December 27, 2009

Guardado Capps Off a Marquis Week

Jason Marquis, Matt Capps and Eddie Guardado aren't going to carry the Washington Nationals to the playoffs in 2010. If Mike Rizzo rounds out the year by signing Orlando Hudson and John Smoltz to multiply Pudge Rodriguez's veteran-y goodness the Nats still won't be playing baseball in mid-October. Measured purely by that criteria the last week was a waste of $11M+. But that's dumb. By that measure teams like the Nats, Pirates, Royals, Astros, Orioles and Padres should just close up shop from October to February. No one trade or free agent signing is going to put any of these teams in contention in 2010, or 2011 for that matter.

If, on the other hand, the offseason is about improving your club, the Nats have had a very good week. Jason Marquis is no ace, but he'll give you 200 innings of league average pitching, sparing Nats fans from the 2010 version of the "Daniel Cabrera Experience." Matt Capps may not be the guy who'll make us all forget Chad Cordero, but I'll be perfectly happy to forget Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells. Eddie Guardado may not be Ron Villone... or maybe he is. Either way, a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training is exactly the right way to go about finding your next designated "veteran lefty."

That's the important thing to keep in mind about this past week. It's less about the players than it is about the process. Marquis could have been Garland, or Piniero, or Sheets. For $15M over two years it's a signing that can only help stabilize the rotation. Is one year of a 26 year old closer with a career 119 ERA+ worth $3.5M? It is when your alternatives are Brian Bruney, Garrett Mock or the next Joel Hanrahan. Even if he's nothing more than a bridge to Drew Storen, what exactly is the downside to bringing Capps on board?

Rizzo's moves are encouraging because they don't assume that you have to sacrifice short-term improvement for long-term development, or vice versa. Somewhere between Jim Bowden's obsessive focus on the next five minutes and the analytic fascination with the next five years lies an approach that allows for building a winning team and a winning organization simultaneously. It's not yet clear that Rizzo or the Lerners are committed to this dual track approach (a strong bid for Aroldis Chapman would be nice evidence, Mike.) But I'm a Nats fan, so for the moment I'm clingling like grim death to any shred of hope that we might not have to endure two more seasons like the last two before we see that "first great Nationals team."

No comments: