Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reconsidering The Soriano Non-Trade

In most every season preview I've seen that describes the expected woeful performance of our fair team, there have been more shots lobbed at the Nationals' decision to not trade Alfonso Soriano last July. It's a decision that I defended at the time, but we've got some new information in the last week, buried in an excellent Dave Sheinin article.

At the time, there were lots of rumors, but nobody was every able to pin down who or what was offered. All the while, they mocked PT Bowden (who with his statements to the press was making an ass of himself), for asking for too much and having unreasonable demands.

The only serious offer which passed the smell test was the package that Will Carroll [insert your own joke] reported: Jason Kubel, a slugging outfielder who was coming off a knee injury that has turned him into a young DH, and Scott Baker, a solid starter prospect who could probably be a good 3/4.

It turns out that the team would later deny that that was actually offered. But even if it had, that's a so-so package, and choosing to keep Soriano is certainly a defensible choice, especially with the two draft picks they'd get when he walked at the end of the year.

When Nats 320 interviewed Stan Kasten a few months ago, they asked him about the Soriano trade, and he admitted that he overruled a deal that Bowden wanted to make:
"NOT A THING-- We would take today or YOU WOULD TAKE TODAY!. NOT A THING! That is better, than what we wound up getting. Now, why is that, its going to be a mystery to me. Because the truth is, we got better pitchers in our deals for Hernandez and even Marlon Anderson (Johny Nunez from the Dodgers) than for Soriano. THAT SHOCKS ME!! SHOCKS ME (POUNDING HIS DESK). Nevertheless, it is the truth."

"And, what I saw, coming down to the deadline, the last day, there was a determination to trade him (on the part of Washington's Baseball Think Tank), I was worried. We were about to trade him for NEXT TO NOTHING!! And that’s, when I had to step in, and say--NO!!. We are not going down that road. WE ARE NOT GOING TO DO STUPID THINGS!!."

So what was actually offered? We haven't heard a thing, til' that Sheinin piece. Buried inside it was something interesting:
One of the teams the Nationals spoke with extensively last summer regarding Soriano was the Minnesota Twins, according to industry sources. In return for Soriano, the Nationals asked for a package headed by one of the Twins' top pitching prospects, either left-hander Glen Perkins or right-hander Matt Garza -- rated the Twins' fourth- and seventh-best prospects in 2006 -- but the Twins' best offer was for right-hander Kevin Slowey, a control specialist who was not among the team's top 10 prospects in 2006.

The Nationals passed. Slowey, however, after an impressive 2006 season, has climbed to the Twins' third-best prospect in the 2007 Baseball America rankings and received consideration in the Twins' camp this spring for promotion to the majors.

"All these months later, and knowing everything I know now," Nationals President Stan Kasten said, with regard to the Soriano non-trade, "I'd still do the same thing."

Slowey looks like he's a solid prospect, dominating hitters at the lower levels. But he was a 22-year old A-ball pitcher at the deadline. While he's a solid prospect, many in that same peanut gallery would've slaughtered Bowden for such a paltry return.

It's likely they'd have chipped in another pseudo prospect or two, but Slowey as a centerpice? Meh.

If that was the best offer -- and that's really the only solid reporting we've had -- then I'm even more confident that the Nats made the right decision in holding on to him. The two extra draft picks the team picked up, especially in the draft-mastering hands of Mike Rizzo, give the Nats a pretty good chance of picking up the next Slowey.

Yes, the Nats did get screwed over a bit by the protection of the Cubs first rounder and the changes to the draft compensation system, which created seemingly hundreds of new sandwich picks, devaluing the second-rounder they received from the Cubs instead. But given what they knew at the time, they did right.

9 Comments:

  • what exact picks do the Nats get from the Cubs? Tell me what players were picked in those same spots over the past 5-10 years? What are the odds they ended up being decent Major League players? The draft is a total crap shoot and getting legitimate prospects for Sori always is better than draft picks. I know you believe this. I understand your argument of taking the draft picks over alleged low balled offers. I still do not believe that was the best deal the Nats could have received. If it was, then Bowden needs fired or the trading deadline has hit rock bottom.

    By Blogger Adam Douglas, at 3/30/2007 9:44 AM  

  • 1) The Nats believe that draft picks have a higher value in their hands because the people they have in charge have a higher-than-average rate of success with those picks.

    The player the Twins wanted to trade, for example, was taken with a pick lower than either of the ones selected with the compensation the Nats got for Soriano.

    2) If you think that Bowden should be fired because OTHER teams' GMs would give him everything he wanted, then...

    If you don't believe that that was the best deal he could've received, then what do you think was?

    The only name we've heard reported by a non-rumor monger is the one in the Sheinin piece.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/30/2007 9:49 AM  

  • I was one of the happiest people in RFK after the trade deadline passed. Knowing the new owners had taken a path of rebuild through sucking, I was glad we were able to see Soriano have a great season. As a season ticket holder, the only reason I could muster the energy to go to the last 20 games or so was to see Soriano. Otherwise, why bother. I'll take that and a draft pick over a crapshoot low ball minor leaguer any day. No respectable GM would give up a top of the line talent for nothing.

    Look at the Cubs trading Sosa -- for a AA pitcher who is out of baseball, and a 3rd rate 2nd baseman (Jerry Hairston) who couldn't hold Sosa's gym bag. Oh yeah, and the Cubs paid the bulk of Sosa's contract. If we had done that with Soriano, especially in the middle of a great season when he wasn't a pariah in the clubhouse or to the fans, then fans in DC would have had Bowden's head on a platter.

    By Blogger Natsfan74, at 3/30/2007 10:21 AM  

  • "The draft is a total crap shoot and getting legitimate prospects for Sori always is better than draft picks."

    Adam, What's the difference between "legitimite" prospects and draft picks, especially high ones?

    The A's got three "legitimite" prospects when they dealt Mark McGwire to the Cards: T.J. Mathews, Eric Ludwick and Blake Stein. How'd that work out for them? How about the three studs the Padres fleeced from the Braves for Fred McGriff? OF Melvin Nieves and pitchers Donnie Elliott and Vince Moore?

    Let's see what they end up with for Soriano before we club the FO too much. (BTW Brian McCann was a 2nd round pick, wouldn't mind having HIM around)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/30/2007 10:30 AM  

  • I am sure I can go back and list several deadline deals where the prospects ended up being pretty good. Jeff Bagwell comes to mind. I agree watching Sori chase 40/40 was the only reason to follow the Nats during the last 2 months of the season.

    Maybe Bowden's PR face time around the trade deadline left a sour taste in my mouth. I agree the FO has the ability to prove me wrong with these picks. My point is that compared to the other sports leagues, picks in the MLB draft do not directly correlate to getting MLB players. check out the 2nd round draft from 2001, how many are in the MLB?

    http://slam.canoe.ca/BaseballMLBDraft/round_by_round.html

    At least with minor league players who you can determine with more accuracy of how good they might project in the MLB. I know you can debate this either way.

    I understand your argument of how picks are better value than the players who have been reported to be offered. Maybe I am overestimating Sori's worth to a ball club last year and wrong on Bowden's negotiating PR tactics. I still think he botched it and drove the price down. Thanks for all of the feedback. See ya at RFK and hopefully I will understand the "Plan" at some point. Mac G

    By Blogger Adam Douglas, at 3/30/2007 12:28 PM  

  • I guess I should be clear.

    I'm not saying that not trading him was the right move. I'm just saying that in light of everything we've seen and heard, it's basically a coin flip decision. Is a 4th starter worth the chance of two high draft picks? Would you rather have $10 or a 1/10 chance of $100?

    Neither choice is wrong.

    I completely understand what you mean about Bowden's comments turning you off. He did annoy the hell out of me (and does.) but when you boil down everything to the actual decisions being made, it's hard to be toooo critical, even if Bodes makes our skin crawl.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/30/2007 12:32 PM  

  • Chris-

    I'm with you on this one. I think that keeping Soriano was the right move to make. Also, I believe that the Lerners would have tried to sign him for the long term but the cost of contract (and all the others this winter) pushed him out of our range for the next 3 years.

    Don't know what the draft will bring, but would rather have those 2 picks and hope to strike lightening than have a 22-year old prospect who could be a 3/4 starter in the bigs.

    By Anonymous Jeff Altman, at 3/31/2007 7:13 AM  

  • What is missing from every discussion of this topic is the following:

    Where was the foresight to know the market was evolving and attempting to trade Soriano 6 months after trading for him would yield nothing?

    So lets say we concede that Bowden was right not to trade Soriano for any of the chump change deals on th e table last summer. Then we have Bowden's spin that Soriano would be so charmed by the team and the city that they would have a chance to sign him long-term they would not have had otherwise. This idea was so ludicrous from day one it doesn't deserve comment.

    All that remains is to ask what value did he bring for his one season. As the Nats were completely out of championship contention from April, we're down to $10 million paid to Soriano was entertainment value.

    We're not talking about some homegrown low dollar career Nat. Even if you deduct what Wilkerson and Sledge would have cost, that's still S5.7 mil extra to have Sori as a Nat for one season. Especially considering the PR nightmare about refusing to play LF, this was a complete and utter waste of money. I would have rather seen Church in there trying to break out - thats what I enjoy a a fan.

    And Soriano gets the last laugh. The lineup was so inept, they batted him leadoff where he constantly got fastballs grooved to him en route to a career year which nets him one of the biggest contracts in history.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/31/2007 1:15 PM  

  • By Blogger Peejay Li, at 9/21/2009 3:56 AM  

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