Friday, November 30, 2007

Hot Damn! It's Hot Stove time! Not a moment too soon. The Nats strike while the iron is still cold....Getting super-prospect Lastings Milledge, for the streaky Ryan Church, and the anemic-hitting Brian Schneider.

What's NOT to like, or love, about this deal? Except that I'm a life-long Mets fan, and still a little conflicted when the Nats go up against them.

Church was never going to be given the chance to be a regular with the Nats, for whatever reason. On the other hand, Church killed the Mets this year -- his performance up in Shea, in September, took the division crown away from the New Yorkers. No doubt, this influenced the Mets greatly. Maybe he'll flourish up there, though he will surely still continue to strike out in many clutch situations. And maybe Schneider will regain some of the promise he had when he was picked for the USA roster at the World Baseball Classic. Mets' fans can only hope.

For the Nats, losing Schneider puts the team a little bit behind the eight-ball. He played quite nicely down the stretch -- showed off a laser rifle of an arm, and hit some, too. This deal means that Flores will stay up with the big club in '08, but it also means the Nats need to find someone else who can split the catching duties with Jesus. On the other hand, the Nats aren't going to win games without some more offense at the position than Schneider could give -- and the Nats need to be focused on 2009, and 2010, anyway.

In the meantime, as for Milledge, I see two possibilities. The Milledge trade could be preliminary to another deal -- possibly for the A's Danny Haren (the A's have been trying to pry Milledge from the Mets for years, but the teams couldn't swing the deal. If they do deal Milledge, then the Nats would continue to pursue that Japanese centerfielder. However, it's a mixed bag when you bring over a Japanese player -- you don't know what you'll be getting, especially in the beginning. Just ask the Metropolitans about Kaz Matsui. The Nats do (or did) need to find a major league centerfielder. As much as I love the idea of J-Max (Justin Maxwell), the local boy doing good, he's not ready for the bigs, yet.

So, the Nats just might hang on to Milledge. He'll flash a little leather, and bring the crowd to its feet with a few triples. Even if he takes some more time to develop his raw ability, he can contribute some excitement right away. Right now, they've got the prospect that Alex Escobar was supposed to be when he came up with the Mets...and they've got him young and healthy. So, we can forget about Escobar, let J-Max get some polish at Columbus, and focus on getting another backstop and pitching.

Forget about the stuff about Milledge's supposed character issues. In the words of Warren Zevon, he's just an excitable boy. When he started high-fiving the crowd? That was brilliant. I wish that happened more.

In two years, the Nats will be picking between Milledge, Pena, Kearns, J-Max and maybe Marrero (I guess we can't rule out Casto, either). I'd say they will be able to put together a pretty good outfield by then...and maybe, a lot sooner. If management can shape the rest of the team with the same kind of promise, the Nats will in pretty good shape.

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