ESPN.com reports, (and Nats beat writer Bill Ladson confirms,) that 2B Ronnie "The Tongue" Belliard has agreed to a minor league deal with the Nationals. The non-guaranteed deal will pay Ronnie $750,000 if he makes the team out of Spring Training.
On the surface, I'm not sure I understand the appeal of this deal for Belliard. Ronnie was the starting second baseman for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, but became expendable when the Cards reacquired 2B Adam Kennedy. Still, I can't believe this was the best offer out there for him. To go from starting for the NL champs to riding the pine for the presumptive NL chumps, and take a $3M+ pay cut in the process? Ouch.
Belliard's a career .272/.338/.411 hitter (.749 OPS for those of you who'd rather not do the math.) In other words, he's a slightly above average big league second baseman. He has just enough experience -- 228 career innings -- to spell Ryan Zimmerman at 3B about three times a month. And as for SS, he has played there once, which is more than Dmitri Young can say.
For the Nats, this is a great pick up. To get a starter caliber second baseman on a non-guaranteed deal, improve your bench, and lessen the odds of seeing Jose Macias, Tony Womack or Tony Batista on the 25-man roster? Outstanding. And, unlike the Young and Batista signings, Jim Bowden may not just be blowing smoke when he says Belliard is the kind of player who might return something of value at the trade deadline.
It turns out that the front office may not just have been spinning when they talked about acquiring tradeable pieces and/or potential Type B free agents. The Farm Authority has been a leading Nat(m)ospheric proponent of stockpiling useful fringe players for trades and draft pick compensation. It's clear that the team has no interest in spending $3-5M per player to try to flip the Ramon Ortizes and Steve Trachsels of the world, but $500K-1M for guys like Young and Belliard appears to be a more palatable risk.
There are two reasons that I haven't been particularly down on the team for eschewing the Kip Wells/Tony Armas/John Thomson-type pitchers in favor of Tim Redding, Jerome Williams, Colby Lewis and their ilk. The first is that I'm genuinely curious to see if it's possible (as many statheads profess) to construct a competent major league starting rotation with lesser known guys whose stats are comparable to big league journeymen. The second, and more significant reason, is that I enjoy rooting for an unexpected breakout season from a nobody more than witnessing a thoroughly expected average season from a known commodity.
The same is just not true of position players. If we can get a career .270 guy on the bench, and spare the fans the indignity of watching Bernie Castro pretend to play second base, I'm all for it. All of a sudden, a bench with Robert Fick, Dmitri Young, Belliard, Chris Snelling and Jesus Flores doesn't look so incompetent. Plus, the deal has the CapPun seal of approval. What more could you want?
Dunn, Done; On to the Next One
One time farm system architect and player development guy Andy Dunn has tendered his resignation and had it accepted by the club. Nobody involved seems to want to say just why. Maybe Mike Rizzo wants to put his stamp on the player development staff, maybe Bob Boone wants to do the same. Maybe Andy vehemently disagreed with "The Plan" and lit a bag of dog poo on fire on the Lerners' front porch. Really, who knows?
From the little that I knew about Dunn, he seemed like a positive force in the front office, and he'll be missed for that alone. I expect Brian, Scott and John over at Nationals Farm Authority to get to the bottom of this. Stay tuned. In the meantime keep your fingers crossed that Andy doesn't resurface with the Mets and torment Nats fans for the next dozen years with savvy drafts and player development.
Andy Dunn "resigns"; Screech "retires" -- Coincidence?