Upon Further Review...

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, July 25, 2008 | 0 comments »

I still really like the Rauch deal. I think Bonifacio is going to turn out to be a very useful player. Certainly Mike Rizzo believes that, and given his track record I'm going to take his word for it until we see differently. Bonifacio will certainly bring a level of defense and enthusiasm to the middle infield that we haven't seen with this team...ever. His D, speed and passion are his calling cards right now. His OBP and lack of power are what's holding him back. If he can learn to take a pitch, he could be a very valuable player.

And if his being on the team means Bad Attitude Lopez is not, then I'm all for it.

Keith Law of ESPN.com, former Toronto front office guy and former writer for Baseball Prospectus, isn't so sure about Bonifacio long-term, but agrees the Nats needed to make this deal. He is, as I am, critical of the team extending Guzman.

Meanwhile, learning nothing from the Young/Belliard mistakes, the Nationals re-upped Cristian Guzman for two years and $16 million. Guzman was a cipher in the first year of his four-year deal, then missed 2005 and most of '06 due to injury. His hot start in 2008 has masked the evaporation of his power (he's slugging .360 since June 1), and he has never had a lick of plate discipline. Like Young and Belliard before him, he was a candidate to be moved, not to be re-signed. Bad teams should not be locking up their mediocrities to long-term deals, but rather should be looking to convert them all into any kind of young players.

These "reward" contracts just don't work, especially for players with lousy conditioning, as Young, Belliard and Guzman are all guilty of. At least it's a two-year deal, so it doesn't kill the Nats as much as it could.

But let's all get one thing straight: Guzman is not a "good" major league player. He is exactly league average this year for his position, his defensive range is atrocious, and his arm is suspect. While he leads the NL is hits, it's a worthless designation, as he also leads in at bats and plate appearances, significant facts that illustrate that he is horrible getting on base. His OBP this season stands at .335, his average at .305. That's not the OBP of a 23-year-old trying to learn plate discipline. That is the OBP of a 10-year MLB veteran that is only going to regress. His lifeftime average is .267 and OBP is .305, so one can clearly see that he is overperforming this season, and the Nats, quite foolishly, are rewarding that.

There are plentiful comments on all the various blogs about Guzman's worth to the team, and what's really available next year anyway, and blah, blah, blah. I'm not going to fault casual fans and neophytes from confusing Guzman's hit-leading performance this year with brilliance. As bad as the Nats are right now, he has been their best player. And that's more evidence of Jim Bowden's ineptitude than anything else to a degree. I'm willing to cut Bowden some slack, since every opening day starter but Guzman has been on the DL, but the replacements he had waiting were just not major league quality. Rob Mackowiak been picked up by anyone yet? Didn't think so.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Don't expect Guzman to do this next year. Shoot, don't expect him to do it in the second half. He's a player that is only going to regress, and we get to watch it for the next two years as he's the most expensive player on this team. Because I promise you the Nats, regardless of who the GM is this off-season, won't be signing any free agent of note.

The line-up will be Dukes, Milledge, Kearns, Zimmerman, Guzman, Bonifacio (Belliard), Johnson/Young and Flores. Hope they all get better together.