Washington Nationals: Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, Stephen Strasburg Deadline, My Thoughts...

Last Friday, after the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline had passed and the Washington Nationals had sent first baseman Nick Johnson to the Florida Marlins in exchange for former 1st Round pick, twenty-two-year-old left-hander Aaron Thompson, "Acting" DC GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson, as quoted in an article entitled, "Nats part ways with Johnson, Beimel", that the Nationals had been forced to trade the "Last Expo", The Discerning Eye™, the Trademark Single™-Hitting Federal Baseball.com Favorite because:

"'He was a free agent after the season," Rizzo said. "After a few attempts to extend his contract, we thought it would be better for the organization to trade him and get the prospect that we want. Then, [the Nationals will] decide over the winter if we wanted to go after him free agent-wise, or not."

Asked for his thoughts on the trade, Nick Johnson told Mr. Ladson he understood that, "'It's part of the game.," and the "Last Expo" left open the possibility that he might return as a free agent according to Washington Post writer Chico Harlan, who wrote in his article entitled, "Trade Deadline Moves: Johnson to Florida, Beimel To Colorado", that though they couldn't agree on a deal, "Both Rizzo and Johnson acknowledged a chance that the first baseman will re-sign with the Nationals this offseason as a free agent," though Nick Johnson seemed to welcome the change of scenery, telling Washington Times' writer Mark Zuckerman, as quoted in Mr. Zuckerman's article entitled, "Johnson, Beimel dealt at the deadline":

 "'I've got a lot of friends on the team, but I'm going somewhere else...'It's about winning, and [the Marlins are] a good young team.'"

The next day, before his first game with Florida...

(cont. after the JUMP)...

The next day, before his first game with Florida, Johnson told MLB.com writer David Villavicencio, in his article, "Johnson joins Marlins, excited to compete", that he was, "...excited about joining a team that's in a pennant race," after all the years spent struggling to stay out of the NL East's basement with Montreal and Washington:

"'It was tough,' Johnson said of his time with the Nationals. 'In Washington, we didn't win a lot of games. I haven't been in something like this in a while. I'm really excited about it and I'll enjoy it. I've come to a team that has a chance to win, and that's what you play for. You don't play for .500 ball.'"

Well, you might think, at least the Washington Nationals did attempt to sign Nick Johnson to an extension, that's the story, according to all reports, and the fact that he wouldn't do so forced the Nationals to trade him, that's how it went down. MLB.com's Bill Ladson's blog post entitled, "Nationals had to trade Johnson", stated so clearly, after the fact, in a post deadline post where Mr. Ladson wrote:

"Interim general manager Mike Rizzo didn't have a choice but to trade Nick Johnson because the latter did not want to negotiate an extension with the Nationals."

But why didn't Nick Johnson want to sign an extension with DC? Why would he? Moving to the Florida Marlins, (a team that started '09 with a $36.834 million dollar payroll --as opposed to Washington's poorly allocated $60.328M --, and a tendency to trade every arbitration eligible player they have, (see Willingham, Josh and Olsen, Scott, etc.), dismantling their roster every couple years and rebuilding by drafting well (see Johnson, Josh, West, SeanStanton, Mike), and robbing desperate teams of their top draft picks (see Ramirez, Hanley, Sanchez, Anibal, Maybin, Cameron, etc.), is seen as a step up from playing baseball in DC. The Florida Marlins, according to Nick Johnson, are seen as a place where a player has a chance to compete in a pennant race rather than, "...play for .500 ball," and Florida's getting a brand new ballpark next season, which only makes that franchise more attractive to free agents...

So, it comes down to the same question all of DC has been asking while one free agent after another has signed elswhere over the last few winters, (...with the notable exception, of course, being Adam Dunn, but let's remember, if we're being honest, Dunn only signed with DC when it was clear that no one else was going to offer more than the Nationals would for his services, since most people then, and now, view the 29-year-old slow-footed outfielder as a DH rather than an everyday player)...So, why would anyone want to sign with the Washington Nationals? 

The Nationals are in a constant state of re-construction. They've gone through two GM's and are on their third Manager in 5 seasons, and the current GM is still an "Acting" GM and the new manager Jim Riggleman has interim-and-out written all over him, as the Nationals have often publicly stated that they're still exploring possibities at each position, which means that the franchise will most likely be on its third GM and fourth Manager by the time they take the field in 2010, and even though Mike Rizzo assured the Nationals' fan-base, in the Washington Times' Mark Zuckerman's article after the Non-Waiver deadline, "'We are in a building process. We are not rebuilding...This is a team that is, in my opinion, not far away from being a good, solid baseball team,'" there's no guarantee Mr. Rizzo will even be with DC to see that process through the end of this season...

It's no wonder that members of "the Strasburg camp" are expressing concerns about '09 #1 overall Draft pick Stephen Strasburg joining the Washington Nationals. Washington Post writer Chico Harlan wrote two weeks back, in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Nats' GM Uncertainties a Concern for Strasburg", that Strasburg's people viewed DC as a "rudderless organization", and whether you believe that's simply Strasburg's agent Scott Boras' posturing or the honest opinion of a draft pick examining the situation he'll be stepping into if he does decide to sign, the fact of the matter is that right now, at this moment in time, the Washington Nationals are not an attractive destination for players who want a chance to compete at the major league level. I want to believe Mr. Rizzo's assessment of the situation, and I hope he's here when the team finally turns the corner so he can remind us all he was right when he said Washington was close to, "...being a good, solid baseball team." [points to head]. The Nationals now have 14 days to convince Stephen Strasburg of the same...

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