Sheehan Sez Bowden Sucks
Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus' main columnist, sets his sights on the Nats and the decision to re-sign Dmitri Young. He makes some really excellent points, but he also (as he is wont to do), makes some ridiculous assertions (such as how this move dooms the Nats to a decade of Pirates-like futility) that make it easy to dismiss what he says. If he'd just stick to the main points without treading into hyperbole, he'd be taken more seriously. At any rate... here's some of what he said:
Young has had a career half-season for the Nationals, batting .330 in 330 at-bats, inheriting the first-base job when Nick Johnson’s rehab of a broken leg extended into the season. He was the Nationals’ All-Star, and not an undeserving one given that he made the squad for being the best player on a team with no other candidates. He’s roped 37 extra-base hits and drawn enough walks to give him a .382 OBP. It’s not an empty batting average.
The problem isn’t Young’s 2007 line. It’s his 2006 line (.250/.293/.407; released), his 2005 line (.271/.325/.471), and his 2004 (.272/.336/.481). The 1000 at-bats prior to this half-season all sent the same message: Dmitri Young peaked at 29, and as a player with absolutely no defensive value who bats at five to ten runs above the league-average line, he’s barely worth a roster spot, much less a starting job.
Even if you wanted to retain Young’s services, why sign him when his perceived value is at its highest? The difference between Young now and Young 2004-06 is basically 60 points of batting average, points there’s no reason to believe that he’ll keep as the year goes on....
Jim Bowden has foregone the low-cost prospect he might have been able to get for Young in favor of paying $10 million over two seasons to a below-average first baseman, and all because he can’t tell the difference between a .330 hitter and a .280 hitter on a hot streak....
This is an awful signing, the kind of move that defines a bad franchise. The Nationals are overrating a player based on short-term performance, overvaluing service time, signing a player at the absolute peak of his value, foregoing the chance of acquiring a low-cost option, blocking a better player, and potentially forcing a ridiculous defensive alignment. This would normally be the worst decision made in any city over the course of a year, but Bowden is fortunate to work in Washington, D.C., where the standards are much, much higher.