The Nats finally made a trade! It’s a little late, because I was hoping for trades before the deadline. Now it’s like, what? December? Anyway, I’m not one to complain. Ok, I am, that’s the basis of much of this blog. But in this instance, I think the deal is absolutely great for the Nationals. The trade is Lastings Milledge (I get to write his name in bold, since he’s now a Nat, splendid!) for Brian Schneider and Ryan Church.

First, about Lastings

First things first, anyone calling him L-Mill should be beaten. Blastings or Lasty, please. Anyway, Lasty is only 22 years old right now, and last season in limited play he hit .272/.341/.446. More on that later. He is a plus defenMilledgeder, and he is actually a CF. No he didn’t play that in NY, but that’s because they had Beltran patrolling the mean CF streets of Queens. Thankfully, it should clear up the OF debate, having Wily Mo Pena, Blastings and Austin Kearns out there. That is assuming Kearns can hit next season. He has had spots of trouble, but nothing major, and really as long as he isn’t hurting people and or getting himself suspended, I don’t care. Oh my, he has a rap CD and dreadlocks… lock the door, dear! Not exactly a crimin-imin-al. Let’s be honest, if he’s a bastard but hits .350, Nats fans will figure out a way to like him. However, signs point to young and cocky rather than bastardy. He is still a potential stud, at only 22. Here is what Baseball America said about Milledge in November 2005, the last time he was a “prospect”:

The first thing scouts mention about Milledge is his lightning-quick bat speed. Milledge boasts one of the fastest bats in the minor leagues, allowing him to wait on pitches longer than most. He uses the entire field and has the strength to hit for average as well as power once he matures as a hitter…It’s still unclear as to whether Milledge profiles better at the top or in the middle of the order. He has above-average speed that he uses to his advantage on the bases and in center field, and he also has a plus arm. With his package of five tools, Milledge has few peers in the minors, and he has produced throughout his minor league career.”

Yeah, I’ll take that. Since then he has done pretty well in the majors, too. According to well informed reader andrewstebbins, the Nats control him until 2012. That’s  past the Kasten plan date of winning the World Series, so good news there.

Next, What We’re Losing

Examining the Church aspect of the trade first, last season, Church hit .272/.349/.464. Look familiar? It’s the exact same AVG as Milledge and it’s .008 higher OBP than him. The big different is in SLG, which is .018 different. Not much of a concern since you’d expect Milledge to exceed that 6 years from now when he’s Church’s age (and park effects are negligable, Shea aint no fun place to hit either). Either way, let’s say they both stay the same with the bat and Milledge doesn’t improve at all (ridiculous since he’s 22, but for the sake of argument…). They both are basically hitting as above average CFers and below average corner outfielders. The Nationals seem averse to playing Church out there, but hopefully they will have the brains to put Milledge in center. So the trade allows them to play the OF as they should.

As for Schneider, well I haven’t held back my distaste for his hitting abilities as of late. I actually was a big B.S. fan until recently, he is a seriously good defensive catcher, and from the Montreal days until 2005, he hit better than most catchers in the league. There isn’t much a team loves more than a catcher with a great arm and a good bat. Unfortunately those days are gone. I was hoping 2006 was a fluke, but his OPS of .649 only improved to .662 last year. That’s right, the beloved Washington catcher has averaged splits of about .230/.323/.332 in ’06-’07. It’s unfortunate, but it’s real, and Nats fans should accept that he is no longer the guy he used to be. Trading him to the Mets allows them to explore their future, rather than holding onto their past.

Overall Reaction

I’m not going to go as far as saying the Mets got fleeced on this deal. They money definitely went from DC to NY. Milledge is getting paid less than $400 K a year (again, thanks andrewstebbins), while Schneider somehow was owed $10 M over the next 2 years. Milledge was having a tough time with the New York media, and who knows if he could have lived up to his potential under the pressure there. He should be a great player though, and neither Schneider nor Church project to ever be great again. The Mets in return got a great defensive catcher as a backup, and in the NL, they outhit almost everyone, so it may be the perfect place for him. As for Church, well, my assessment remains the same. He COULD be a .280 hitter with 25 HRs. He COULD be. But he’s gonna be 29, and he’s yet to do that, simply playing the percentages means it’s unlikely. Ultimately, though, I don’t think this is the end of the Mets dealings. Whether Church ends up going to Baltimore, Oakland, Minnesota or somewhere else, he may be acquired to help them deal for an arm or two. It would make alot of sense, at least.

Oh You Crazy Metropolitans

What’s really fun about this? Jesus Flores will likely start at catcher now for that Nats. He was a rule 5 pickup from the Mets. So if both pan out to be good players (Milledge is a lock if he doesn’t get hurt or in trouble, Flores looks promising), we’ll have two 23 year olds playing that the Mets gave us for very little. It’s so much more enjoyable that way.

By Charlie