Monday, November 22, 2004

I've Come Down Off The Bridge

Now that I’ve had the weekend to relax, I’m back down off that bridge. I’m not willing to jump over last week’s Jose Guillen trade.

Despite my initial reservations, I lukewarmly think it was an ok move.

My initial objections were a desire to see Juan Rivera given a chance to be the full-time player and a belief that, when all was said and done, the trade didn’t really net much of a change for the team--other than an increased payroll and an increase in surly outfielders.

Guillen now merely occupies the Carl Edward Everett Distinguished Chair for Nutjob Outfielders. While I remain concerned about the severity of an incident that would lead a playoff-contending team to axe one of their better offensive options in the heat of a pennant race, I guess I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. All too often, whether it’s Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Dick Allen, etc, players get painted with broad brushes and negative coverage surrounds them--the stories and coverage almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The payroll factor probably isn’t that big of a deal either. When it comes down to it, Guillen is only making $3.5MM. That’s not a lot of money for a player who has 30 home run potential. Additionally, it’s only for 1 year. The Nats have a team option for next year for $4MM, which is also reasonably priced.

I’m not sure what Rivera would make this year--he’d be arbitration eligible. Let’s say he was making $1.5MM. $2MM dollars of extra commitment for one year is not going to break the backs of this franchise. All it’ll do is buy you an extra Rheal Cormier. And, as the Phillies can tell you, Rheal Cormier isn’t going to win you many pennants.

As a prospect, Izturis probably wasn’t much. I think much of the hype surrounding him was because of his last name and because this is a franchise that, while traditionally a talent-producing machine--was kind of starved for prospects. A similar thing occurred in Baltimore when the fans grasped on to any young kid thinking that they were going to be the next Ripken. Izturis may prove to be useful someday, but he’s not going to be Ripken. Hell, he probably won’t even be the Florida Alex Gonzalez. With Guzman around for the next four years, Izturis didn’t have a spot to play. He was clearly expendable.

I’ve made my love for Rivera known before. I think he could’ve capably filled in RF with a decent amount of power. I wouldn’t expect 40 home runs out of him, but he’ll hit with slightly above average power and wouldn’t be a negative as a corner outfielder. And pretty importantly to this franchise, he’s still relatively young (Just turning 27) and he’s relatively cheap thanks to the arbitration process. With Rivera, there’s nothing but upside and this could really be his breakout year.

But, Guillen ain’t crappy either. While calling him a 30 home run hitter is a bit much--he only hit that number once, he’s definitely a run producer with a .500ish slugging percentage and is probably better offensively than Rivera. John at the Washington Baseball Blog crunches the heavy numbers so we don’t have to and demonstrates that Guillen is a superior offensive player--at this point in their careers. Rivera has a little ways to go to catch up, and he certainly might, but Bowden wasn’t certainty.

The team now has the cleanup hitter it lacked before. And while Guillen isn’t gonna make anyone think of Frank Howard--the original Capitol Punisher--he’s a better alternative than Vinny Castilla.

If Guillen can prove to not be a distracting influence--and given the DC Media’s non-confrontational, even hands-off, attitude with local players, that might not be a problem--he can be a net benefit and the Nats will come out ahead on this trade. But, if Guillen comes here and proves to be the jackass he seemed to be in Anaheim, then you’ll definitely hear me crying out to Free Juan Rivera once more.