December 7, 2009

Not All Motion Is Progress

Mike Rizzo is (allegedly) not Jim Bowden. This offseason has been marked by a refreshing lack of impolitic outbursts, leather pants and dumpster-diving for toolsy outfielders. Until today you could also have said that Rizzo displayed a distinctly un-Trader Jim knack for not overvaluing replacement level relief pitching. Until today.

Let's be clear up front: Rizzo "overpaid" by sending the top pick in the Rule 5 draft to New York for reliever Brian Bruney. Bruney has a track record, and there's some value to that. Any baseball geek worth his Bill James Abstract will tell you that relief pitching is the most unstable, readily replaceable component of a major league roster. Any Nats fan that lived through last April, May and June will reply that yes, you can cobble together a relief corps from rookies, retreads and failed prospects, but it can take a grueling half season or more to get the mix right.

What worries me is Rizzo's increasingly evident preference for the known quantity over the raw talent. Think Nyjer Morgan for Lastings Milledge. The Nats got the better player, but the Pirates got the talent. Hiring a manager like Jim Riggleman is a textbook case for valuing track record over potential. In terms of today's deal, ex-Diamondback Brian Bruney's an established, hard-throwing, middle-inning reliever with undistinguished peripheral numbers. You don't have to uncover the Rule 5 draft's next Johan Santana, or even the next Joakim Soria, to get a younger, better player who'll be under club control for longer than Bruney. The next Luis Ayala would be a fine return for that number one pick.

As hot stove kickoffs go this deal was a resounding "Meh." It's tough to get either enthused or outraged about a 28-year old middle reliever, especially when he might not be any better than the guy who was cut to make room for him. On the other hand, I share FJB's hope that we're not merely in the beginning phase of replacing Bowden's CinciNationals with Rizzo's DiamondNats.

Speaking of which, doesn't signing a well-past-his prime Pudge Rodriguez to a TWO YEAR deal seem, well... Bowdenesque?


Harper said...

I'll disagree that Bruney for the #1 pick in the "never was" draft is overpaying but I agree with the general point. For the Nats an unknown commodity with any potential is worth more than a average known commodity. That's true for any team not looking at a playoff push,

As for the Pudge deal, Bowden would have managed to make it for more money and cost the Nats a draft pick. I suppose a simple slight overpay for a year too long is progress.

estuartj said...

Rizzo has had 2.5 months to look over who's going to be available in the Rule V draft and obviously decided none of them was worth a 25 man roster spot, thus trading that pick away is meaningless, my pocket link maybe be your gold, but it's still pocket lint to me.

As for Pudge? I'm guessing Rizzo said he wanted him and Kasten/Lerner said then go get him, and didn't ask what it would cost. That alone is a major positive