Showing posts with label Washington Nationals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington Nationals. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

David Robertson trade rumors begin anew

David Robertson
The rumors about a potential trade in which the White Sox would send closer David Robertson to the Washington Nationals just won't go away.

The Nationals need a closer, having lost Mark Melancon to the San Francisco Giants in free agency over the offseason. Washington has yet to sign or trade for a suitable replacement, so Robertson does make some sense for them. (I personally think Shawn Kelley might be a better option for the Nationals than a post-peak Robertson, but shhhhh, don't tell them that.)

Reports indicate the Nationals have agreed on a two-year, $21 million deal with catcher Matt Wieters. That move has rekindled the Robertson discussions, because Washington now has three catchers, and the Sox have a hole at that position.

Is anyone prepared to argue that the Sox are set with the catching tandem of Omar Narvaez and Geovany Soto? Nope, me neither. They could use another guy there, because Narvaez only has 34 games of big-league experience, and the 34-year-old Soto comes with health concerns.

The Sox need a catcher. The Nationals have one to deal. The Nationals need a closer. The Sox have one to deal. Yes, you can see the potential fit.

But here's my question: Would either of the two catchers Washington has to deal be a fit for the Sox? With the addition of Wieters, one of Derek Norris or Jose Lobaton needs to go.

Let's cross Lobaton off the list immediately. He's a 32-year-old journeyman. He's been a backup for six of the seven seasons he's been in the majors, including the past three. Acquiring him would be like acquiring a somewhat healthier, somewhat younger version of Soto. That's a waste of time.

What about Norris? This Sporting News report suggests the Sox might "demand" the Nationals include him in any deal for Robertson.

Hmmmm.

Norris is 28, so he's got a few more years left in him than players such as Soto and Lobaton. And he's closer to the top of the list than the bottom when it comes to pitch framing. That said, why would the Sox "demand" a five-year veteran who hit .186 last season be included in a deal for Robertson?

The Sox's stated goal is to stockpile young talent. They are specifically looking to trade veteran assets for younger players. Granted, the declining Robertson is not a good enough trade piece to fetch an elite prospect from another organization, but if he is dealt, I would prefer to see a younger player with some upside coming back to the Sox. If such a trade is not available at the moment, that's fine. Keep Robertson for now. Hopefully he has a good first half, and maybe his value is higher in July.

I would be disappointed in a Robertson-for-Norris deal. If a trade such as that happens, it would suggest the Sox were just trying to get out from underneath the $25 million Robertson is owed over the next two years. Personally, I'd rather keep Robertson than see him traded for nothing more than salary relief and another mediocre veteran.

The modest, short-term upgrade at catcher isn't worth it to me. Bring some young talent back in the trade, or don't bother.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

White Sox trade outfielder Adam Eaton to Nationals for 3 pitching prospects

Jason Bauman (left) and Adam Eaton at SoxFest 2016.
A day after the White Sox traded their ace pitcher, they dealt the guy who was their best position player in 2016 for three pitching prospects.

Adam Eaton is now the center fielder for the Washington Nationals. In exchange, the Sox have acquired right-handed pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

It's no secret that I did not care for the Chris Sale trade that was made Tuesday, but now that the Sox have committed to a rebuild, they have to go all in on it. You can't just trade Sale and keep the rest of the band together, because that is a path to certain failure. So, against that backdrop, it makes sense to deal Eaton, although it's difficult to see him leave after the fine 2016 season he produced.

Eaton hit .284/.362/.428 in 2016, with 29 doubles, nine triples, 14 home runs, 14 stolen bases, 91 runs scored and 18 outfield assists in 157 games. He was a American League Gold Glove finalist in right field, even though deficiencies with the Sox roster forced him to play 48 games in center field.

There's no question Eaton is a good fit for the Nationals. He's an established leadoff hitter. His presence in center field will allow Washington to move Trea Turner back to his natural position at shortstop, and he helps balance out the lineup. The Nationals have two elite left-handed hitters in Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. While Eaton is not at the level of those two, he's another quality lefty bat.

Not to mention, Eaton has a team-friendly contract -- five years remaining at the bargain rate of $38 million over the life of the deal. Maybe that's why the Sox were able to get Washington's top three pitching prospects in this trade.

Giolito, 22, is the top-ranked pitching prospect in the game, and the No. 3-rated prospect overall. The former first-round draft pick pitched at three levels in the minors last year, recording 116 strikeouts in 115.1 innings to go along with a 2.97 ERA. He received a late-season promotion to Washington, where he appeared in six games (four starts). He went 0-1 with 6.75 ERA in 21.1 innings.

Lopez, 22, is the No. 38-ranked prospect in baseball, and the No. 3-rated prospect in the Nationals' system. He worked in 11 games (six starts) for Washington last season, going 5-3 with a 4.91 ERA. He was good enough to make the Nationals' postseason roster, and from a White Sox perspective, hey, he's probably already better than James Shields.

Dunning, 21, is a little bit more of a project. He was the Nationals' first-round draft pick and No. 29 overall in 2016. He was the No. 6-rated prospect in the Washington system. He got seven starts in at Low-A Auburn and went 3-2 with a 2.14 ERA.

I never get excited about trading established players for prospects because prospect rankings are just that -- rankings. They mean nothing on the field, and we don't know what these guys are going to do until they get an opportunity.

That said, I somehow feel as if the Sox got a better deal for Eaton than they got for Sale. Maybe it's just because I'm looking at Giolito and Lopez and seeing two guys who could potentially contribute from Day 1 in 2017, whereas the four guys in the Sale deal all look as if they are going to need some more minor-league time.

I doubt Rick Hahn is done dealing yet. There are rumors that Jose Quintana and Todd Frazier could be on the move soon, too. We shall see ...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

James Shields booed off the field in White Sox debut

James Shields
I was skeptical last week when the White Sox acquired right-handed pitcher James Shields from the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitcher Erik Johnson and shortstop prospect Fernando Tatis Jr.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not concerned about losing Johnson, who is a marginal pitcher at best. And the 17-year-old Tatis Jr. is years away from potentially making an impact at the major-league level.

Rather, I just don't believe in Shields. This is a 34-year-old pitcher with a high-mileage arm and declining velocity, and he's making the transition from a pitcher-friendly NL park in San Diego to a hitter-friendly AL park in U.S. Cellular Field.

Heh, heh, what could go wrong?

Well, plenty, unfortunately.

Shields absorbed a severe beating in his Sox debut Wednesday night, an 11-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. The NL East leaders roughed up Shields for seven runs on eight hits over two-plus innings. Shields struck out two and walked two -- and gave up three home runs.

By the time the Nationals completed their first trip through the batting order, they had hit three homers and scored six runs. Shields needed 79 pitches to complete two innings. He was removed to a chorus of boos after giving up a leadoff hit in the top of the third inning.

Gack.

If Erik Johnson had pitched this game, he likely also would have given up three home runs, but he probably would have had the courtesy to space them out over five innings. Not so with Shields. He got the struggling Sox blown out of the game before they even had a chance to bat.

This game got so bad that outfielder J.B. Shuck pitched the ninth inning for the Sox. He was more effective than Shields, allowing one run on one hit during his inning of work.

I'm not sure what that says, but dating back to his last start in San Diego, Shields has allowed 17 runs over his last 4.2 innings. And, if he does not exercise an out clause in his contract after this season, the Sox are stuck with him through the 2018 season.

Oh, boy. This is the sort of trade that could get Rick Hahn fired if Shields doesn't turn it around.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Report: 'Ship has sailed' on Ian Desmond-to-the-White Sox rumor

Ian Desmond
Today's blog was going to address the possibility of free-agent shortstop Ian Desmond signing with the White Sox, but according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, a team official has said "that ship has sailed."

I was a little surprised when I heard the Desmond rumors, anyway. The top position player prospect in the Sox's system is a shortstop -- Tim Anderson -- and it's possible we'll see him on the South Side of Chicago before 2016 is over. Tyler Saladino doesn't have much of a bat, but he's good with the glove, and we've received every indication the team is comfortable going with Saladino as a stopgap measure at shortstop until Anderson arrives.

We're less than a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting now, and Desmond still does not have a job. Perhaps the Sox wondered if the veteran would be desperate enough to sign a one-year deal. It wouldn't make sense for the team to offer a multiyear deal, knowing that Anderson is getting close. But what could it hurt to kick the tires on a one-year deal with Desmond? That's probably where this rumor came from. The Sox asked Desmond if he'd be interested in a one-year deal, and he told them no. And with that, the "ship sailed." That would be my speculation here.

Also, Desmond rejected a qualifying offer from his most recent club -- the Washington Nationals -- and accordingly, the Sox would have to forfeit the No. 28 pick in the draft in order to sign him. Sox GM Rick Hahn spoke about the value of that pick at SoxFest. I don't think he would part with it lightly, and I think Desmond would have to be willing to come real cheap for Hahn to make the deal.

Even though Desmond is a better player than Saladino, without question, the circumstances surrounding the situation seem to point toward there being no match between Desmond and the Sox.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Who closes in Toronto: Roberto Osuna or Drew Storen?

Drew Storen
There was one interesting deal made over the weekend, with the Washington Nationals trading former closer Drew Storen to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for outfielder Ben Revere.

Storen was put in a difficult situation in July. He had 29 saves and a 1.73 ERA to that point in the season, but he lost his closer's job when the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies in a midseason trade. Storen was shifted to an eighth-inning role, where he struggled the rest of the year. His ERA ballooned to 3.44, and he did not record a save the rest of the season.

It was clear one of Storen or Papelbon would be dealt this offseason, and it appears the Nationals have chosen to keep Papelbon -- despite his late-season dugout altercation with NL MVP Bryce Harper.

Now Storen heads to Toronto, where he's once again in an interesting position. The Blue Jays are the defending AL East champs, and they won the division last year with 20-year-old Roberto Osuna closing games. Osuna's 20 saves, 2.58 ERA and 0.919 WHIP are solid, if not impressive, for any reliever who toils in the AL East. That performance is especially good considering Osuna's age and relative inexperience.

Does Osuna deserved to be replaced as closer? I would say not. There's no question the Blue Jays needed to acquire another reliever. Aaron Sanchez's high ceiling was being wasted as a short reliever last year. It's time for Toronto to move Sanchez into the starting rotation and see what he can bring. So, from that perspective, it's a good move for the Jays to add Storen.

But can Storen deal with an eighth-inning role if Osuna pitches better than him and keeps the closer's job? Or will he fall apart mentally like he did in Washington?

Either way, I'm not sold on Storen closing big games. His postseason meltdowns in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against St. Louis and Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS against San Francisco are part of the reason the Nationals have never fulfilled their potential. I suspect that's why the Nationals chose to keep Papelbon, despite the potential clubhouse problem he creates. Even though it's been a while, Papelbon has proven he can close in the postseason. The right-hander is unscored upon in 17 of his 18 career playoff appearances.

As for Revere, he takes the spot in the Washington lineup vacated by Denard Span, who signed with San Francisco last week. The Nationals had been players in the Jason Heyward sweepstakes earlier this offseason, but they were beaten out by the Chicago Cubs.

It didn't seem as though Washington was interested in any of the right-handed power-hitting outfielders on the free-agent market. The Nationals wanted to add a left-handed hitter who can cover center field, and they obviously feel Revere is a more cost-effective option than Span would have been.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Max Scherzer agrees to $210 million deal with Washington Nationals

Most White Sox fans will be happy to see Max Scherzer pitching somewhere other than the AL Central this season, after the former Detroit ace agreed to a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals.

More on the AL Central implications of this signing in a moment, but first, let's take a look at what this move means for the Nationals, who had the best record in the National League last year and will likely enter the 2015 season as a favorite to go to the World Series.

First off, the contract isn't as outrageous as it sounds, at least in terms of annual salary. Sources indicate half of that $210 million is deferred, and that Scherzer will be making $15 million a year for each of the next 14 years.

There had been previous speculation that Washington would have to trade either pitcher Jordan Zimmermann or shortstop Ian Desmond in order to add Scherzer and still make its bottom line work. If Scherzer was making $30 million annually, that probably would be the case. But since he's making "just" $15 million a year, maybe the Nationals will be able to hold on to other key players and make an "all-in" push this season.

Zimmermann will be a free agent after the season, and it's unlikely the Nationals will be able to retain him when he hits the open market. But if I'm Washington, I'm not concerned with that right now. I've got Scherzer, Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg at the top of my rotation. I've got Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark as options for the final two spots in my rotation. What other team in the National League can match that kind of depth in starting pitching?

I don't see another team in the NL that strong 1 to 6. The Nationals should forget about Zimmermann's impending free agency, keep him and go for it this year. That acquisition of Scherzer is a "go for it now" move. You have to believe that's their mindset.

As for Detroit, this is a big loss for the Tigers, no matter what public spin they try to put on it. Scherzer went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA last year, after going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and winning the Cy Young award in 2013. Scherzer has more wins (39) and more strikeouts (492) than any other pitcher in the majors over the past two years. Even if Detroit goes out and signs James Shields to fill Scherzer's rotation spot, that's hard production to replace.

Here is how Detroit's rotation looked at the end of last season: Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello.

Here is Detroit's projected rotation for 2015 today: Price, Verlander, Sanchez, Alfredo Simon, Shane Greene.

Will that rotation be good enough for the Tigers to win the Central again this year? Maybe. That top three is still formidable, but don't you think that first list with Scherzer and Porcello is more impressive than this second list with Simon and Greene? I certainly do.

Scherzer's departure provides hope to all other teams in the AL Central, including the White Sox. In his career, Scherzer is 12-6 with a 2.54 ERA in 23 starts against Chicago. He's tough on everybody, but he's been better against the Sox than he's been against the league overall.

As a Sox fan, I'll take my chances against Simon and Greene. I'd also take my chances against Shields over Scherzer, if the Tigers do indeed decide they need to make another big acquisition for their rotation. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Weird injury department: Gavin Floyd breaks his elbow

I've heard a few White Sox fans suggest the team made a mistake by parting ways with veteran right-hander Gavin Floyd this past offseason.

Floyd's supporters correctly note the Sox have had a revolving door at the back end of their starting rotation. The Felipe Paulino experiment was a colossal failure. Rookie Erik Johnson couldn't find the plate and had to be sent back to Triple-A. After a two decent starts, Scott Carroll showed himself to be better suited for a long-relief role. Andre Rienzo and waiver pickup Hector Noesi have been hit or miss in their combined 19 starts. There is no question the Sox suffer from a lack of starting pitching depth.

Is Floyd better than the guys the Sox are trotting out there? When Floyd is healthy, sure, he's better, but he had Tommy John surgery last summer. He wasn't going to be ready for the start of this season, and the Sox felt they had better things to spend their money on than signing Floyd to a one-year reclamation deal. I couldn't disagree with that line of thinking.

The Atlanta Braves took a $4 million flier on Floyd, who returned to major leagues on May 6. He was pitching well for the Braves. Coming into Thursday's start against the Washington Nationals, he was 1-2 with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts.

In fact, he picked up his second win of the year Thursday after firing six innings of two-hit ball in the Braves' 3-0 win over Washington. Unfortunately for Floyd, he broke the olecranon -- the bony tip of the ulna that sticks out behind the elbow -- on his first pitch of the seventh inning.

Ouch.

This is a rare injury for pitchers, but it is similar to the one that ended Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya's career in 2010. At minimum, Floyd's season is over. For their $4 million, the Braves got nine pretty good starts. Maybe it was worth it to them, but it wouldn't be worth it to a rebuilding team such as the Sox.

Doctors are saying this injury is unrelated to the Tommy John surgery Floyd underwent, but one of the reasons I didn't want the Sox to re-sign Floyd was my concern that he would get hurt again.

Floyd missed some time late in 2012 with an arm problem, and then the torn elbow ligament limited him to five starts in 2013. This is a pitcher whose career is probably coming toward the end.

While Rienzo and Noesi are no great shakes, at least they are healthy and eating up innings while the Sox rebuild. Innings are something the oft-injured Floyd just can't provide right now, and the Sox do not miss him.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yes, Bryce Harper needs to change his game

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper had surgery Tuesday to reconnect a torn ulnar ligament in his left thumb. The 21-year-old is expected to be out of the lineup until July, which is unfortunate news for the Nationals and unfortunate news for baseball as a whole.

Harper, a two-time All-Star at a very young age, is a five-tool talent and one of the most exciting players in the game. He's one of those guys who gets your attention when he comes to the plate. You aren't going to take a bathroom break when it's Harper's turn to hit.

But now fans won't see Harper for two months, and it's because of his own recklessness. He was hurt sliding headfirst into third base, stretching a double into a triple with his team already ahead 5-0. Were those extra 90 feet worth two months on the disabled list? I don't think so, and I think the Nationals would agree.

Last year, Harper injured himself crashing into a wall at Dodger Stadium, trying to make a catch while his team was leading 6-0. On Opening Day this season, Harper had to undergo tests for a concussion after an over-aggressive takeout slide at second base. This is a young man who needs to tone his game down a notch.

Some will say they love Harper's aggressive style, and that they don't want him to change. I like the way the guy plays, too, but you know what else I also like? Players who stay on the field.

I know "games played" isn't an advanced metric or even an interesting statistic to most, but I think it's a very important one. If I'm a GM or a manager, I like guys who I can count on for 140 or 150 games every single season. In particular, I want my star player on the field. In Washington's case, Harper is their best player.

Last season, injuries limited Harper to 118 games. Now, he's limited by an injury this year as well. That's not what you want. Someone needs to sit Harper down and tell him sometimes it just isn't worth it to crash into a wall, or to gamble to try to grab that extra 90 feet on the bases.

Sometimes, it pays to pull up at second base with a double. Sometimes, it pays to play the carom off the wall and concede a hit to the opposition. It's a long season, and a player is useless to his team if he's spending a lot of time on the DL.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sox Take, Cubs Give In Rule 5 Draft

Thursday's Rule 5 Draft had a little bit for fans of both Chicago teams with the White Sox selecting catcher Adrian Nieto from the Nationals, while the Cubs lost Marcos Mateo to the Diamondbacks.

Nieto is a switch-hitting 24-year-old who in six seasons hasn't yet played above A ball. A 50-game suspension for a positive PED test no doubt hindered some of his development. In the minors he's batted .254/.346/.386, including .285/.375/.449 last year in the Class A Carolina League.

Like most Rule 5 picks, Nieto is maybe a longshot to hang around. He must stay with the White Sox on the 25-man roster all year or be offered back to the Nationals. Factors working in his favor are that he's coming off his strongest season, one in which Sox scouts think him improved throughout. And besides relievers, catchers have perhaps the best chance of sticking in a backup role. So long as Nieto is solid enough defensively, the offensive bar for a backup catcher is easily cleared.

It might work against Nieto that the Sox haven't settled on a starting catcher. With the uncertainty that Tyler Flowers' struggles last year were really injury-related, or that Josh Phegley can make adjustments to bring his offense up to snuff, the Sox might have to play a mix-and-match game behind the plate that would make it hard to carry a backup who can only be counted on to have a solid glove. They certainly don't have room on the roster to carry three catchers.

The Cubs, meanwhile, said goodbye to Mateo, who threw just over 44 innings as a reliever for the team from 2010-2011, but was eligible for the draft since being left off the team's 40-man roster. Since then the now 29-year-old suffered an elbow injury, surgery, and spent last year working his way back.

Mateo turned in a fine 1.74 ERA across three levels of the team's minor league system, but in only 31 innings and with diminished strikeout numbers, the Cubs felt comfortable letting another team try to work out his walk and home run problems from the back end of their bullpen.

My bet would be that even if the Cubs don't see Mateo offered back to them this season, they won't terribly miss the right-hander.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

When it comes to the Cubs, Chicago media lose perspective quickly

Right-hander Jake Arrieta struggled Wednesday night in his third start with the Cubs. He lasted just four innings, allowing six earned runs on five hits. He was fortunate to escape with a no-decision as the Washington Nationals thumped Chicago, 11-6.

What significance should we place on Arrieta's poor showing? Well, virtually none. Nobody should put much stock in four or five starts, let alone just one outing.

But when I saw Arrieta struggling, I couldn't help but think of the ludicrous column ESPN's Bruce Levine wrote less than a week ago, which opined that the Cubs "may have found the next staff ace" in the 27-year-old right-hander.

Really, Bruce? Really?

I understand Arrieta had been great in his previous start. He fired seven shutout innings of two-hit ball against a good-hitting St. Louis team on Aug. 16. And it is true Arrieta has a power arm and swing-and-miss stuff.

However, Levine should ask a Baltimore fan sometime about Arrieta's future as "a potential ace." That narrative is nothing new. The Orioles thought so much of Arrieta they made him their Opening Day starter in 2012. Arrieta won his start that day. Also in 2012, Arrieta threw eight shutout innings against the Yankees. He had another outing where he struck out nine Pittsburgh Pirates in seven innings. Alas, those were his only three wins in 18 starts. By the All-Star break, Arrieta had been removed from the rotation.

That's right: In a matter of three months, Arrieta went from presumed staff ace to the Baltimore bullpen. This is a pitcher who has never been a consistent performer. He's a tease; he wows you with great stuff. At times, he can dominate a lineup. Other times, he infuriates you by getting knocked out in the third or fourth inning. He can't be trusted. Why do you think the Orioles were willing to trade him to the Cubs, Bruce? I guarantee you it wasn't because they didn't like his 96 mph fastball.

You see, once a guy gets to be 27 years old, he's no longer a prospect. It's time to put up or shut up. Arrieta never put up in a Baltimore uniform, so they sent him packing. Potential doesn't mean anything for a pitcher of that age. It's all about results now.

I get the sneaking suspicion that Levine and others think Arrieta is still a prospect. He is not. Some members of the Chicago media need to get their heads out of the clouds when it comes to analyzing the Cubs. Let's call Arrieta what he is: a reclamation project.

He had multiple opportunities with the Orioles. He threw them all away. Will the change of scenery help him? Maybe. Matt Thornton was a busted prospect when the White Sox acquired him from the Seattle Mariners in 2006, and he became a valuable bullpen piece on the South Side for years. Sometimes, a reclamation project gets redeemed, but it's always a flip of the coin with these kind of guys.

I know this is a strange concept for some writers, but let's see how Arrieta responds the rest of the year. The Cubs are going to give him a look down the stretch, and why not? If he fails again, he's not hurting anything. But right now, he shouldn't even be penciled into the Cubs' 2014 rotation, let alone be a candidate for the title of "staff ace." 

In my world, the Cubs should be happy if Arrieta becomes a useful back-of-the-rotation starter.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Do you suppose the Nationals regret shutting down Stephen Strasburg last year?

I had a thought this morning when I was looking at the updated Major League standings: Man, the Washington Nationals sure are a disappointment this year.

Washington got a lot of respect in the preseason predictions. I just pulled out my 2013 season preview from Sports Illustrated, and sure enough, the Nationals were their pick to win the World Series.

At that time, that didn't seem like a bad choice. How can you not like a 1-2-3 punch like Stephen Strasburg (pictured), Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann at the top of the rotation?

Bryce Harper is one of the best young talents in the game. Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche are proven run producers. A young middle infield featuring Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa appeared to be coming of age. Denard Span was added to the roster to fix a perceived hole in the leadoff spot. Another successful season was considered a given.

Instead, the Nationals are 50-54 entering play on July 27. They are 8.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. They are in second place, with only Atlanta to catch, so they still have a puncher's chance in that division. But it's clear they will be falling well short of the 100-win success that was forecasted for them during spring training.

What went wrong?

Well, Harper has missed time with assorted injuries. Espinosa stunk it up so bad he got sent back to the minors. He's been a combination of injured and bad all year. LaRoche is hitting about 30 points lower than he did last season. Span's contributions have been modest at best. Dan Haren, the presumed No. 4 starter, has been a disaster. Relief pitcher Drew Storen, who had 43 saves two years ago, has an ERA of almost 6. There are a number of things that have gone wrong for that team.

Here's my point: When you have a chance to win, you have to go for it. The opportunity to win a championship is precious and very fleeting. Even when you have a good-looking roster, you're not promised anything. Guys get hurt. Guys have bad years. You just never know.

Last year, the Nationals were a 95-win team. They had the best record in the league. I thought they had a great chance to get to the World Series and win it. Instead, they shut down Strasburg, their ace, because they didn't want him to pitch too many innings in one season. They were trying to keep him healthy for the long haul because it was "the right thing to do for the franchise."

Ugh.

I hated the move at the time. Yes, Strasburg was coming off Tommy John surgery the previous year. But, the Nationals had a great team last season. Everybody was healthy. Everybody was playing well. When it's all going your way, you have to strike while the iron is hot, health consequences be damned. You can't be playing for next year, or the next five years, because the opportunity to compete for a championship in the future is not promised to you.

I'm sure if Nationals GM Mike Rizzo read this blog (and I'm sure he doesn't), he'd be indignant about what I'm about to write. But oh well.

Washington kicked away its best chance to win a World Series last year when it decided not to pitch its ace in the playoffs. The Nationals lost in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals, and it doesn't look like they are going to make it back to that level this season.