Join Date: Oct 2000
Re: Soriano stays with the Nationals
Let's see if this topic can avoid the bolded part.
IMO Bowden made a mistake quite similar to a prior one in his career, he handcuffed his current franchise with a player, a player with 1/2 the cache of the previous mistake he made.
#1: The Nationals hold on to Alfonso Soriano.
In an environment of constant change—the MLB rumor mills—the one thing I held to throughout July is that Soriano would be dealt. He was one of the top three hitters available, playing out his contract for a team that isn’t contending or currently in danger of doing so in the next two years. That Jim Bowden wouldn’t get this deal done, despite having the last top-tier hitter available and at least four teams actively pursuing him, is a terrific argument for replacing him in the Nats front office.
One of the hardest things to analyze from the informed-outsider position is deals that don’t happen. You hear and read all kinds of rumors, but only Bowden knows what offers were actually put on the table. It’s well-established that Bowden, perhaps emboldened by his steal from the Reds, was asking for a lot for Soriano, and that factor appears to have driven the end result. But what also played into it was the Nationals’ apparent desire to negotiate a long-term deal with Soriano to keep him in D.C. after this season.
Let’s look at that option. At 30, Soriano is having what may be the best year of his career, with his highest EqA and on pace to post his highest WARP. He’s shown definite improvement in his plate discipline and has hit for more power than ever before. His defense, in his first year in left field, has been passable. He’ll be one of the top free agents this offseason; as a WAG, let’s say he gets slightly less than Johnny Damon money: four years, $48 million, for his ages 31-34 seasons, the early decline phase. I think that’s conservative.
Soriano was a great player at his peak in New York and something less than that with the Rangers. In deciding they want to keep him, the Nats are making the fundamental mistake of evaluating a player entirely on his most-recent work and deciding that that’s his level. Year in and year out, hundreds of millions of dollars—no, I’m not exaggerating—are committed to players who have their best year at the best time and have little hope of repeating it. The most likely scenario is that Soriano doesn’t match his age-30 performance again, while being paid for it through 2010. If he signs with the Nationals, his ages 31 and 32 seasons will almost certainly be spent on teams that are fringe contenders, rather than true ones. Signing him makes less sense for them, from a projected return standpoint, than it does a number of other teams who might leverage his performance, his marginal revenue product, into playoff spots.
Now look at the other path. As I said, it’s hard to know what was actually rejected, but let’s consider a fairly low-end, quite reasonable offer that made the rounds. The Twins reportedly offered Scott Baker and Jason Kubel for Soriano. Kubel won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2007 at least, Baker not until 2008 at least. Both are solid B prospects, and Kubel has a higher upside than that. Bowden wanted prospect Matt Garza instead, and no deal was reached.
Let me simplify this choice: Bowden decided that he’d rather have Alfonso Soriano from ages 31-34 than Jason Kubel from 25-28, Scott Baker from 25-28…and $35 million! Unless Soriano is suddenly going to morph into Albert Pujols--hell, even if he is—you have to pull the trigger on this trade. The gap in production for the cost is far too great. You can make this deal and then use the money on Jason Schmidt and think seriously about the 2007 wild card.
Even that’s not really the choice. There’s nothing stopping Bowden from trading two months of performance that do nothing but hurt his team’s draft position next year and maybe drive some small amount of money into the team’s coffers, then chasing Soriano this winter! You’re betting the small chance that he’ll sign with his new team before hitting the market, but you’re getting back two pre-arb players, one who bats third and the other who could be your #2 starter right now.
Run the numbers with the other offer that was widely reported, the Angels’ Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar, and the results are the same. Bowden had multiple ways to make the Nationals a much better team from 2007-2010 and he didn’t get the job done. He overplayed his hand and set the Nationals back this weekend. Coming off of years of mishandling, they couldn’t afford that kind of loss. Unless Soriano somehow clears waivers, this is the biggest story, and biggest mistake, of deadline 2006.