I guess I should talk about the Soriano trade. I'll try to keep my take relatively brief, and I won't be showing a lot of my work because it's boring. "Blah blah OPS+, blah blah road splits, blah blah Value Under League Variable Average." No one wants to read that and I don't want to type it, so just trust me that I have thought this out. I hate the trade, and here's why:
Brad Wilkerson is simply a better baseball player than Alfonso Soriano. Soriano might have more power, and he's certainly faster. He plays a more vital position, though he plays it badly. Wilkerson is a better hitter -- any power difference is more than made up for in Wilkerson's willingness to take a walk once in a while (Soriano appears to be allergic). He's far more flexible, playing four different positions at least capably, and he's actually younger since Soriano got caught in that post 9-11 Dominican timewarp.
Then there's the money. Oh lord, the money. Wilkerson made about $3 million last year and is arbitration-eligible. He'll get under $5 mil for 2006. Soriano, meanwhile, made $7.5 million last year and should be around $10 mil for the next. He'll be our highest-paid player and a major drain on our payroll flexibilty. Even worse, he'll be a free agent next after 2006, while Wilkerson would have remained under our control for an extra year.
So, Wilkerson is a better player who costs half as much and we're the ones throwing in the extras? Why didn't Bowden ask the Rangers for a kick in the balls and a genital assault to be named later? Anyway, Texas also gets Terrmel Sledge and pitching prospect Armando Galarraga. We probably won't miss Sledge. I know little about Galarraga, though I've been assured that he makes this deal even worse for us -- stay tuned to Nationals Farm Authority for more on that.
So why did Bowden do it? Soriano hits a lot of homers and steals a lot of bases. Three of our main priorities this offseason were 1) pitching B) leadoff hitter and III) power hitter. Soriano can't fill the first (unless he really wants to earn his ridiculous salary), but no doubt Bodes thinks he fits the last two. He's wrong, but that's what makes him so loveable. Soriano is no leadoff hitter. His career on-base percentage is .320, and it was only .309 last year. Keep in mind, though, that whatever they're calling the Arlington ballpark favors hitters the same way Jessica Cutler favors guys with five hundred bucks to waste. Soriano's road OBP this year was .265 -- Guzman territory. He really a good base-stealer, but his on-base skills are much better suited for the ninth slot than the first. A better case can be made that Soriano's a power threat. He really does hit a lot of homers and doubles, especially for a second baseman, though once again he's helped to a stunning degree by his home park.
There are two ways the trade could turn out well. Brad Wilkerson had a bad season in 2005 as he suffered from a nerve injury in his forearm, which sapped his power. All my indignant statements this winter about Wilkerson's radness are based on the assumption that he's all better. If he's not and if his power won't return, then yeah, this is fine. The other development that could make this worthwhile is a trade of Jose Vidro. Vidro, as I've lamented time and time again, gets a very healthy paycheck as he devolves from underrated big-hitting second baseman to chubby bumbler. Things could be even worse if Vidro sticks around, since Soriano is apparently going to be thrust into the outfield. Soriano is not a good defensive player even at a position he knows all about. He's spent as much time in the outfield as I have, and he's made it known that he doesn't like the idea. Maybe he'll figure it out. Hell, maybe I'm the next Dom DiMaggio. You never know until you try.
This trade makes the Nationals older, more expensive, and worse. We've given up our best hitter -- not to mention our Nick Johnson injury insurance -- for a $10 million dollar rental who's a good bet to get on base less than 30% of the time. It's a terrible, terrible move, and we can only hope that it's Jim Bowden's last.