Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Central Problem

Defenders of Jim Bowden's generosity toward mediocre players are fond of saying things like, "it's only $4 million! Stop being such a jihadist!" Well, Bowden's expensive tastes have caught up with him.
The Washington Nationals were scheduled to meet with the agents for Odalis Perez late last night, but the club does not expect to be able to sign the free agent pitcher . . . Washington previously had fallen short in its pursuits of [Russ] Ortiz and [Jaret] Wright and now can likely add Perez to that pricey list.
"It's because of the marketplace," Bowden said. "It's strictly financial."
And is if that weren't bad enough, look at what Bowden is condsidering doing instead.
With Perez out of the picture, the Nationals will shift their attention to a remaining pool of free-agent pitchers that includes the Yankees' Esteban Loaiza, the Braves' Paul Byrd and the Cubs' Matt Clement.
Loaiza sucks (and it wasn't because he "couldn't handle the New York spotlight" or any of the that crap. He's just not very good), Byrd is injury-prone but looks like Frasier, and Matt Clement is actually good and therefore probably out of our price range. So, the $10 million our GM blew on players we didn't need so he could get Tom Boswell to flutter his eyelashes at him may not only cost us Odalis Perez, but may also saddle us with Esteban Loaiza.

As much I like Perez, a starting pitcher is not our greatest need. The biggest hole on this team is center field, where any arrangement of current Nats players results in a sacrifice of offense, defense, or both. Endy Chavez can't hit and possibly can't field (he's the Cristian Guzman of baseball!). If we leave him on the bench to poke Frank Robinson when he starts snoring, Brad Wilkerson moves out there and Terrmel Sledge takes over in left. This helps the offense a great deal, but you might as well tack half a run onto everyone's ERA; B-Wilk is no center fielder, and Sledge apparently isn't so good with the fly balls. This is why I liked the probably imaginary Alexis Rios trade so much - it would have kept Chavez and Sledge on the bench (where Sledge at least could be very useful), helped the defense, helped the offense, and given us an exciting 23 year old player to watch develop.

The center fielder market is very thin this year. Steve Finley, who is a center fielder only in the sense that he stands in center field until it's his turn to bat, just pulled $7 million a year (not the $10 million I'd heard before) for his age 63 and 64 seasons. Carlos Beltran is the biggest prize on the market, and we probably can't afford him (but consider this: Bowden has already spent about $10 million, and it sounds as though he has a little over $6 million more to increase the pitching staff's crap factor. If Beltran or Beltre sign for less than $16 million a year, I'm going to cry. Literally, I mean; glistening, salty teardrops running down my face and right into my soup). And that's about it for the position. I think we should consider a run at Braves right fielder J.D. Drew. Will Carroll, whom I'm not mocking today, has suggested that center field may help Drew's troubled knees, as it would involve less stopping and starting than right would. He does have a fairly terrifying injury history, but that could be the only thing that leaves him in our price range, and our outfield depth could give him plenty of days off. His defense in center is unlikely to be great, but he'd make up for that by being a baseball-smashing machine, which immediately makes him better than Endy. I have no idea if he'd be in the budget, but if the unspeakably monstrous rumors of Bowden pursuing Sammy Sosa are true, there must be something left in the kitty.

We're not getting Barry Larkin. He wants to go somewhere he can play every day, and who can blame him for that? Elsewhere in the Veteran Leadership department, Wil Cordero is apparently choosing between us and the Mets. I refer you to Capitol Punishment's discussion of Cordero's peculiar leadership techniques.

Hat interest update: I was chilling at the mall yesterday. First, two waiters commented on my sweet Nats cap. Then I was talking to the guy at the hat store, and they had gotten in 72 each of the blue and red caps. They had sold all but four.

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