I’m not gonna be around next week as Ocean City’s pristine beaches and trailer park atmosphere are calling. As I’ll be computerless next week, here is a mid-week bonus posting. Just in case anyone really misses The Nationals Review, I wouldn’t want to deprive them…

Ayala’s back (actually his elbow is the story)

Luis Ayala was activated from the DL this week. He is coming off Tommy John surgery and has been pitching at AAA, for his first real professional appearances since 2005. So far he’s pitched 7 innings at Columbus and given up 1 ER, with 2 BBs and 5 Ks. In case you forgot, Ayala was one of Washington’s best relievers and had to undergo Tommy John surgery last spring after the World Baseball Classic, although he probably would have had to get the surgery WBC or not.

From ’03-’05, his only pro seasons, he had an ERA of 2.75, a 3:1 K:BB ratio and averaged just under a hit per inning. Confidently being able to trade Cordero is partially dependent on Ayala’s success. Cordero has been great for the Nationals, but join him with Rauch and Ayala, and the team has a 7th, 8th and 9th inning punch that is unecessary. While any team would love to end every game in the 6th, the Nationals are just not there yet. They could get much more in exchange for a closer that has been as effective as Chad over the last few seasons than what he can give them if he stays. The closer is one of the last things a team that is rebuilding needs to focus on. Examples of this include how poorly the Reds have performed as they traded away good players in order to shore up a shaky bullpen when they really needed to build, and the A’s who constantly dump closers when they get pricey and proceed to pick up guys off the trash heap to save 40 games a season. Huston Street came up through the minors, but Isringhausen, Foulke, and Koch all “magically” became closers in Oakland when they never did it before. What it comes down to is this: Cordero is an extremely valuable player, but he is much more valuable to a team that is fighting for a playoff spot than a team that is building, and the Nats have the opportunity to take advantage of that. So look for Ayala to make it easier on the conscience to unload Cordero. TNR will definitely follow his progress.

Not cool, Chico

What’s up with Chico’s last outing? After praising him for being the Nats best starter and a pleasant surprise for the season, he goes ahead and gives up 8 ER in 4 IP against Detroit. Somehow the Nats got within 1 run of tying the score, but couldn’t finish. Regardless, Chico’s game was probably more anomaly than anything else. We’ll see if that story changes in 2 or 3 weeks.

Chinese Signees

The Yankees signed 2 Chinese 19 year olds to minor league contracts this week. Neither is ready for Zhenwang Zhangthe big leagues, and will need plenty of time before anyone knows how talented they are. Why does this matter to the Nats? Glad you asked. They are the first players signed with the approval of China’s baseball association and it shows you how far teams will go to scout talent. Once again, the teams with money will be able to put more effort into this type of thing. International players don’t have to go through the amateur draft, and most seem happy with this arrangement. So whoever scouts the youngsters get to sign them. The Nationals have money, and over the next decade if they don’t expand their scouting to places like China they may find themselves playing catchup in international talent.

By Charlie