Nats Show Desperation With Gonzalez Deal
December 23, 2011 in Uncategorized
I understand the Nationals feeling the need to acquire a quality starting pitcher, but I think their move to get Gio Gonzalez was a very poor decision. Yes he is young, durable, and under team control for 4 years, but it cost the Nationals 4 of their top 15 prospects, including three of their top 10. That is a pretty big haul that rivals (and in some cases exceeds) deals that we've seen for Dan Haren (to LA), Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and other top level starters in recent years. Yes Gonzalez is cheaper and under control for longer, but I'm not sure he's worth it at the price the Nationals paid.
In dealing away RHP Brad Peacock, RHP A.J. Cole, C Derek Norris, and LHP Tom Milone the Nationals are making a huge commitment. Now I have no problem in dealing away Norris or Milone. While Norris has the potential to be a good starting catcher, the Nationals already have Wilson Ramos. And while Milone is basically major league ready, he is a back of the rotation lefty, something the Nationals are in good supply of now with John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Tom Grozelanny. What really stings are the losses of Peacock and Cole. Cole profiles to be a front of the rotation pitcher who could move quickly and be ready by early 2014. Peacock gets some mixed reviews, but most think that he'll at least be a good number 3 pitcher, if not a number two on par with Jordan Zimmermann. Given the fact that he is basically major league ready, he's the one I would have hung on to. If they could have substituted a lesser prospect (say Chris Marrero or Eury Perez) for Peacock, then I think it would have been an even deal. Now though the Nationals need to hope Gonzalez pays off given the significant price they paid.
It's not that Gonzalez is bad, as he's won 15 plus games, with an ERA in the low 3.00 range, and pitched over 200 innings in each of the last two years. The real issue is, is he good enough? Gonzalez has benefited greatly by pitching half of his games in the spacious Oakland Coliseum, and playing behind a very good defensive team. The Nationals have a far more neutral park, and as of yet, don't have a defense that can rival Oaklands. Now some of the difference in ballpark factors will be mitigated by Gonzalez changing leagues and facing pitchers, but it might not be enough. Gonzalez can raise his game if he improves in one key area, walks. Gonzalez has walked over 4 batters per 9 innings in each of his two full seasons, which is among the leagues worst. Unless Gonzalez shaves that down to the 2.5 range (or hopefully below) his value could always be in question.
Now the one thing I think the Nationals can do to make this Gonzalez trade make sense, is to make a stronger push this season. The Nationals need to acquire a centerfielder and a long term answer at 1B, some additional pitching help wouldn't be out of line either. The Nationals need to stop pretending like they are a small market team, and they need to look to make some splashes on this team. Because while it is a popular meme out there, better health and further development alone won't push the Nationals into being an actual contender. The Nationals need to look to make a statement, because you only make that Gonzalez deal if you are ready to contend.
What the Nationals Should Do:
Sign Prince Fielder: Look I get it, people are tired of me saying it, but I'm still waiting to hear a valid reason not to. He's young, he's insanely productive, he can help be a face of the franchise, and the Nationals have no real long term solution to 1B. Michael Morse has been a great story, but he's two years older, and is not a safe bet to be nearly as productive as Fielder (also his defense is even worse than Fielders). Morse is going to be a free agent after 2013 anyways so you'd have to pay him then. The Nationals can trade Adam LaRoche now, and look to deal Morse when Bryce Harper is ready. It's going to be pricey, but it can also be worth it, as Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Prince Fielder and Anthony Rendon is exactly the type of middle of the order that can lead this team to the World Series.
Sign Ryan Madson- Now I never would have thought I would be advocating this, but why not? Madson won't cost a draft pick, and at just 31 is a good bet to still be pitching at a high level for the next 3-4 years. Given that the market seems pretty dead for Madson right now, you could probably get him without overpaying. He's among the leagues best bullpen arms, and while he'd have to share closer duties in Washington, I could see him interested in staying in the N.L. East. Given that both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are pretty cheap at the moment, the Nationals could have an elite bullpen, at a fairly good overall price. It also gives them plenty of depth, where they can trade a piece away if someone is willing to meet their price. While an unorthodox move, a Madson signing could really help Washington take their game to the next level.
Sign Cody Ross- The Nationals need to keep improving their bench, and while Mark DeRosa was a good first start, Ross would be another solid addition. He can play all three outfield positions, and if the Nationals acquire a young CF like say Charlie Blackmon, he'd be a nice platoon partner (though they might consider putting Ross in RF and Werth in CF). Ross has absolutely killed lefties for his career (over a .900 OPS), and has spent most of his time in pitcher friendly ballparks. A move to DC could see a boost in offensive numbers (as well as defensive with a smaller park), and give the Nationals a really productive 4th outfielder and pinch hitter. It will probably cost the Nationals a two year deal in the neighborhood of $4 million a year, but I think it's worth it. The Nationals bench has been a joke these last few years, and a guy like Ross will ensure they get decent production from that role.
Sign Mike Gonzalez- Gonzalez is no longer a closer or 8th inning guy, but he could be a very productive LOOGY for the Nationals. While I wouldn't say he's strictly a LOOGY, his results against lefty hitters is pretty nasty over the years. Even in these past two years where he has struggled, he's always been able to get lefties out. He'd be a nice one year signing, who shouldn't cost more than $2 million, but could be a great final piece for the bullpen.