacka**.

So what happened? Depending on who you believe, Trader Jim either A) priced himself out of the market; B) other teams tried to lowball him; or C) some combination of A & B. Given the deals that did get done for Carlos Lee, Bobby Abreu, Greg Maddux, Todd Walker, Sean Casey and the like, I'm inclined toward option C. Nobody moved big-time prospects for veterans this weekend. Neither the Yankees nor the Mets overpaid for a role-player. The Tigers and Angels didn't mortgage their future for a shoot-the-moon playoff run. It just didn't happen. In all likelihood Bowden avoided trading Soriano to the Angels for Ervin Santana and Casey Kotchman, or to the Twins for Scott Baker and Jason Kubel. If Fonzie is as valuable as we like to believe, any trade on this level would have been an underachievement.

Maybe no trade was the best move available. But what happens next? If Fonzie walks at the end of this season we're virtually guaranteed two draft picks as compensation, which would again give the Nats 4 picks in the top 40 or so of the draft. Not a bad consolation prize, but even top draft picks are a crapshoot. I think the franchise needs to make a genuine good faith effort to sign Soriano to a long-term deal. He has said repeatedly that he enjoys playing here and wants to stay. It's time for him to put his (potential) money where his mouth is. The Nats need a hometown discount to make Fonzie's contract work. 5 yrs/$75M seems like a reasonable price on the open market for the top free agent slugger this winter, but the Nats can't (or at least shouldn't) be paying that kind of dough.

Ok Alfonso, the ball's in your court. You've got two months to prove that all that sweet talk about valuing stability and building relationships wasn't just clever PR. Cut us a hometown discount and you'll have your stability, your big payday, and the chance to play for a legitimate contender too. We'll be watching...

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