Did Rizzo Overplay His Hand?

Steve O Speak

There are a lot of confusing rumors out there surrounding Adam Dunn and the Nationals trade demands, but one thing that had been persistent was the rumor that the Nationals wanted D-backs (at the time) pitcher Edwin Jackson. Despite the fact this made little sense from the Nationals perspective this rumor persisted, and got on fire when the White Sox acquired Jackson from the Diamondbacks and seemed ready to deal him for Dunn. Now wisely the the Nationals are balking at Jackson, but in doing so they might have burned a big suitor for Dunn and really hampered their ability to make a deal.

Whether or not this is true, there is a good deal of smoke here, so presumably there is some fire to it. And if it is holding up Dunn talks then it doesn’t really matter who’s fault it is, that perception alone is hurting the Nationals. Now I have applauded Mike Rizzo since he took over as the Nationals General Manager, and think he has made some good moves. But I for the life of me don’t understand his interest in Edwin Jackson, particularly as part of a deal for one of your major trade chips.

Jackson has always been an extremely promising pitcher with loads of potential, but he has never reached that ace level. He has never been a real consistent pitcher, and has always had major control and command problems. While he put together decent years in 2008 and 2009 making you believe that he was finally becoming a front line pitcher, Jackson regressed sharply this year. Even when he threw a no-hitter this year, he walked 8 batters. Jackson isn’t exactly the type of pitcher you hope to build your staff around, and he really doesn’t fit the profile of the player who gets traded for a 40 HR hitter.

What makes it even more bizarre that the Nationals even wanted him, is his contract. Jackson, despite his age (26), isn’t some young pitcher with 3+ years of team control left, he is entering his final year before free agency and it is a bit of an expensive one ($8.35). Add in the $2 million he is still owed this year, and that is a lot of money to pay for a veteran pitcher, especially when you aren’t contending. Now the Nationals may go acquire another veteran starter this offseason, via trade or free agency, but they aren’t going to sacrifice their top trade chip to do so. That just doesn’t make any sense. Even if you get a good quality prospect with Jackson, you are still taking on an expensive pitcher that you don’t need instead of additional prospects.

Personally from the Nationals perspective I would much rather have the two prospects they sent in the Jackson deal, than Jackson. RHP Dan Hudson is basically Major League ready. He profiles as a 3rd-4th starter, and should do well in the National League. He might not offer more upside than Jackson, but he is under team control for another 6 years, and the first 3 of those combined (plus this year) won’t be as much money as the Nationals would owe to Jackson for the rest of this season. In addition the White Sox sent 19 year old LHP David Holmberg, who is a young kid with a lot of projection. He is years away and needs to develop a better fastball to stay in the rotation, but he has promise. If the White Sox offered the Nats those two pitchers plus one of their top hitting prospects that would have been a good deal for Adam Dunn.

Now even if the White Sox are happy keeping Jackson (which does make some sense since they need another pitcher these next two years, and are a contender) I don’t know if they have the pieces to make this deal work. Hudson and Holmberg were probably the two best pitchers in the White Sox system (yeah it is a pretty bare cupboard in Chicago), meaning this deal will have to involve multiple young hitters. Involving multiple young hitters isn’t an issue as the White Sox have a few intriguing names, and the Nationals need to add young bats, but the White Sox hitters don’t match up well with Washington. Chicago’s top prospect Jared Mitchell has missed this entire season with an injury and no one knows how he will be when he recovers, so he is likely out. Two of their next two guys are kinda redundant in D.C., C Tyler Flowers and 3B Brent Morel. Flowers would have been a great get a couple days ago, but now that the Nationals added Wilson Ramos to their catching mix, Flowers is a bit less attractive. Morel looks like he is a 3B only, which is problematic since the Nationals have Ryan Zimmerman there. CF Jordan Danks is an option, though some of his luster has worn off with a tough year in AAA. He is still a nice young prospect, but it seems clear that Chicago rushed him a little bit. 3B-1B Dayan Viciedo is an interesting option, but he is up with the big league club so I think Chicago will be reluctant to deal him. If the Nationals can get two of these players, plus a lesser prospect or two they can still get good value for Dunn.

I still don’t fully believe that the door is closed on the White Sox getting Dunn, but it probably has gotten harder given the Jackson ‘miscommunication’. The White Sox still need a big bat for a serious postseason run and the Nationals would be wise to cash in on Dunn’s value so the motivation remains, right now I’d put the chances at a Dunn trade to the White Sox at about 40%.

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