Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Monday, November 20, 2006

Soriano and Denial

"There was, in retrospect, not a thing to do differently." - Stan Kasten, Washington Nationals President.

Really? Back at the trade deadline, I suggested that Kasten and National's GM Jim Bowden's decision not to trade Soriano would be judged based on the ability to sign Soriano to a long-term deal. I was frankly skeptical about Soriano's willingness to stay in Washington, but I wanted to give the Nats the benefit of the doubt on this one. After all, maybe they knew something that I didn't know.

Turns out, not so much. The Nationals best offer for Soriano was apparently 5 years, $70 million. That looks ludicriously small when compared to the 8 year, $136 million deal Soriano just picked up from the Chicago Cubs. While the Cubs deal was off-the-charts crazy (more on that in a bit), the Nats should have been aware that their $70 million offer would get topped by someone, easily, and that Soriano wasn't going to give them any kind of discount. In other words, there really was no way that he was going to stay in Washington for that kind of money.

Now, the Nationals will be getting 2 draft picks as compensation for Soriano. These will include a sandwich pick (between the first and second rounds, and therefore no higher than 31st overall), and also the Cubs second rounder.

Think about this from the standpoint of a team making a trade - would you, would ANY GM in baseball, trade Alfonso Soriano straight up for two draft picks? You don't know who these people are, you don't know how deep the draft will be, you don't know ANYTHING about what you'll be getting in return. As moderately high picks, these guys MIGHT be ready for the Major Leagues in, oh, 2010-2011. Then again, they could just as easily wash out - the success rate for draft picks isn't particularly high. (As an example, look at the second round from 2003 - I recognize 4-5 names on this list, and I follow this stuff pretty closely).

Instead, the Nats should have realized that they weren't going anywhere in 2006, and that Soriano wouldn't be around in 2007. They should have stopped demanding the most lopsided trade in the history of sport (indications at the time were that Soriano was available - if a team wanted to offer 4-5 legitimate prospects or so) and settled for something, anything, better than the 2 draft picks that they'll be receiving. From an economic standpoint, they made a pretty stupid decision here. This is the last time that I'll mock the Nationals, Stan Kasten, and Jim Bowden for this particular course of action. But it's quite clear to me that mistakes were made, and if I were the Nationals ownership group, I would seriously consider finding someone other than Jim Bowden to run my team.

As for the Cubs and their signing of Soriano - it's insane. It's as insane as the Red Sox bid on Daisuke Matsuzaka, although at least they're paying money to actually get the player on their team. Buster Olney at ESPN makes the point that I had been thinking about since I heard about this deal - Soriano is 31. The deal is for 8 years. Soriano is going to make $17 million/year when he is 37 and 38 years old. In-Sane. Maybe things will work out, and Soriano will be like Barry Bonds (no, not in that way) - a player who can keep going into his late 30's with no sign of a let-down. But, based on the history of players with long-term contracts (A-Rod, Manny, Albert Belle), I don't know why anybody would do this anymore. For the Cubs sake, I hope they win the World Series in the next 3 or 4 years, because that would probably make this deal worthwhile for the fans if it turns into an albatross at the end of the contract.

Anyone who doubted that this was going to be a ridiculous off-season, by the way, needs to start eating crow pretty quickly. Have we seen the end to the insanity? I doubt it. But at least the biggest fish has landed, so speculation can ramp on guys like Carlos Lee and Barry Zito.


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