The Nationals made a trade yesterday, and after an evening of reflection, it still makes no sense. Looking to add a “right-handed bat off the bench,” the Nationals dealt two minor leaguers (Hagerstown LHP Chris Manno and Harrisburg OF Bill Rhinehart) for slumping Reds OF Jonny Gomes. Gomes, a veteran with some power, is supposed to give the Nats a boost in the stretch run.
GM Mike Rizzo’s free agent signings have included some hits and misses, but his trade record has been solid. As interim GM, Rizzo turned Joe Beimel into Ryan Mattheus and convinced the Marlins to take Nick Johnson’s rotting carcass in exchange for first-rounder Aaron Thompson (who’s unfortunately seen shoulder injuries stall his career, and was released by the Nats this winter). He got a little better after getting the permanent gig in August of 2009. We have already praised him at length for the Matt Capps-Wilson Ramos deal, and for coaxing two minor leaguers out of the Rangers for Cristian Guzman. He sold far too late on Josh Willingham (he should have moved him last summer if he was going make a deal), but got Henry Rodriguez and current Syracuse SkyChief Corey Brown. He’s even proven the ability to cherry-pick low-profile veterans in small deals, such as snatching Brian Bruney from the Yankees for virtually nothing. His trades have been forward-looking, selective, and overall pretty successful. This one, however, is hard to defend.
On paper, the deal makes some sense. Gomes fills a hole on the roster, and is arbitration-eligible this winter. Plus, he has the added bonus of being a Type B-eligible free agent, which could score the Nats a late-second round pick in next year’s draft (we will explain that later, and why that may not work out so well). If the Nats wanted a bat to compete, Gomes was a good, safe acquisition. The problem is that the Nationals, long-shots to compete at the All-Star Break, have gone 3-7 since the Mid-Summer Classic. The Nats now sit 10 games out of the Wild Card (trailing seven other teams), and are in no way considered contenders.
The Nationals should not be bashed for adding a veteran, even as their season spirals out of control. As a team looking to compete in the near future, there are a few outfielders out there that would be smart pick-ups right now. Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn of the Astros could be big parts of this team’s future. Peter Bourjos of the Angels, possibly available with the ascension of Mike Trout (the AL version of Bryce Harper), would be another great fit. B.J. Upton has been mentioned quite a bit, but his poor OBP numbers should scare the Nationals off. Those trades all sound great, but are very unlikely due to the previously-discussed lack of organizational depth and talent.
Due to the strikingly thin and old talent in the Nationals system, the Gomes trade is even more unsettling. Rhinehart and Manno are hardly top-of-the-line prospects, but are still two of the best trade chips the Nats have. Was Jonny Gomes the guy to use them for? Rhinehart is old (26) for a AA player, but he is having his best minor league season. He is slugging .587 for Harrisburg, and taking playing time from Bryce Harper (which is one possible justification for the deal). Gomes is slugging just .399 this season, and has never posted a mark higher than .541 for a season.
Even if you can chalk Rhinehart up as a guy past his prospect prime (although he may be a better hitter than Gomes right now), Manno is the frustrating pieced of the deal. As a starter in college (Duke), the 6’3 lefty was a marginal prospect at best. He was moved to the bullpen as a senior, and the Nats selected him in the 26th round of the 2010 draft. In his first full professional season, he has 12 saves and a 1.04 ERA (thanks to a “sneaky and deceptive fastball” and a good curve and change-up). At 22, he is an old low-A pitcher (not by Nats’ standards, of course), but he projects as potentially good left-handed option out of the bullpen.
The easy justification for the trade is Gomes classification as a “Type B” free agent. As explained here, this would mean the Gomes could score the Nats a late second-round pick in next year’s draft if he signs somewhere else. Sounds good, but it is not so simple. In order for the Nationals to reap this benefit, they would have to offer Gomes arbitration (a one-year deal at a price set by a third party). Gomes, already non-tendered (not offered arbitration) twice in his career, might be better off taking the one-year deal from the Nats than trying to get a contract on the open market (which would probably be a minor league one at this point). Offering Gomes arbitration might saddle the Nationals with a washed-up designated hitter, costing them two minor leaguers and earning them no new draft picks. The smart move for the team would be to non-tender Gomes, making this trade a complete waste.
News and notes from Nationals Park:
- Doug Harris, the chief of Nationals’ player development, slammed his foot in his mouth in Sports Illustrated, comparing Bryce Harper’s struggles to those of Jackie Robinson. While we all may understand what he was trying to say, classifying his words a “poor taste” is as nice as you can put it. Instead of lifting the scrutiny of Harper, he probably just made it worst.
- Former Nat Emilio Bonifacio picked up a hit in his 24th straight game last night against his former employers.
- Mrs. Examiner’s Quote of the Day! It’s back! On Jordan Zimmermann, 5th inning, as he shakes off three pitches: “That guy has said no to every pitch! What is he doing? [Greg Dobbs crushes 0-2 pitch for homer] See, that’s what you get for shaking off all those pitches.” Forget Steve McCatty, the Nat should send pitchers to my wife for advice.
Small notes from around the Bigs: A week before the All-Star Break, the Seattle Mariners sat at 43-43. The .500 record was a good accomplishment for the down-trodden club, and put them within shouting distance of AL West leaders Texas. Since then, the wheels have come (flying) off. The M’s have dropped 17 straight. Last night, they were absolutely mowed down by C.C. Sabathia in New York. A season of promise has turned into an utter disaster in the Pacific Northwest. Hey, at least they will not go chasing a “right-handed bat off the bench” in the trade market, right?
As always, check out my homepage for all of my thoughts on the Nationals. Please share your thoughts, complaints and comments below. For daily updates, you can subscribe to these articles (free at the top of the page) or follow me on Twitter (@Neuman85). Enjoy today’s entertainment below!
Song of the Day: ArcadeFire – “Half Light II (No Celebration)”
Nats Video of the Day: Roger Bernadina shows off his Shark shirt.