March 30, 2011
In their quest to get down to the mandatory 25-man roster, the Nationals recently made two trades. First on Sunday, the Nationals traded CF Nyjer Morgan to the Milwaukee Brewers for IF Cutter Dykstra and $50,000. Then Monday, the Nationals traded utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez to the San Diego Padres for RHP Erik Davis and cash considerations, said to be $50,000 as well.
Nyjer Morgan, 30, took Washington by storm after a 2009 trade (Nyjer and Sean Burnett for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan) from the Pittsburgh Pirates, batting .351/.396/.435 in 191 at-bats. This was the first major trade under the Mike Rizzo regime, and looked to be a fleecing immediately after his arrival. Then the 2010 season arrived and most everything that could go wrong did go wrong: Morgan batted .253/.319/.314 in 509 at-bats, regressed significantly on defense, and became a distraction with his on-field antics. GM Mike Rizzo brought him to Viera this spring to give him one last chance to prove that he could be the dynamic leadoff hitter and standout defensive center fielder the Nationals envisioned when they traded for him. After a slow start this spring, the team decided to make Rick Ankiel their everyday center fielder, and were stuck either giving Nyjer a bench role or sending him to AAA Syracuse. When Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin inquired about Morgan, the Nationals likely made the proper decision and agreed to a trade with the Brewers.
Cutter Dykstra, a second round pick in 2008 for Milwaukee, played 3B last season in Low-A, batting .312 with a .416 on-base percentage and 27 stolen bases. The son of former big leaguer Lenny Dykstra, he is expected to play for High-A Potomac this season. “He’s an athletic kid, he’s a really good runner,” Rizzo said. “He’s a good offensive player with a high on-base percentage guy and works counts. He’s really the type of guy that hits at the top of the lineup. Has a little pop and speed and really commands the strike zone.” (cite -> Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press) On the other hand, Keith Law tweeted soon after the trade was announced that Dykstra was “an org player”, certainly not the same pretty picture that GM Mike Rizzo painted. While I hesitate to disagree with Keith Law, I humbly think Dykstra might have more potential than “an org guy”, and perhaps a move to second base might better fit his skill set and give him a future as a utility player.
While this package from Milwaukee feels rather light, the Nationals could not expect much of a trade market for a 30 year old 4th outfielder coming off a terrible season and with some character issues. Frankly, I am surprised Mike Rizzo did this well. I think Dykstra has a future as a utility player, $50,000 cash never hurts, and it could be some addition by subtraction by moving Nyjer to another organization.
Overall Grade: C … Decent, uninspiring trade
Then Monday, the Nationals decided to trade Alberto Gonzalez to the San Diego Padres and enter 2011 with Alex Cora as their utility infielder. Gonzalez has done a nice job for the Nationals the past few seasons, especially with his glove, but his bat would get exposed whenever he would receive extended playing time. Therefore, the Nationals concluded that Gonzalez’s future was as a dependable utility infielder but not a starting caliber player. Unfortunately, Gonzalez did not share the same opinion and consistently (according to media reports) complained to manager Jim Riggleman and upper management for more playing time and the opportunity to start. The Nationals decided that he was too much of a distraction and traded him to San Diego for RHP Erik Davis and $50,000 cash.
Erik Davis, a 24 year old right-handed starting pitcher who went 14-3 with a 3.52 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 143 1/3 innings last season over three levels. Davis was the 13th round pick of the Padres in 2008 draft out of Stanford University, where he was a teammate of Nationals reliever Drew Storen. Davis is 6-4 and 200 pounds, with a career 3.49 ERA, 8.5 K/9, and 1.236 WHIP in 293 2/3 career minor league innings, which gives me some hope that GM Mike Rizzo has found a useful arm for the future. Similarly to my feelings about the Nyjer Morgan trade, Davis is unlikely to be a difference maker in the majors, but this is a fair return for a utility infielder. However, I liked Gonzalez as a utility infielder enough that unless he was truly a problem in the clubhouse, I would have preferred to keep Gonzalez going forward. Thus, I cannot fully endorse this trade.
Overall Grade: D+….. Good return for the player, just would have preferred to keep Gonzalez
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