Sunday, July 30, 2006

Why Soriano Must Go

About 30 hours to go before the trade deadline, and the Soriano rumors continue to fly fast and furiously. Sure, we love Soriano, and his hitting carried the offense back when Clayton, Guillen, Schneider, and Vidro were stinking up the park.

But when it all comes down to it, he's gotta go. Here's why.

1) Free Agency. I cannot emphasize this enough. At the end of the year, he has a right to choose who he wants to play for next year. The Nationals will be competing against 29 other teams in an auction. Unless the Nats are willing to outbid every other team (and even then there's no guarantee), Soriano's not coming back next year. In short, keeping him through the deadline does NOT guarantee (or even increase, really) our chances of keeping him.

2) No Extension. Sure, the team's talking about it, but if you read Ladson's latest version of the front office spin, there's a stunning lack of actual action there. Read it closely. The only thing they're doing is having Jose Rijo talk to Soriano. Big Whoop. Sure, his agent follows the player's wishes, but there's no chance they get a contract done between now and Monday, especially since (and this is the rub!), no one appears to be talking to his agent!

This, combined with Kasten's loud public pronouncement that No-trade clauses are worse than Hitler (in reaction to Soriano's request for stability), seem to be starting the groundwork for a campaign to lessen the effects of Soriano leaving. Since fans are in an uproar over keeping him, if they're able to paint him as greedy, or wanting things (no-trades) that even the great Atlanta Braves didn't give, then they can lessen the fan reaction to losing Soriano -- "See! We tried. He just was unwilling to compromise." Think back to last year, and how statements (starting in August, but culminating in a November Ladson piece) indicated that Wilkerson was going to be a goner.

3) The future. If those two signs are pointing to Soriano not sticking around next year (or at least the chances of him staying being very slim), what's next? By any account, there are a bazillion and one teams interested in him. If the Nats can get a top prospect or two (Kendrick, Hughes, Maybin, etc), they absolutely have to deal him. Think of it this way, for two months of Soriano, the Nationals have a chance to acquire six years of a player.

Sure, some'll point to other can't-miss prospects who did, but that's why the Nats need to demand near-MLB-ready prospects. Someone slugging in A-ball could hit a roadblock in double-A. But if they're hitting in triple-A, and they hit in double-A, they've already been tested. If they're already dominating Triple-A (check out Kendrick's stats), they are highly likely going to be a pretty good major leauge player.

If the Nats get one elite prospect and two lessers, that's up to 18 years of players for 2 months of Soriano. Reread that sentence. Eighteen years. All for a player who has no guarantee to re-sign.

4) Payroll. Assume that the Nats hold on to him next year. We're looking at a contract with a minimum of 4/$48 million. On an open market, it's much likely to be higher than that, but let's play conservative. Nick Johnson gets a $2.3MM raise. Brian Schneider bumps up $800K. Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez are arbitration eligible and are likely to make $4-5 million more combined. Even woeful Jose Vidro's going to be making half a mil more.

That's a lot of extra money tied up into the same players. Unless the team is going to bump up the payroll by $25-30 million, there might not be room for Soriano's salary. And given all the noise about building for the long-term, what would you place the odds of a $25-million payroll increase?

Well, I suppose there'd be room for Soriano's salary if you don't want any pitching upgrades.

  • Everything points to the team needing to trade him, but... there are some reasons to keep him.

    If the Nats aren't getting those major-league-ready prospects, keeping Soriano might not be a bad thing.

    At the end of the season, the Nats can and will offer him arbitration. Then, one of two things happens. If he accepts, he stays with the Nats on a one-year deal. If he declines, which is much more likely, he's still free to negotiate with the team, but if he signs with another team, we'll get their first-round draft pick AND an additional first-round pick in the sandwich round before the second round begins.

    If Bowden is getting offers for B-level prospects stuck in double-A, then maybe holding on to Soriano and taking those two first-rounders will be a better option. That, from a PR aspect, might work, too. If Soriano walks because someone offers him 6/$90 million, then it's much more palatable to the average Nats fan, especially if some of that money that the Nats had budgeted is plowed into the starting rotation.

  • So what's gonna happen? I dunno. Google keeps us abreast of the latest rumors.

    If I were a betting man, I'd say that Soriano sticks around. I don't think that the Nats are going to get a Kendrick or a Hughes, and holding on to Soriano for the picks (not to mention good will) might be more beneficial to the team.

    All signs point to a trade making sense, but two months of production and two draft picks has tangible value. If other teams aren't willing to meet that price, well... screw 'em!

    • So where's your money? Think he's headed to LA?

      I can see the Rijo rumors from yesterday being a last-ditch CYA move by the front office, too.

      That's what's fun about this. We don't have a freakin' clue -- and I don't think that Bowden really knows either!

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2006 11:44 AM  

    • Like you wouldn't like seeing him in LF!

      Man, Broxton is a farkin' horse. I'm not sure that I've seen someone that big. It's like someone did a "resize pitcher" with Rich Garces.

      He looks like one of the kickers I always create in Madden, just a horse.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2006 11:52 AM  

    • Broxton looks like he's on the Sid Fernandez career path!

      St. Louis is the team that I'd thought he'd end up with a few months ago. They have a need in the OF or 2B, but I haven't heard much about them at all. They're certainly not afraid to make a big mid-season splash -- McGwire, Rolen, Walker, etc.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2006 12:01 PM  

    • Another great post. (the one on Mitchell Page was gold, too!

      I'm with you 100%...Soriano should go, but only for the right price. It's amazing how fast his stock has risen in just four months. Remember how pissed we all were about losing Wilkerson? Even if the net result of the Wilkerson deal ends up being two draft picks after Soriano leaves, it will have been worth it.

      I'm with you, if I were a betting man, I'd say he stays put. The current trade waters are like a game of musical chairs. There are just too many other big names still out there on the block for another team's GM to pull the trigger just yet.

      By Blogger Brandon, at 7/30/2006 2:17 PM  

    • My bet is on Soriano staying. And, only because NO ONE is going to give Jimbo his high asking price for a 2 month rental from a player that WANTS to test the free agent market and CHOOSE for himself. That being said, I can see Alfonso staying with the Nats for a few more years. HE WOULD BE THE MAN HERE!!, and he would love that!! So would I.

      By Blogger Screech's Best Friend, at 7/30/2006 3:21 PM  

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      By Blogger JammingEcono, at 7/30/2006 4:13 PM  

    • To paraphrase the Violent Femmes, Sori is gone daddy, gone/Sori's gone...

      Excellent post, Chris. I'm a bit confused by your final position though. It seems to me that you're suggesting that two first-round draft picks would be preferable to getting A or AA level prospects. What's the difference there? IMO, if we get down to the wire and no one is offering a Howie Kendrick-type A+ prospect, then it would be prudent for JimBo to lower his sights a bit and take strong B-level prospects. With a year or two under their belts, they wouldn't be quite the crapshoots that even 1st round draft picks are. Plus, we wouldn't be on the hook for any multi-million dollar signing bonuses.

      Somewhate O/T, but I'd actually be more impressed with JimBo finds a way to ship Livan than I would be with a Sori trade (as long as he doesn't completely screw that up). Livan is much less marketable, so it would take more slight-of-hand to move him than it will to move our All-Star LF

      By Blogger JammingEcono, at 7/30/2006 4:14 PM  

    • JE -- I guess I'm a bit unclear. I would want someone who already has their development done, for the most part. I don't want projectable talents; I want proven. In most cases, those are the top 2 or 3 prospects in each system -- Kendrick, Maybin, etc.

      For example, Erick Aybar is the centerpiece of the deal, I pass and take the picks. I'd rather take the crapshoot (and I mean completely crapshoot!) of drafting a Pujols with the picks than getting a guarantee of, say, a Brett Tomko clone.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2006 6:29 PM  

    • I'd love to get a Kendrick or Maybin too, but if that's not possible, I'd rather take an Aybar than the picks. The value of 1st rounders in MLB is even more volatile than in the NFL. I seem to remember that something int he neighborhood of only 10-20% of first rounders ever see major league action. That said, I'd take a bunch of projectable B-level prospects any day. For the record, btw, Pujols was a 13th round pick. Just goes to show you how unreliable the draft can be as an indicator of future worth.

      By Blogger JammingEcono, at 7/30/2006 7:20 PM  

    • I'm too lazy to look it up, but 1st rounders have a higher success rate than that. Yes, it's still a crapshoot, but I'd rather have a 1 in 100 chance of winning $100 bucks than a guaranteed dollar.

      I used Aybar as a very specific example, because he's someone that doesn't impress me at all. Aybar's stats aren't too exciting. That's not to say he's not going to be anything, but I look at him and I see Alex Gonzalez (or pick random 'meh' infielder).

      I should do a post sometime on my general philosophies. I completely agree with you that the odds of drawing a Pujols are completely random. You can't draft FOR a Pujols. The Gods just sorta send them down if you've paid your pennance.

      I can see what you're saying about wanting some assurances. But if the player I'm drafting is going to be, say, David Dellucci or Ramon Ortiz, I'd rather take my chance at a Pujols.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2006 7:28 PM  

    • Not sure what you see (or don't) in Aybar's stats that elicit the "meh." At every minor league level he's had an OBP above .346. His K/BB ratio is trending in the right direction and he has improved dramatically in AAA (.314/.363/.486 in 220 ABs). The only knock against his is a lack of power, but even there as a SS he projects acceptably (.314-15-93 over a projected 550 ABs in AAA). What's not to like about a guy who's only 22 years old and has 35+ SB speed? He'd certainly be better than Cristian Guzman or Royce Clayton at the position.

      By Blogger JammingEcono, at 7/30/2006 7:46 PM  

    • Compare his stats to Kendricks in the same park, for example.

      SLC and the PCL in general are tremendous hitters parks. His stats are very batting average heavy because he doesn't hit for a ton of power and he's not drawing a ton of walks. He does have age on his side -- he's certainly young for Triple-A.

      But I'm just not sold on him, just based on the stats. I haven't seen what Sickels or the gurus have to say about him though.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2006 7:50 PM  

    • Here's Sickles on Aybar as of about a month ago:
      5) Erick Aybar, SS, B+
      4-for-12 in the majors, .303/.351/.480 in Triple-A. I think he's ready to hit something like .260-.275 in the majors now, but will need more time to develop power and reliable on-base skills.

      After last year, he had him as an A-. So, basically he's the same.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2006 8:01 PM  

    • Sickels' take:

      5) Erick Aybar, SS, B+; 4-for-12 in the majors, .303/.351/.480 in Triple-A. I think he's ready to hit something like .260-.275 in the majors now, but will need more time to develop power and reliable on-base skills.

      BA had him as the Angels' #3 prospect pre-season. was very positive:

      Erick Aybar, SS
      Whereas Brandon Wood is a hitter who plays shortstop, Aybar is a shortstop who hits. And that means that the former is a candidate for a position swap, while the latter most certainly is not. The 22-year-old Dominican is about as electric as any player in baseball on offense and defense, with the ability to positively impact the game in both capacities. He's hit over .300 in each of his first four pro seasons, has averaged 50 stolen bases over the past two years, and has shown a surprising amount of pop for his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame. And even though he's sandwiched between Orlando Cabrera and Wood, don't expect Aybar to go the way of Alberto Callaspo, who was traded in the offseason. The Angels are of the belief that a team can't have enough middle infield talent. They've seen teams like the Blue Jays go from having a wealth to a dearth in the matter of a couple years, and don't want to go down that same path.

      Care to retract that "meh," Chris?

      By Blogger JammingEcono, at 7/30/2006 8:07 PM  

    • No, I'm not. I'm still going with a meh. He's a nice player, but I'm just not that high on him.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2006 8:57 PM  

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