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Friday, November 30, 2007

Nationals Acquire Milledge from Mets

The Washington Nationals announced today they have traded veteran catcher Brian Schneider and maligned outfielder Ryan Church to their division rival New York Mets in exchange for talented, but sometimes troubled, outfielder Lastings Milledge.

Milledge, 22, has spent parts of the last two seasons with the Mets, compiling a .257 batting average with eleven home runs and 29 RBIs in 350 at bats. In the minors, Milledge has been an on-base machine, reaching at a .378 clip over parts of four seasons, with a .303 average and slugging .473. He is still mastering the art of stealing bases, but he has plenty of speed to showcase, having stolen 73 bases--while being caught 37 times. He is described as a decent-but-raw fielder, and should settle into centerfield in the new Nationals Stadium, between right fielder Austin Kearns and left fielder Wily Mo Pena.

Most in the Mets organization believed he would turn into a potential 30-30 type of player, in the mold of Eric Davis, another Jim Bowden favorite. As recently as February 2006 he was ranked as the #9 ranked prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, and while some of that luster may have worn off, there's still plenty of shine there as well, as Milledge was one of the more popular names bandied about in the hot stove talks around baseball this off-season.

Milledge has had some drama in his short big league career. After his first major league homer, on his way back out to the outfield he exchanged high-fives with fans down the right field line, which did not sit well with the opposition and some teammates. He also cut a rap album with songs lyrics objectifying women, which drew the ire of Mets officials.

Schneider takes with him to the Mets a strong defensive presence at catcher, something the Mets deemed a priority in this off-season. He is the second catcher they have acquired, along with Johnny Estrada from the Milwaukee Brewers. Schneider is a career Expo/Nat and a fan favorite in DC. He was generally regarded as the team's captain and backbone along with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. In 2007, Schneider hit .235 with six home runs and 54 RBIs. He is a career .252/.322/.377 hitter and turned 31 this past Monday.

Church, 29, never lived up to expectations placed on him by the Nationals organization. While he posted career numbers while playing left and center fields last year, hitting .270/.348/.462 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs in 144 games, be was also bounced between left and center and never really found a home. He also tied for the team lead in doubles, along with Zimmerman, with 43. He should compete with rookie Carlos Gomez in right filed for the Mets, while providing insurance for aging and oft-injured left fielder Moises Alou.

BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: This is a potentially HUGE deal for the Nats. Milledge has 30-30 talent, and was in need of a fresh opportunity after some of his problems in New York. He will be the full-time center fielder the Nats have been looking for since their move to DC. The trade will be "just ok" for the Mets. There just isn't that much upside in Schneider or Church, in that they are completely known entities. Schneider will hit .250 and control the running game, something of much importance in the NL East with speedsters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins. Church will be the left-handed part of a platoon and give you some pop and decent on-base average while playing above-average in the outfield.

This opens up the Nats' full-time catching duties to Jesus Flores and puts them in the market to either upgrade or find a dependable veteran back-up. Currently, the other two catchers invited to camp are veterans Humberto Cota and Chad Moeller. For Jim Bowden to have pulled this off without surrendering closer Chad Cordero or set-up man Jon Rauch has to be considered something of a coup.

The other benefit to this trade is that the Nationals will save a bundle of cash, with Schneider under contract for two more years and over $9 million and Church arbitration eligible for the first time this off-season. Milledge will play for near the league minimum. Also, now that they no longer need a centerfielder, they can spend some of that freed-up cash on starting pitching.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Embarassment and A New Home

Still more embarrassment in Baltimore. In case you missed it, earlier this week 1b/DH Aubrey Huff went on a nationally syndicated satellite radio show and did two spectacularly dumb things. I gotta warn you right off the bat, the links are to WNST, are sloooow to load, and definitely carry a Parental Guidance rating. Very explicit language. First, he said Baltimore was a "horseshit" town. His words. Two, he openly and unashamedly spoke about his practice of drinking late after games, sleeping until 1pm in the afternoon, and laying around his hotel room until catching the team bus watching porn and "keeping himself busy". He went on to describe his sexual conquests and apparent country singing aspirations.

I'm not a prude, but the language in the transcript was shocking and appalling in a public forum, even for a satellite radio shock jock program. And we're not talking about a random unknown person or a porn actor, we're talking about a major league baseball player, one who repeatedly on the show was introduced as "Baltimore Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff". How could he be so stupid and shallow to think this type of action wouldn't speak poorly of himself, and by association, the organization?

But he goes on to say how he thinks video study is unproductive and a waste of time. So his game preparation of sitting around hung over in his hotel room watching porn is the correct way to prepare to play baseball?

As for this week's good news, the Nats unveiled the new playing field at Nationals Park. It looks spectacular from the all the evidence in the media. And Boz was particularly glowing in his assessment.

I love that there are serveral places in the stadium that have views of the monuments and the Anacostia, etc. I also love the way the Nats made the best seats so expensive and allowed some sections to remain very reasonably priced.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What to do with Bedard?

there's lots of talk here about what to do with Bedard. what it boils down to, in my esteemed opinion, is Bedard's first half of 2008. i think the FO is hoping 1 of 2 things happen:

1) Bedard is lights out and someone overpays for him at the trade deadline, or
2) he starts slow like he often does and signs a lucrative, but not crippling extension.

if you look at his stats (oh no! STATS!), his lifetime ERA in April is 4.47. that's pretty bad for someone considered to be a staff "ace". he's managed to win ballgames despite that ERA, maybe a testament to the O's not giving up in the season yet. anyway, maybe he struggles a little bit, his agent gets antsy and decides to cut a deal early to everyone's benefit. probably wishful thinking.

also, another thing to take into account, and i guess i knew this but didn't realize how pronounced it was, but he's never really pitched a full season. 2006 he had 33 starts, this year 29. if you look at his appearances broken down by month, it looks like he's good for a trip to the DL every June, September, or both. what happens if he strains a hammy that first week of interleague play in June? how could that affect his value?

while he's got more talent than any lefty not named Santana, he may need to put a full season of dominance up before he'll command the salary--or trade value--that many in the Baltimore media or blogosphere believe he'll garner.

i'm not discounting his talent, or current value to the Orioles as the most valuable piece of the puzzle, whichever way they end up going. i guess what i am saying is i think the first half of 2008 is going to be a chess match between the Orioles and Bedard, and frankly the other GMs, and should be very interesting to watch. i think that there's still something to be proven on many different fronts.

bottom line, Bedard will be 29 at the start of the season. his destiny will be forged very quickly at the beginning of the season.