It has been a hectic week in major league baseball and I must apologize for NatsGM being dark the past few days, but like many of us without power have recently discovered (Thanks Pepco!) a computer battery drains quickly without electricity. Since the Derecho of 2012 we have seen Jim Thome get traded to Baltimore and Carlos Lee to Miami, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley return to the Philadelphia Phillies lineup, and Bryce Harper become the 3rd youngest player behind Dwight Gooden in 1984 and Bob Feller in 1938 to ever be selected to the All-Star game. A memorable and historic week, and yet none of those topics are on the agenda, rather I wanted to respond to the numerous reader emails about Zach Greinke, discuss Nationals OF Corey Brown, and compliment a book I read during the recent blackout.
In recent days, reports have circulated that the Baltimore Orioles are interested in trading for Milwaukee starting pitcher and former CY Young award winner Zach Greinke – this seems to be the root of the many emails I have received from Orioles fans asking what part of Fells Point Greinke will be living in before the end of July. Certainly the Orioles could use Greinke, as the team’s ERA by the starting rotation this season stands at 4.73, currently 27th out of the 30 teams. Although I appreciate the fans zeal, I began to wonder if the Orioles had enough “ammunition” in terms of prospects to entice Milwaukee to part with their star pitcher, and top the other potential offers that the Brewers could receive from other organizations.
My educated assumption from looking at past midseason trades in recent years (Carlos Beltran traded to San Francisco for Zach Wheeler, Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson, and CC Sabathia to Milwaukee Brewers for Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, and Michael Brantley) is that the Brewers will command one top-shelf major league ready prospect, and “presumably” another quality prospect and a final lottery ticket type athlete. The Orioles, like every organization, have the lesser-hyped but impressive prospects the Brewers would expect to round out the deal, but does Baltimore have the elite prospect required to make the Brewers agree to a deal.
Baltimore possesses two of the top-5 prospects currently in the minor leagues in RHP Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado, their 1st round selections in 2011 and 2010, respectfully. While I do not have any direct knowledge into the thinking of Baltimore’s front office, GM Dan Duquette has publicly stated that these two players are far too valuable to the long-term future of the organization to trade and are untouchable. Assuming they are off-limits, the other young players the Orioles have that would interest the Brewers include LHP Brian Matusz, RHP Jake Arrieta, infielder Jonathan Schoop, catcher Caleb Joseph, and OFs Xavier Avery and L.J. Hoes: each a valuable and interesting prospect, but not equivalent in value to Zach Wheeler/Justin Smoak/Matt LaPorta at the time they headlined their respective summer trades.
If Milwaukee does decide to part with Greinke before the trade deadline, it will be interesting to see what type of return they will net: if another team does not satisfy Milwaukee with an offer, the Brewers could decide to keep him until the offseason and collect two draft picks if he signs elsewhere as a free agent (similar to the Nationals decision to keep Alfonso Soriano a few seasons back). Therefore, unless the Orioles decide to drastically alter their rather public stance and part with Manny Machado or Dylan Bundy, I expect the Orioles offer will be unsatisfactory to the Brewers and will force the club to look elsewhere (Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez or San Diego’s Clayton Richard?) to help the rotation down the stretch.
Unless Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo is leaving center fielder Corey Brown in Triple-A Syracuse to further showcase his skills prior to the forthcoming trade deadline, he deserves an opportunity in the major leagues. Through 83 games this season, Brown has a batting line of .298/.383/.566 with 19 home runs, 42 extra base hits, and 11 stolen bases in 325 at-bats. Yes, he still swings and misses far too often with 84 strikeouts in 2012 and 661 total in 2,146 career minor league at-bats, but at 26 years old the time has come to give him a chance to be a left-handed hitter with some power off the bench and the ability to capably play all three outfield positions. His stellar performance this season has shown he has rebounded from an inexplicably mediocre 2011 (.235/.326/.402 14 home runs) to build on his career minor league averages of .269/.357/.490 with 98 home runs and 63 stolen bases, leaving nothing left to prove in the minors. With only 6 major league at-bats in 6 career games, Corey Brown deserves a legitimate chance in the major leagues – In baseball slang, Corey Brown has hit his way to the majors.
The Nationals have a number crunch on the major league roster as Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, and Rick Ankiel are locked into secure places on the bench and Roger Bernadina has carved out his niche as an elite defensive replacement in left field and a left-handed bat with some speed. Chad Tracy is expected to return to his pinch hitting role in the next 10-14 days and Jayson Werth could return to the starting lineup within a month, further deepening their bench. However, Corey Brown provides more versatility and power than struggling utility player Mark DeRosa, whose value lies in his right-handed bat and veteran leadership, a difficult quality to measure. Nevertheless Brown is significantly better defensively, drastically faster, and probably an upgrade offensively as well, making him the superior choice for the Nationals going forward.
A few months ago a reader emailed me a copy of his father’s manuscript titled The Nats – A Novel (a catchy title for this Nationals fan) by John Young, which was published this past April and asked if I would read it. Unfortunately I do very little reading for fun during the season, but I promised the man that I would peruse it this summer and if I enjoyed it, perhaps give it a mention.
The novel is a story of a down on his luck and extraordinarily jaded claims adjustor living in Boston named Peter, whose passion for the Washington Nationals is in many ways the reason his life is rapidly deteriorating. In only one winter, Peter is divorced from his wife, his son is accused of vehicular manslaughter, and he is blackmailed by his boss to keep a job he despises, amongst a multitude of other issues, and yet it all still fails to captivate his attention compared to the Nationals need to acquire a center fielder and his skepticism of Edwin Jackson’s ability to throw strikes.
I must warn everyone that the language is certainly not for the squeamish, and the main character’s cynical nature will not appeal to everyone, but as a diehard Nationals fan, I could relate with Peter waiting for the latest ESPN chat to gleam a mention of any new Nationals rumors, and the highs and lows of this past offseason (trading for Gio Gonzalez, not signing Prince Fielder, etc.). A passionate Nationals fan wanting to revisit this past winter through the lens of a grumpy middle aged Nats fan will enjoy this easy-to-read and snarky novel as I did.
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