Monday, November 07, 2005

Castilla for Lawrence Fallout

Nationals trade 3B Vinny Castilla to Padres for SP Brian Lawrence and cash ( – just to prove I don’t randomly make up trades so I can write about them)

This deal is relevant to the Phillies for two reasons. One, the Nationals are an East division foe whom the Phils see 18 times (off the top of my head, I think it’s 18) a year. Two, the deal involves a third baseman. Third base is a spot that many Phils fans are dying to see upgraded through either the dumping of the incumbent David Bell or, more plausibly, the finding of a platoon partner who can competently hit righties. We’ll talk Nats today and Bowden (more in-depth) and the Phillies third base predicament tomorrow.

I know I’ve killed Nats GM Jim Bowden in the past and haven’t really backed it up with any real reasoning or facts. Please allow me to do that now while simultaneously praising him for this deal. If that makes no sense, bear with me. Consider the old blind squirrel who, even though it ain’t easy and many a useless rock is collected by mistake, in the end finds himself an acorn. Okay fine, I’m not a good writer, but I do know a thing or two about baseball, so let’s just move on to that, shall we? (4 commas in a sentence – new personal record)

This is a good trade for Washington. Dumping Castilla for Lawrence does two things: 1. it frees up third base for 2005 draftee and 2006 Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Zimmerman, and 2. somebody was stupid enough to take Castilla and give up something of any value for him. Brian Lawrence

Lawrence will be 30 in April, so what you see is what you get with him by now. His first two years in the league were good, but they were in 2001 and 2002. Lawrence has been a below average starter the past three seasons (ERA+ of 94 in 2003, 97 in 2004, and bottoming out at 80 in 2005), but he does still have value. He has thrown at least 195 innings the last 4 seasons and fits in nicely at the back end (4th or 5th guy) of a rotation. The move from Petco to RFK will not be as significant as some might think since both parks heavily favor pitching.

Castilla was set to earn $3.2 million in 2005 and Lawrence is owed $3.5 million with a 2007 option for either $5.7 million (highly unlikely) or a $550,000 buyout (much better). The Nats are basically out an extra $850,000, but they also received an unspecified amount of cash from the Padres which could very well cover the balance. Point of this – money wasn’t a factor. It was a baseball trade made for baseball purposes and the Nats get better because of it. They have upgraded third base through the addition of Zimmerman as an everyday option and Lawrence (unless he is traded as some have speculated) should prove to be around league average as a fifth starter. This trade also allows the Nationals to have one less need going into the offseason (filling a starting pitching spot already), so they can more aggressively look to upgrade their dreadful 2005 lineup.

Ah yes, speaking of that dreadful 2005 lineup and, more to the point, the man who helped piece it together – Jim Bowden. Bowden is a very accessible guy to the fans and did a great job in being a cheerful public face for the franchise in a new city. To this end, he wrote two columns throughout the year in the Washington Examiner describing the deals he had made. This is a very cool thing to do and earns some points from me, but it also fits in with his camera hogging, narcissistic, manipulative reputation. That was harsh and maybe a tad unnecessary. I don’t know what got into me (notice how I say that, but don't ever actually apolgize...neat trick, right?).

Anyway, Jim Bowden’s moves in 2005 will discussed in more detail than they deserve tomorrow. That means at least two new things to read – Bowden’s Blunders and Third Base Domino Effect. What a lovely way to start your week, right? How could anybody hate on Mondays anymore?


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