So before today, almost ever Nats fan I know believed that Jim Bowden was headed to baseball's winter meetings to shake a few hands, share a few pints (and not drive afterwards), and to lowball every team in the bigs. And in true Bowden fashion, he has calmly cracked open a few dozen eggs and gently placed them on all of our faces.
Lastings Milledge is a National.
Here's the tale of the tape folks. In exchange for a player once described as "untouchable", the Nationals will be without the services of OF Ryan Church and C Brian Schneider.
I'm excited to see that we're not going to just sit on our hands this winter but this trade carries some large risks with it. That being said, it also had tremendous upside.
Here's how it could go wrong:
The Nationals start the season with essentially another starting rotation of relative unknowns. The staff is still extremely young and its another year of on-the-job training. This year though, instead of the guru Schneider mentoring the staff and calling the games, a young Jesus Flores will be behind the plate. Never having played a full season as a starting catcher in the bigs, Flores loses respect of the staff, becomes impatient at the plate (Schneider was no better at this), and ineffectively calls the games. All the offense in the world can't save bad pitching, unless you have ARod. The improvements shown by last year's staff are all but erased this year and the Nationals are yet again relegated to the rally cry of "Lets not be last!" in September.
Here's how it could go right:
The Nationals sign a veteran starter to anchor the staff and provide some leadership (Hello Livo!). Jesus Flores continues to call effective games and in turn gains the trust of the young pitchers we will no doubt have starting for us this year. He also continues to improve at the plate, while showing off that uncanny knack for the clutch hit. Lastings Milledge integrates seamlessly into the outfield alongside Willy Mo Pena and Austin Kearns (maybe, but more about that later), and the nationals now have 3 relatively young bats with pop in the OF. Sounds like something we can build around for sure!
Three's a crowd
One of the problems I foresee in this deal is that it does not practically fulfill one of our off-season goals, find a CF replacement for Nook Logan. Milledge has the tools but hasn't played there in a few years. I insinuated earlier that we could possibly see an OF of Pena, Milledge, and Kearns. So there are some options here. First off, there's nothing saying that Kearns will be back this season. Bowden loves his former Reds and to be honest I am a Power Kearns fan and believe we should retain his services. That said, he did have a pretty bad year at the plate and he could be gone. The option I prefer, however is to see Kearns shift to center, and we plug Lastings into right. Kearns has not exactly been known for his range but he's got a cannon for an arm. I think with a full pre-season of preparation to play CF, he could be a valuable asset there. Think an Alfonso Soriano redo.
At least we're not being idle