(ed. note - "I asked the Federal Baseball.com readers recently, if they'd be interested in participating in a roundtable discussion about what they expected to see happen and what the Washington Nationals should do in these last few days before the July 31, 2009 MLB Trade Deadline. What follows are the transcripts of those discussions, with myself, Ed Chigliak moderating. Now For Part Three...But First, Reintroductions..."):
Ed Chigliak: Quick Roll Call...Nationals' Fan or Old Expos' Fan, I'll Go First??
Ed Chigliak: Old Expos' Fan...
Mezza: Nats fan. Personally, I dont think two kinds of blue 'works' on a uniform.
Doghouse: Nats fan! They got me back into baseball after 15+ years away from the game.
John: I'm a Nats fan. I grew up in the area, and I went to Orioles games on occasion, but they never felt like the home team.
Martins: Nats Fan, love the dynamic of the team this year. They are the last place team that is much better than a last place team!
Graysnail: Old Expos fan who somehow ended up where the Nats are. Not sure how that happened.
Jim: Old Expos fan who longs for the glory days of the early 1990s.
AFTER THE JUMP...
• Ed Chigliak: Do You Expect Mike Rizzo To Be Given The Full-Time GM Job With The Nationals?
• Ed Chigliak: Will The Nationals Be Able To Sign Stephen Strasburg? How Much Will Washington Have To Pay Their 1st Round Pick?
Ed Chigliak: Joe Beimel? Willie Harris? Are There Any Other Nationals You Think Might Get Dealt? Or Should Get Dealt?
Mezza: YES! While Im starting to think that it would be a mistake to trade Beimel or McDougal, I think its possible they could both be moved. I think that if we kept them both, and acquired a good closer in the off season, our horrific bullpen doesnt look anywhere near as bad as at the start of the season. Think Beimel, McDougal, Clippard, Begman...plus closer of note. Not that bad. Add Storen as a learner and its all roses.
On who should be dealt - I think if the organi(z)ation can move Guzman with his $8m contract for next season...they should be considered for the Nobel Prize in Baseball management. Guz is starting to flop and next season we're stuck with a player in serious decline, earning way too much money with poor defense (highest error count on the team).
Doghouse: Much as I like TAWH, he's the epitome of league-average (100 OPS+, even!). Of course, he's league average at almost every position (although I can't seem to find his ERA numbers, and I don't know how well he blocks the plate). That's a "luxury" any contender would value, but which isn't a necessity for a team a bad as the Nats (Manny described Harris as a "luxury" in a press conference at one point, and that's what he is for DC). Guz and AK should get dealt, but no one will want to pay their share of $8M for either one. I'm calling Guz2010 = AK2009. Beimel is likely the only pitcher we can get something for, and I can see him going for a prospect--and he should. It'll return some of the early-season bullpen pain, but with the steadier rotation it's a risk I'd take.
John: Given the chance, I'd clean house. I'd definitely try to trade Joe Beimel and Willie Harris, but beyond that I'd trade MacDougal, Villone (definitely Villone, he's getting old), Belliard and Guzman. Good teams are built around solid pitching, and when the Nationals' starting pitchers have an average age of 24 or so, I don't think there's much reason to have guys too much older than that around. Bring in some younger guys, let them play together and watch the Nats grow as a team. We've got a young leader in Zimmerman, a fantastic young pitcher in Lannan (and the others aren't bad either), and some good prospects in the system. Trade the older guys we have for younger ones, polish them up, and then start bringing in older guys as the Nationals become contenders.
Martins: Well, I definitely agree with the sentiment that Guzman has to go. If there is a team out there who is fooled into thinking that his .300 batting average makes him a good hitter, then let them have him. As far as the bullpen goes, my attitude towards relievers has always been "don't panic, they fluctuate." And I believe this situation is no different. All you have to do is look at Heath Bell, Brad Lidge, Al Reyes, Chris Ray, George Sherrill, Eric Gagne, and Jose Valverde (to name a few) to realize that one inning pitchers ebb and flow. This year the bullpen has been shaky, next year they could be world beaters. It's the nature of the position.
Graysnail: Do you see anyone nailed down in the clubhouse? I don't. Move 'em all. If you have to prioritize, Guzman may get something decent (provided you pay his way, otherwise it's a straight salary dump, which could be useful for reasons stated below), Harris can net something I'd think, Beimel hasn't been infected with the Suck Virus, and maybe someone even wants Belliard. Maybe. Kearns ...I wouldn't mind moving him, but I think that boat's sailed.
Jim: Without question, there should be more moves. Retaining Beimel is far from a certainty, and the club should move him (I'm sure there are offers, and I know the rumor mill's working overtime with him) for prospects. The biggest name that they should (have already) move is Guzman, and they've already missed a couple of opportunities to do so on both sides of Missouri (both the Royals and Cardinals have added shortstops, with the Royals making one of the worst deals the league has seen since..... wait. I still cry every time I think of Omar Minaya running the show in Montreal). I doubt there would be any takers, though he's at least decided to try during deadline week in the hopes that someone will want him.
I don't think Harris is real movable. Maybe some team will want him as a depth pickup, but I can't imagine that the return would warrant dealing him. Kearns is just dead weight that nobody has wanted to take on for over a year. He'll close out the year so that the Nats can buy him out instead of getting stuck paying a larger portion of his option year in 2010. Belliard had value at the beginning of the year, but doesn't anymore. I don't think any team would be willing to give much up for McDougal either. Basically, the Nats should have some luck moving two of Willingham, Dunn, and Johnson (ideally one of the first two and the last one) and Beimel. While I'd like to see more players go, I just don't see the club getting anything more than depth in the low-to-mid minors (in other words, "prospects" who don't really have any future).
Ed Chigliak: Do You Expect Mike Rizzo To Be Given The Full-Time GM Job With The Nationals?
Mezza: I do. And I think if he signs Strasburg... children from our village will sing his name. Consider this: He signed Zimmerman to a long term deal. He stabilized a terrible bullpen. He drafted one of the best pitching prospects of all time. He made a decent draft overall with guys like Storen looking good. He made a good trade for Morgan and Burnett (and fixed a troubled clubhouse). He ALMOST got Teixeira. What exactly do fans want from this man?
Doghouse: Rizzo is doing right by the fans, but what about the Lerners? If he signs Stras and doesn't do anything stupid at the deadline, I think he has the inside track.
John: I think Mike Rizzo should be given the full-time job, but I don't know if that will actually happen. He's put together a solid draft class and signed most of them, made a good trade with the Pirates, and hasn't made any boneheaded moves. The fact that he hasn't been given the position yet says a lot. Rizzo did some great stuff with the Diamondbacks and has proven himself with the Nationals, so I'm not sure what more the powers that be are looking for. Bringing in anyone else would be a mistake -- why give up a known positive for an untested manager? The Nationals would be trading a very positive influence on this team for an unknown, and, as young as the Nationals are, that's a bad move to make.
Martins: I'm really not sure about this one. I think the trade deadline will have a lot to do with this decision. He is being graded on performance right now, in my opinion. Let's see how he does.
Graysnail: The sick cynicist in me wants to say that Rizzo is gone in favor of another retread. The realist in me says that Rizzo probably comes cheaper than most of said retreads, so he stays. Rizzo understands the farm system, which is always a plus. Coming from the Expos, that's the one thing the 'Spos always had (and the one thing Minaya firebombed when he was with the team), so if that returns, great. Either way, I think we'll know more about this come next week.
Jim: I'm not sure how to answer this question at this time. I feel that he has to get something positive done at the deadline and/or I feel he needs to sign Strasburg. By accomplishing either of those feats, I think he both gets (and probably deserves) the full-time job. If he's unable to move anyone from a roster that will top off (four game winning streak = hope!) at 35 wins by the deadline and he fails to sign Strasburg, I see no reason that the "Acting" should be removed from his title. The current grade is incomplete.
• Will The Nationals Be Able To Sign Stephen Strasburg? How Much Will Washington Have To Pay Their 1st Round Pick?
Mezza: I certainly think they are ABLE to sign Stras...but I also think it will come down to how reasonable Stras is about the deal. I dont think Stras wants to not play and lose out on getting some Major League service time. I think the Nats need to sign him. Id expect him to sign...possibly for $25m-$27m. Anymore than $30m and I think we were robbed. Any less and I'll think Rizzo should be in charge of negotiating the next multilateral trade round.
Doghouse: "Yes," and "too much."
John: I am 100% certain the Nationals will sign Strasburg. I think one of the reasons we haven't seen more trading activity from the Nationals is because they need to save every penny to sign Strasburg. Rizzo has handled the situation very well in not venturing out into the media, and the front office has made statements that strongly suggest he'll be signed: "People in the front office, we know what Stephen Strasburg means to our major league ballclub" and "I believe he will soon be wearing a Nationals uniform." The front office is smart, and I don't think they'd be saying these things unless they have every intention of signing him. As for how much, I'd be surprised to see anything less than $20 million, but I'm going to take a stab and say he'll be signed for $22 million.
Martins: I think the absolute lack of pitching on this club has the Nats over a barrel, and they will be forced to pay whatever Strasburg and his agent want. My only fear, as is always my fear with prospects, is that he does not materialize. This would be a huge black eye for the front office, but at this point, I don't know that they have a choice.
Graysnail: See you in 2010.
Okay, fine, I'll actually answer this one. The funny thing with the Strasburg signing is both parties have each other over a barrel. Strasburg can't really play somewhere else for a year; he's not going to shoot himself in the foot by going to Japan, and there are more horror than success stories of guys pitching in the independent leagues. He's not going to pitch somewhere for pennies when he can blow out his arm and be done for it. For every Luke Hochevar, there's a Matt Hutchinson. By the same token, the Nats absolutely can't afford not to sign him. On the heels of failing to sign Aaron Crow last year, the Nats can't pull that stunt again. They'll not only squander the one nice thing you get by fielding a joke of a team, but sending a message that they're not willing to spend to bring in talent. Casual fans won't stick around if that happens. Couple that with the Nats' craptastic pitching staff and there's a painfully obvious need for a player of his caliber.
The Nats set up this draft perfectly to sign Strasburg, too - Storen's a fine piece but senior college reliever = autosign - so failing to pull the trigger will indicate failure across the board. If he signs, it'll be in the $25 million -$30 million range.
Jim: I'm with Doghouse. "Yes" and "Too Much." They don't really have much of a choice in the matter, and have to sign him after having failed to sign Crow last year. Storen was a draft-eligible sophomore who signed pretty cheap (and fast), which should have helped them save a little on the budget. I think that the Nats will get the deal done somewhere around the $25 million range. Anything less than $30 million and they'll probably chalk it up as the cost of doing business. If they sign him for over $30, the best thing would have been to tell him to take a hike and hope to get more money being selected third overall next year.... oh, and warn him that he'd better get his right arm insured at Lloyd's of London.
The End. (ed. note - "Thanks to everyone who participated, and for anyone who might want to next time, I'm hoping to make this sort of discussion a regular feature. Thanks, Ed Chigliak.")