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Reportedly almost extremely close to nearly deciding to perhaps go ahead and consider whether

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Baseball's prom season is heating up, and I figure it would be worthwhile to spend a few minutes discussing today's hot rumor: Alfonso Soriano to the White Sox for, presumably, Brandon McCarthy and, hopefully, others as well. And, yes, that deal is HOT.

There are myriad ways to mull over the Soriano situation, some more productive uses of time than others. At this end, I'm going to try to crystallize the discussion into three points:

  • Forget this season.
  • Assume Soriano will indeed be traded.
  • Cast off the "trade-and-sign" scenario as a pipe dream.
The first proposition is easy for any follower of the Nats to digest; at this point, even the current three-game winning streak fails to ignite the torch of hope for even the most foam-fingered fan. The second proposition might be more difficult for some to accept, but make no mistake: It must be accepted. I was thinking just yesterday that Stan Kasten would raise some wedge issue in the media in order to reframe the discussion away from "Soriano willing to re-sign with Nats." And, sure enough, Kasten raises a predictable one---he says he's never handed out a no-trade clause and wouldn't be inclined to start with Soriano. Make no mistake that Soriano will be traded, and the coverage of the situation is back on that task. The third proposition, admittedly, is the hardest to accept at this point, in part because it's wholly speculative---and if not wholly speculative, then merely indeterminative at this point. Nevertheless, I believe the proposition will hold; if Soriano is not re-signed in a current one-team market, he won't be re-acquired as a free agent in theoretically . . . what? A five-team market? A ten-team market? A dozen-team market?

It is what it is. It's not because Kasten and Jim Bowden don't appreciate Soriano. Hell, the Soriano trade likely ratified Bowden's continued existence as this team's general manager. And therein lies the point: Bowden has turned an underappreciated (and slumping and disappointing) outfielder, a reserve outfielder, and a nearly-anonymous pitching prospect into the trading season's featured attraction. Granted, he spent a net six million dollars to earn this attention, but never mind that now. It is what it is.

And what it is, is this: Right now, Soriano is a commodity to the Nats; six months from now, the Nats will (maybe) be just another suitor at Soriano's disposal. There's no moral judgment to be made here, and there's no longing from a simpler or more sentimental solution---it's just the nature of big league baseball.

Soriano will have earned his freedom. The Nats banked on his attention focused squarely on positioning himself toward that impending freedom in the most impressive manner possible. Both sides---Soriano and the Nats---appear destined to win that bet. They've aided one another, and they'll use one another.

It's not good or bad; it's the way it is.

* * * *

And so we get to this McCarthy guy. Here's the question: Is this enough for Soriano? I'd suspect not; McCarthy would presumably be the centerpiece of a deal---assuming there are legs to the rumor. Is McCarthy worthy of being a centerpiece? I don't know, and I certainly don't know prospects well enough to say I know, though sometimes I forget that prospectdom is not an area I follow too closely and overreach, not knowing what I'm saying because I haven't researched it enough. But, based on what I do know, McCarthy seems like quite a refined pitcher, if a little (or a lot) homer-prone on the big league level. Most sources out there think he projects in the front of a major league rotation, which isn't bad, until you consider just how many prospects fail to live up to their billing.

Then again, everything in baseball involves risk. Soriano will be traded, but if he weren't, no one can honestly claim he'd carry no risk---not at his price, no coming off what appears to be a career year, not for the length of time the team that signs him will have committed to him.

So, the question becomes: Is McCarthy worth the risk, at least in substantial part? Or should Bodes move on and remain busy on the phones in this, his last free-and-clear week to reap a return on his ten million dollar investment?