Monday, May 23, 2005

Crist's Burden

$16.8 million is certainly a lot of money. It's more than I will probably ever see in my lifetime, and it's certainly more than I would probably know what to do with. (I could learn though!)

It's certainly a lot of money from a kid from the Domincan Republic.

And it's most certainly a lot of money for a shortstop who's hitting .197. It's a lot of money for a shortstop who's on-base percentage is .237. And it's a damn lot of money for a shortstop who's 'slugging' .252.

Unfortunately, it's also a lot of money for the Washington Nationals, even in their current incarnation as the love child of Bud Selig and Major League Baseball.

If the Nationals had the bottomless pockets of the Yankees, they'd make the problem go away -- Whether it's paying the player to play for another team (like they did with Kenny Rogers), making him disappear completely (like they did with Andy Morales), or paying him to just go away (like they did with Chuck Knoblauch and his phantom contract extension).

But, the Nationals aren't yet in that position. They can't cut their losses.

For better or worse (Well, actually it's pretty clearly worse), we're stuck with Cristian Guzman.

Well, what can be done to mitigate the damage he's doing going forward?

There ARE options.

D'Angelo Jimenez, for example, was just designated for assignment by the team we're about to visit, the Cincinnati Reds. Jimenez doesn't come with a spotless record -- he's rumored to be a problem in the clubhouse, and he's not cheap, making almost $3MM. But, especially with the injuries we've had, and the length of time it appears Vidro's going to be out, we might have to make that kind of gamble. If he plays second, Carroll could slide over to short.

Rick Short says hello.

The sad thing is, it really doesn't matter who you plug in there. If he can field competently, he's almost certain to be an offensive upgrade.

What would you do with Guzman, though?

You could eat his salary and trade him somewhere. The problem is, even then, the trade market for him will be virtually non-existent. Even us rank amateurs can look at his swing and say that the lurching step, with a strange little slappy hitch is ugly. Imagine what the scouts' reports on it must be. You can probably count the number of hard-hit balls he's had this year without even having to remove your socks.

You could bench him. That would probably be a recipe for disaster. He's never been known as the happiest, friendliest player. You certainly don't want someone sullen on the bench, and I suspect he would start griping -- think about his petty 'no comments' when going through the first batting slump at the beginning of the year.

But, and here's where the largest problem lies, even if you could find a solution to make him someone else's problem, the wacky front-office situation would be a large impediment.

Jim Bowden is angling to get back in the game permanently. Although we can, and have, quibbled with some of his moves, he certainly deserves credit for helping to put a quality team on the field that's greatly surpassing expectations.

But, it is not in his best interest to do anything with Guzman.

To do so would be to admit a $16.8 million mistake -- a bullet that definitely wouldn't go atop his resume.

And therein is the problem. Guzman and Bowden are linked at the hip. If Cristian's contract were for less money or for fewer years, they might be able to disappear him. But, there are 3.5 years still remaining, and $13 million or so. Bowden, for the sake of his future, cannot admit that his largest (in terms of dollars) offseason acquisition is a spectacular failure.

So, for now, we're stuck with Guzman. Bowden has to wear that sub-Medozian batting line like a heavy chain around his neck, linked with a contract the team can't shake.

As much as we want things to change, and as many potential options there might be, we're stuck. It isn't fair. And it doesn't help the team win on the field.

But, sometimes off the field junk trumps all.

4 Comments:

  • Man I hope the new owner's have deep pockets. Can you imagine a 2007 Nats lineup with Guzman and Castilla starting? Maybe they can get Einar Diaz back.

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 5/23/2005 10:07 AM  

  • How about some sort of incentive clause for Guzman to lose weight. A guy who sits in front of me in section 515 wears a Guzman jersey and has been a fan of his since the Minnesota days, and he says Guzman's on-field decline has coincided precisely with his weight.

    By Blogger Carl, at 5/23/2005 10:31 AM  

  • Castilla is only signed through 2006 ($3M in 2005; $3.2M in 2006)

    By Blogger Brian, at 5/23/2005 10:33 AM  

  • Would you believe I meant Luis Castilla? (Yes, I know it's Castillo and he's pretty good) Ummm...dammit.

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 5/23/2005 2:06 PM  

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