Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Washington Nationals: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Nationals made a smart move yesterday, trading current closer Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks for Emilio Bonifacio, an infielder prospect. A closer is never what you want to build around, and the Nationals have a few guys who fill that role anyways. "Great," I thought to myself when I saw it. "Now they can let go of some of this dead weight, like Christian Guzman."

Oh dear. It was then announced that Guzman and the Nationals had agreed to a contract extension for 2009 and 2010, paying him $16 million over those two seasons. That's right, Guzman will be making $8 million a year, almost double his current salary. Worse than that, an $8 million annual salary makes him virtually untradable for the duration of his contract, so he'll be a National throughout the next two years. Just because a guy makes the all-star team doesn't mean he deserves to be paid like an all-star. And really, Rauch was at least as deserving of an all-star spot as Guzman.

Let's look at some numbers for Guzman, just for kicks.

Career highs:
HR: 10
RBI: 59
Runs: 89

Career batting average: .268
Career on-base percentage: .305

The problem is that the Nationals still have a pretty low ceiling as far as salaries. They can't afford to make money mistakes, and giving $8 million a year to one player with no power and limited speed is a big one. Their total payroll this year is $54 million, which means Christian freakin' Guzman will be making somewhere around 15% of their entire team's budget for player salaries. That's not the key to success.

I still like the Rauch trade, but I hope the Nationals have some sort of grand plan that I'm not seeing. I loved the team when they were the Expos, and I'm trying, really trying to embrace them now that they're my hometown team. But come on fellas. Spend your money smart, or don't spend it.

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