Bang! Fizzle! Where Were the Fireworks?
When I read the tealeaves earlier this week, I thought that this was what was going to happen, and I can't say that it really bothers me. Bowden stuck to his guns, and he did what he felt was right -- something that might not necessarily be a Bowden decision.
From day one, Bowden said that he wanted each team's best prospect. Nobody was willing to give that up, which, I suppose, is understandable. But that doesn't mean that Bowden should've lowered his price. He knew what he had in Soriano: Two months of prodcution + 2 first-round draft picks.
Look at it as a reserve price auction. Let's say that you're selling an engagement ring because your fiancee hated your leather pants, and there was an ugly incident where she was beating and scratching you in front of a cop. When you're selling it on Ebay, you're probably going to set a reserve price. You don't want some schlub like Billy Beane coming in and paying $1.75 for a ring you just laid several thousand rubles for.
There were lots of names flying around, but in every case (Twins: Garza; Tigers: Maybin; Angels: Kendrick/Wood), they just weren't being included in the other team's offers, so Bowden decided to take his prize and go home.
That's not a bad thing.
Now, a few things can happen. If the team chooses to re-sign him (and that's a debate for another day), they hold on to Soriano when he made it clear (even if it was just a negotiating position) that he wouldn't re-sign if traded. If he decides to go elsewhere, they still get those two first-round draft picks, something that's far from valueless. Sure, they're a crapshoot, but I'd rather have a small chance of drafting the next Alfonso Soriano than having a much higher chance of getting the next Gary Majewski via trade.
So, good for Bowden. I guess the only concern I have is whether his obsession with Soriano and the accompanying trade talk prevented him from making deals for Ortiz, Armas or Hernandez, but given how crappy they've been pitching, it's unlikely the Nats would've received anything useful anyway. (And there's a chance that Armas and Ortiz could return draft picks at the end of the season anyway).
I suspect the peanut gallery's out for blood. Tell me where I'm wrong!
Svrluga's story is up. I love his lede:
His locker was adorned with streamers and banners and signs of affection that ranged from a bottle of premium tequila to a bowl of fruit. And when Alfonso Soriano walked into the visitors' clubhouse at AT&T Park -- still a Washington National more than two hours after Monday's trade deadline had passed-- the room exploded in applause and impromptu chants of "Sor-i-a-no! Sor-i-a-no!"
It's good to be the king!
Tom Boswell seems happy with the decision, and he nails an important aspect:
Huge contracts are a tough nut, good will or not. But even if Soriano ultimately leaves town, the Nats may have made the right choice anyway because they did the right thing for the right reasons. Many will remember it. The small loss Washington may suffer in personnel -- the difference between the good-but-not-great prospects they could have gotten yesterday and the two draft picks they'd receive as compensation if Soriano leaves -- may be dwarfed by the credibility they immediately gain with their fans, their players and their biggest star.
According to two sources who requested anonymity, Soriano would like to make more money than Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who signed for three years and $39 million last December. Soriano is looking for something in the range of five years, $80 million. The sources believe that Soriano is willing to backload the contract, realizing that that the Nationals are looking to build for the long-term future of the franchise.
Read it, too, for the quotes from Kasten, and the front office's attempts to lay this at the feet of Soriano's agents. The Nats are playing a delicate game here. They want to sign the guy, but if it doesn't work out, for PR reasons, they need to make it look like it's not their fault that Soriano didn't re-sign.