WFAN out of New York is reporting (and Newsday confirms) that the Nats have sent OF Ryan Church and C Brian Schneider to the Mets for OF Lastings Milledge. This is easily the biggest deal the Nats have pulled off since acquiring Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner from the Reds in 2006.
Ryan Church has been the sacred cow of the Natosphere for almost as long as there's been a Natosphere. (Just look for Ryan Church within two words of "sacred cow," you'll find it.) Not too long ago I argued that Church was a better fit in centerfield than almost any of the free agent options. After all a CF with a .271/.348/.462 career line isn't a Hall-of-Famer, but it's nothing to sneeze at, either. For a team on a budget, which the Nats insist on being, that kind of production from center is downright valuable.
The problem is, the team/front office never seemed to see Ryan the way us basement-dwellers did. He was too fragile, too surly, not enough of a pure speed and defense guy to be a prototypical fly-catching fielder. When you lose time to Nook Logan and Brandon Watson you know it's just not your franchise. So, though we've always liked Church, there's a small part of us that's happy he's out of the organization. Of course, being crucified by the NY press for misplaying a flyball probably makes being subtly needled by the front office a positively enjoyable experience.
Officer Schneider just always struck us as one all right dude. Blue collar, lunch-pail, catch and throw, no hit backstop. The kind of catcher a struggling, scrappy team ought to have. And whatever proportion of credit or blame he deserves for the rollcoaster pitching of 2005-2007 he gets points for going out there almost every day and cleaning up the slop. Brian was never great, but he was never taking playing time from anyone better either. Hopefully working with a mostly veteran staff in NY will take some of the pressure off and let him get his stroke back. Just remember Brian, next time Pedro plunks somebody we're coming after you.
Of course, this leaves a sizable hole at catcher (Are You There, Jesus?), and doesn't really solve the CF issue (Milledge? Kearns? Pena? teh Nook? ::shudder::), but for now, we'll just say goodbye to two more of the original 2005 Nationals, and farewell and good luck to two of the good guys.
Welcome aboard, Lastings Milledge!
P.S. - The Mets blogs are almost universally up-in-arms, though in fairness they've been on the verge of up-in-armedness all offseason. Blowing a playoff spot on the last weekend of the season'll do that to you.
It's Lastings Milledge + 1. The Nats are on the verge of re-signing lefty relief pitcher (and designated "man-planet") Ray King. The deal is a non-guaranteed minor league contract with an $850K payday if The Burger King makes the 25-man roster. His overall 2007 record was nothing to write home about but "Sugar" Ray was still brutal on lefties, to the tune of .187/.276/.347.
King has vowed to report to Spring Training in the best shape of his career. Perfectly spherical, perhaps? It could be just a coincidence that this news comes on the same day that Officer Schneider, chief of the Skittle Police, was shipped off to the Big (Organically Grown) Apple, but I doubt it. In any case, Lastings may want to use that vaunted speed to guarantee he's first in line for the buffet. Lord knows you don't want to end up behind Ray and Dmitri.