Monday, July 31, 2006

Bang! Fizzle! Where Were the Fireworks?

All that for nuttin', huh? What a disappointment!

Well, sorta.

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!

  • Update:

    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.

  • Everyone's favorite writer has some interesting news.
    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.

  • Basil at Federal Baseball, as is per usual, has the must-read on the situation, as he tries to come off the fence, separating how much his dislike of Bowden personally can shade one's views of the trade. It's a longish read, but well worth it.


    • If there was any truth to the Angels offer of Aybar, Santana, and someone else... then Bowden blew it.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 5:16 PM  

    • That's the only one of the specific deals that I heard that would've given me pause.

      In the end, I'm still not completely sure that I'd have taken it, even if I'd probably lean towards accepting it.

      I laid out in the comments a day or two ago why I don't think much of Aybar.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/31/2006 5:19 PM  

    • This just means it'll take longer I reckon. Don't think we would've gotten much for Livan, Armas or Ortiz anyway. My biggest disappointment was that we didn't move Screech...

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 5:23 PM  

    • Failing to lower his sights just a bit in order to move Soriano was a deeply, deeply bone-headed move on Bowden's part. To spend $10M and trade away three players for the OPPORTUNITY to overpay Sori by $4-5 million dollars does long-term damage to the health this franchise. I have no doubt that we'll look back on this decision in 5-6 years as one that set the development of the franchise back 2-3 seasons.

      By Blogger JammingEcono, at 7/31/2006 5:29 PM  

    • That's working under the assumption that they failed to trade him primarily because they wanted to work on an extension.

      If that's the case, you're probably right. But I don't think that holding out for better prospects is necessarily a bad thing, especially given teh default selection of two first-rounders.

      Yes, re-signing him will present problems in terms of a pitching budget, but that's a separate decision.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/31/2006 5:34 PM  

    • I sm not surprised at the outcome because Bowden had a two month rental and he wanted too much in return. Soriano is as good as gone at the end of the season because the Lerners are not going to pony up $75 million over five year with a no trade clause to keep him. We can always hope that the two draft choices turn out to be a Ryan Zimmerman and a David Wright.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 5:36 PM  

    • Jeff (Chicago)
      What is Bowden thinking not trading Soriano?

      I answered this earlier, but I'll revisit it because it's such big news. Bowden likes to deal, but he also likes to be regarded as a genius. And making lopsided deals with the one with the Reds earlier makes him look REALLY good to the new ownership.

      But that just made him more determined to make another great trade, rather than be realistic about what he could get for Soriano in a situation where he could walk after 2006.

      In the end, he held firm to his demands for Grade-A prospects, and the teams that wanted Soriano properly passed on him.

      What do you think about Gillette's take on the issue? I think that if he's right (and I'd assume he knows Bowden, as a person, better than we do), Bowden is hurting the team by focusing on wowing his superiors to the detriment of the team. Seems to me like Kasten's decision to keep Bowden on for a while has backfired just a bit, and the guy should probably be back on Cold Pizza by next season - assuming he hasn't duped the Lerners.

      In any case, we can still get either Soriano himself or two first-round draft picks in the upcoming off-season, so this wasn't as terrible as it could have been. I think we're better off than if Bowden had been on the other end of the spectrum, too desperate to make a deal.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 5:46 PM  

    • i'm as hard on Bowden as almost everyone, but that's the sort of pop psychology that a blogger (like me!) would play. That doesn't mean that there's any real insight behind it.

      It really came down to Bowden wanting a certain price for his prospects and no one meeting that. Reading too much more into it is, well, too much!

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/31/2006 5:50 PM  

    • I'm not surprised Bowden didn't pull the trigger on a lesser deal to move Soriano. I hope the Nats can re-sign Soriano. He's one of a few exciting players to watch on what has been a miserable team to watch this season. Soriano if re-signed will help the Lerner's get back those 5,000 season ticket orders lost between the 2005 and 2006 season. It won't hurt the box office ticket sales when the Nats move to the new stadium either.

      I'm also not surprised Livo, Armas, or Ortiz weren't traded either. None of them are having a particularly good year. They've all been inconsistent so who's gonna trade for inconsistent pitching? There were other pitchers out there that had more value for teams needing pitching.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 5:51 PM  

    • Eh... Fans support winners. They don't come out for stars -- look north to the Orioles and Tejada for that. Besides, they can pretty easily build around Zimmerman and Johnson, who definitely have growing star power.

      Now will Soriano's re-signing (if it happens) allow them to get the pitching to build a short-term winner? That's the billion dollar question.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/31/2006 5:55 PM  

    • Chris,

      You're right, fans support winners but the Lerners and Kasten need to get those casual fans back at RFK to make more money. Why do you think they went through all that trouble to re-open RFK during the last homestand? To attract the casual fan that wasn't coming to the ballpark.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 6:01 PM  

    • The only quibble I have with your post is that "two months production" value ascribed to Soriano. That's not value for the Nats, who are doomed this year. So it's really the picks that represent his value.

      By Blogger DM, at 7/31/2006 6:04 PM  

    • But they're not going to come out next year to watch the team lost 11-9 because there's no pitching.

      Building around 'stars' is really overrated. There've been plenty of people smarter than me who've crunched the numbers and shown taht winning is really the only thing that matters for drawing the casual fan in -- the casual fans, especially don't want to sit through a loss!

      The only exception I'll make, and this might be worth a bigger post, is that Soriano seems to draw a not insignificant number of African American fans to the park. But they'd have to do some marketing research to see what effect, if any, that has.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/31/2006 6:04 PM  

    • I think Bowden didn't screw up and in the end that is often the best we can hope for, isn't it?

      By Blogger WFY, at 7/31/2006 6:29 PM  

    • Chris,

      You make a good case. To add to your statement the Nats can also draw to RFK the large Latin/Hispanic community in the area with Soriano.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 6:34 PM  

    • I hope that the Lerners are ready to open their wallets. Soriano's agent must be frothing at the mouth right now. It just strikes me as totally contrary to what Kasten said he was going to do. Now we are going to spend a large portion of resources on a star player?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 6:49 PM  

    • If they want to re-sign, yeah, they're going to have to open their wallets. But don't make too much over the "What percentage of the payroll is he" question. That's overblown. If Soriano is really worth $12 million a year in terms of his offense and his marketability, then that's what you pay him. He's worth it.

      But is he worth $12 per over 5 years? hmmm... I'm less certain.

      But the point to keep in mind is that if he DOES walk away, it's not for nothing. It IS two first round picks.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/31/2006 6:57 PM  

    • It seems like the biggest question here is, "how does this fit in the LernaSten plan?" Did Bowden not trade Soriano just because he couldn't get the top prospects out of some other team, or does Kasten see the Nats as being competitive sooner than he has publicly indicated?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 7:14 PM  

    • I read somewhere that the Nats get one first round pick and one pick sandwiched between the first and second round for Soriano, not two first round picks. Does anyone know if this is the case? Maybe this is splitting hairs, but a pick after the first round may not be worth all that much.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 7:23 PM  

    • That's exactly how it's done - the first round pick of the team that signs him and a pick between the first and second round. So if the Tigers, for example, sign him, you'd get a late first rounder (around 27) and the sandwich pick.

      And to get those picks is not without risk. You have to offer Soriano arbitration and he has to reject it. If the market is lukewarm to him, he might accept arbitration - which means you get another year of Soriano at $12-15 million...

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 7:50 PM  

    • I am glad it ended with Soriano and Livan still with the Nats. It makes no sense to give up Alfonso for the lesser expectations than wanted. Rumors are rumors, but its obvious team did not give up the TOP PROSPECTS everyone desired. This also puts the ball firmly in Soriano's court. He's stated he wants to stay. He says he LOVES DC. It time see if he's a man of his word. And, you can bet there are things going on behind the scenes that you and I have no info on. But, it clearly states to other players around the league that DC is a great place to play. Soriano and Livan are respected. And, this will play out in the Nats favor in the near future, big time.

      By Blogger Screech's Best Friend, at 7/31/2006 8:14 PM  

    • There's an old saying that goes, "Sometimes the best trade is no trade at all."

      I sure as hell didn't want Soriano traded JUST to trade him. I wanted him to be traded ONLY if we could get some blockbuster prospects in return. As Chris said, it was as though he had a reserve price, which I believe is a perfectly sensible position.

      If Bowden wanted to trade our "Rolex" player to teams only willing to give us a "Swatch" or two, then he definitely did the right thing by standing pat.

      If Soriano re-signs, then all is forgiven. If he does not, then yes, as the other commenter said, let's hope that the next Zimmerman is among those two first-rounders. It was still great to trade for Soriano and take the chance that he'd find a long-term home here. If nothing else, he's given us an exciting player to watch this year.

      By Blogger Joe Riley, at 7/31/2006 8:15 PM  

    • IMHO, not trading Sori is good if they resign him and Sori becomes more disaplined at the plate, which is too much to hope for. Bodes blew it by not making trades today because this franchise needs to stockpile bodies. I'd rather see him walk than end up with a killer contract the Nats have to package ala Abreu in 3 years

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/31/2006 8:59 PM  

    • I'm with you and the person who was disappointed that we didn't move Screech...

      By Blogger DCSportsChick, at 7/31/2006 9:16 PM  

    • i'm down on the no-go, mostly because soriano's stock will never be higher than it is right now. the guy has been in the league how long? 7, 8 years? we have a good idea of his actual value, but that's not going to be in line with his asking price after a phenomenal '06. there are a ton of teams teetering on the edge of the playoffs...especially in the AL west and AL central...and bowden couldn't manage a few top prospects?

      the front office claims they didn't make a trade because they'd like to re-sign fonzie and make him a cornerstone player. but they could have made a run at him this winter either way. typical of bowden's ego to think he's got a better chance with his two hand-selected draft picks than two already-blossoming prospects.

      for what it's worth: ken rosenthal on comcast said the consensus around the league is that bowden screwed up...put way too high a value on soriano and backed himself into a corner leading up to the deadline.

      By Blogger Natty Bumpo, at 8/01/2006 1:11 AM  

    • I'm almost as negative on the running of this franchise as some higher-profile posters, but right now I'm not too worked up re the Soriano deal. It's all a crapshoot. I am disappointed that one or more of Livan, Ortiz, Armas didn't get moved, however.

      Long story short, if the end result is Lerner/Kasten realizing their mistake and showing Bowden the door sooner, then I'm all for it.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/01/2006 9:03 AM  

    • It just seems to me that this gives up all of our bargaining power to chance. It puts all the pressure on the ownership to really get the deal signed and transfers advantage to Soriano's agent. Then if you don't get the extension...then you are really in mystery-land. Any prospects you get through the draft are going to be raw and still in need of refining through the minor league system. I just wouldn't like giving up my advantage and leverage if I was JimBo.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/01/2006 9:40 AM  

    • I don't know. Maybe Bodes "screwed up" in the eyes of the other GMs etc. But I have to buy into Boz's argument that this does make DC a more attractive place to play to other Major (and Minor) Leaguers. To get Trader Jim to hold off? That ain't easy. And even if we're left with the draft picks, we'll be seen as a city that values talent, and values clubhouse morale. That won't make us win in the near or mid-term, but it won't make DC seem toxic like Baltimore. (With as itchy a trigger finger as Bowden has, you know that could easily happen.) So while I'm sad it'll take longer, I'm sad we have no pitching, I'll support my team on this.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/01/2006 10:09 AM  

    • The only way that this is not a complete screw-up by Bowden is if the 2 draft picks are better than whatever Bowden could get for Soriano via a trade.

      The 2 months of Soriano's time and the 2 months of his pay are relatively unimportant in the long run.

      If Soriano is looking for anything close to what some team will pay him on the free market (and someone will over-pay him), then the Nats are better off not signing him anyway.

      To me the only important factor for whether or not Bowden blew it is if he had a deal for some combination of players/value that was better than the likely value of the compensatory draft picks.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/01/2006 10:38 AM  

    • Apparently, the LA Times is reporting that the Santana/Aybar deal with the Angels wasn't actually offered by LAA.

      They were offering a much less attractive package, so it really seems like Bowden did the right thing.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/01/2006 10:40 AM  

    • One wonders how the Nats' rebuilding plan might be affected if Soriano leaves for free agency. Will Washington be more inclined to use those extra picks on college players, since their time of arrival in the majors would be quicker? Draft high school players early (as they did this past June), and you're going to have to wait at least an extra year or two for them to develop. And as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Philadelphia have shown, if you don't have good on-field product, a new stadium won't help you after year one.

      The only other angle the Nats could take to restock the farm system is to go whole hog signing players from countries not subject to the draft, but that would probably cost a goodly sum -- especially for the top players, whose agents try to steer such prospects towards elite or wealthy teams.

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