June 30, 2009

Bustings Milledge

Whatever the immediate merits of the great Morgan-Burnett for Milledge-Hanrahan swap of '09 (the P-Rats clearly won the letter sweepstakes) it's hard to see this as anything but a loss for the Nationals. Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett may be competent major leaguers, an honest-to-goodness upgrade from the routine incompetence of the 2009 Washington baseballclub, but it's hard to see either of them being part of the "first great Nationals team," as much as I abhor the phrase. Weren't the Nats supposed to be in the business of stockpiling talented youngsters and building for the future? Unless "the future" has been radically redefined as 2010, I'm missing something here.

Sure, Lastings Milledge was a self-aggrandizing headcase with a gift for turning routine defensive plays into highlight reel-worthy miscues. That said, he was still just 24, an age when many good-if-not-great players are still figuring out their game in the high minors. Despite his well-documented struggles, he was one of the franchises most talented offensive prospects. Read into that what you will. Maybe this move is Milledge-specific, in which case there's not much more to say. It's hard to leverage a guy who was demoted to AAA a week into the season only to break his finger. Still, selling low on him for a guy who looks for all the world like Brandon Watson fulfilling his potential is a failure, regardless of spin.

On the other hand, maybe we really are seeing the first fruits of a Bowden-free organization. Couple the Milledge trade with a June draft low on toolsy, projectable high schoolers and heavy with more developed college and JuCo players. Perhaps the front office is developing a healthy scepticism of unfulfilled "potential". After all, who is really more valuable to the franchise, Lastings Milledge in Syracuse or Willie Harris in DC? Of course, the answer is the most value comes from developing Milledge to the point where he can supplant Harris. But these are the Nationals we're talking about.

Joel "Gas can"rahan is another story. He seems to have lost whatever fairy magic allowed him to get through the 2nd half of 2008 as a semi-reliable closer. If he can get his groove back in the Steel City, more power to him. Getting anything for his 7+ ERA at this point is a bonus. Sean Burnett is a lot like Hanrahan, a talented guy who seemed cursed to never figure it out. This season he has, so far. Is it an illusion? Who knows, who cares.

If this is the opening round of the purge, let me be the first (or the 1,000,001) to suggest that Ronnie Belliard, Dmitri Young, Austin Kearns and Jesus Colome can be liquidated without posing much threat to that aforementioned first great Nationals team. Sell, Rizzo, sell!

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