Signed 2B-R Ronnie Belliard to a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension. [7/23]
One year ago.Now, that's not a bad thing, and Belliard's an adequate enough placeholder, but the interesting wrinkle that might come from this is what it might mean for the club's plans for Lopez. Try as he might, Lopez just isn't ever going to be an asset in the field at short, and his offensive value basically evaporated as soon as he left the Great American Ballpark. Would you give a defensive zero with a sub-.300 OBP and negligible power anything close to last year's arbitration-generated $3.9 million? Or would you non-tender him, keep your fingers crossed that Cristian Guzman has something left to offer, and in the meantime go shake the glove tree to see if you might not get some sort of slick-fielding journeyman? You'd wind up spending less on the Brand X shortstop and Belliard combined than you will have to if you try and keep Lopez.
Then there's exchanging their one-year rental of Clayton for a couple of years or more of Lopez. Defensively, we've already dealt with how this is closer to a push than some people will want to admit, and offensively, it's a win-now, win-later, keep winning exchange that gives the Nats a shortstop who can lead off, get on base well enough, slug a bit, and run well. Among current shortstops, his VORP ranks twelfth, not as good as a budding star like Jose Reyes, but not a huge step down, and in a division where the other four teams are fielding some of the better hitters at short, an effective response in kind. Like Kearns, he's a May of '80 baby, so he's just now entering his prime as a hitter. Even if he's not an asset afield, he's playing in a park that gives pitchers plenty of space to make mistakes yet survive unscathed, and that makes his occasional boot that much more affordable.