Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sale Of The Century

So yesterday, we looked at what the Nats needs are, and what kind of resources they'll have. It looked like we had about $27 million for three starters and an outfielder.

That's not a ton of money, but it's enough to get some viable players. As has been pointed out before, if you want to sign a free agent, you better be bidding on 3 others. You're not going to get everyone you target, even among the bargain-bin types we're sure to be rifling through.

Today, let's start with the outfield. We've got Kearns in right. And some combo of Logan and Church in left or center. My preference is to slot Church in center, defense be damned. I don't think that Church is a bad defensive centerfielder (though his freezing on a liner over his head in the final game rings fresh in the mind), but he's probably on the under side of average.

But he can hit, putting up a .269/ .347/ .461 line in his 527 MLB ABs. He was even better in 2006, mashing a terrific .276/ .366/ .526, despite the team apparently focusing on everything he can't do. This is especially impressive when you factor in that the average NL Centerfielder hit just .263/ .333/ .412.

So he's well above average offensively for the position, and he's slighly below average defensively. Add it up, and, at worst, you have a league average player. But here's the important part. Church plays for peanuts. When you can get league average performance for a nearly minimum salary, you're coming out ahead.

That's not to say that Logan doesn't have a role. He's a fine defensive player and has some speed. But he has no business, despite being a switch-hitter, ever seeing right-handed pitching. For his MLB career, he's put up a .608 OPS versus righties. But, luckily for him, against lefties, he's put up a terrific .817. It should be pointed out, though, that he was equally execrable from both sides of the plate in the minors last year.

Seems like the makings of a pretty good platoon/rotation there, doesn't it?

I'm torn. I really don't know whether the Nats should go after a full-time leftfielder, platooning Church and Logan, or whether they should find another guy of that sort, a 4th outfielder kinda guy who can be one of the pieces in a three-man rotation for two slots.

If the team brings back Alex Escobar, he could be part of the right-handed solution, which would mean they should focus on a lefty. But if they non-tender him, they'd likely need to focus on someone such as Bobby Kielty, who is unlikely to be tendered a contract by Oakland. (and who is probably most famous for his hair)

I'd bring back Escobar, and see if he can live up to his potential. So I need a LHB for the mix. (Someone in the comments suggested Kory Casto. I don't see it. He hit well for a Nationals prospect, but that was in AA, and it's going to be more important for his development -- especially to take that quantum leap ahead that he's going to need -- to get regular ABs in Columbus.)

We're talking players like David Dellucci (whose AB music while in Texas was the theme to the Godfather), Rickey Ledee (Escobar's compadre in prospectdom), Dave Roberts (whom the Nats had interest in two years ago) or Frank Catalanotto (who has been quite good despite not hitting many homers). If they wanted a pure leadoff man, Kenny Lofton could probably be had in the $5MM range. (pass!)

I'd target those four, probably in Dellucci, Catalanotto, Robert, Ledee order. The first three will probably require a two-year deal. Ledee might be getable on a NRI make-good contract (like Michael Tucker last year). Offer Dellucci 2/$2.5 and see if he bites. See if Cat'll not take 2/$4. There's potential there for not much money. And with such a minimum commmitment, these are the kinds of players you can unload for 'prospects' (note the scare quotes) without much effort. Dellucci, just last year, was traded for a pretty good pitcher. Dave Roberts has been traded a bunch of times.

For the sake of being conservative, we'll say this takes $3 million. OK, we've got $24 million left, and all we need is three pitchers. Easy enough, right?

Lineup:
1) SS, Lopez
2) 2B, Vidro
3) 1B, Johnson
4) 3B, Zimmerman
5) RF, Kearns
6) LF, Catalanotto (Dellucci?)
7) CF, Church (Logan?)
8) C, Schneider

That's surprisingly non-terrible.

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