I’m not sure I like this book so far. The Nats have traded perennial complainer and potential star Lastings Milledge away, along with ace closer Joel Hanrahan. In exchange they get Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett from the Pirates.

What They Get

Well, the big piece that everyone is probably excited about it Nyjer Jamid Morgan. I am mostly excited about his name. And he can play the outfield, which is nice. Other than that… He is fast, too, but he isn’t exactly a good baserunner. His 18 SB go with 10 CS, leading the league in that dubious category.

nyjer-catchHe’s got no power though, his ISO is under .100 for his career and he’s currently slugging .356. He’s also a corner infielder, at least he has been for the most part in Pittsburgh. He has done well there, and appears to be a good defensive player. I have no idea whether he can play CF, I just really hope he can. Because those kind of numbers from your LFer… anyway, we’ll likely get a chance to see whether or not can play CF.

He doesn’t hurt in the OBP category, his career mark of .351 isn’t too shabby. He might be a good guy to bat 8th, in front of the pitcher. That was he gets on alot, has speed so that the pitcher can bunt him over if he gets on early, but isn’t expected to be a real top of the lineup producer. As a leadoff man, he isn’t so special.

I am not sure if he’s much different than Willie Harris. He has a bit less power, isn’t as good of a baserunner, but may be faster. He’s the kind of guy you’d want on your team to help add to your bench, especially if you didn’t already have Willie Harris. Also Harris is a great defensive CFer, I’m frankly just don’t know if Morgan is as good. Harris is the more productive hitter and possibly a better fielder, but there are other reasons for this trade, including Sean Burnett.

Burnett is a former first round pick for the Buccos. He pitched well working his way up the minors, and just when he started looking really good, he had a shoulder injury, surgery, and spent almost 2 years on the DL. Since then he’s been converted into a reliever and has been fairly successful. This year he has pitched in 38 games for the Pirates, has sported a 3.06 ERA, with 23 K, 15 BB and 1 H in 32 1/3 IP. He’s a lefty but has done fairly well against righties as well this year. He doesn’t look to be anything special, but hey, how many relievers are?

At this point he can be added to a bullpen that has like 4 reliable guys. Putting that number up to 5 isn’t a bad thing, especially since this team has lost so many games on the backs of the bullpen. He does seem to be a marked improvement over the real life Joel Hanrahan, even if he isn’t as good as the ghost of Joel Hanrahan’s potential.

What They Gave

Speaking of Joel Hanrahan, he is no more, at least on the Nats. They lose a guy who was their closer 9 months ago. In the time it takes a human to gestate, he went from closing out games to not being able to throw strikes. Or at least strikes that weren’t struck 400 feet. He has impressive stuff – a good fastball and a wicked slider. But I’ve never seen him able to consistently locate his slider, and he doesn’t seem to trust his fastball enough to throw it more. Or maybe it isn’t quite MacDougal-y enough to be thrown exclusively.

The bigger piece they lost was the aforementioned Lastings Milledge.Lastings Milledge To think I was *this* close to buying a Blastings Thrilledge jersey when they got him back in late 2007. I think they mostly gave up on Milledge because they didn’t like his attitude. Not that he was a criminal, but he wasn’t exactly Mr Do Whatever You Say To Keep Playing Baseball. He also didn’t produce when given the opportunity this year, and looked just as bad after his demotion. Finally, he was an atrocious center fielder. He may never hit the way people first envisioned him to, and if he can’t field that position, he just probably doesn’t hit enough to be a left or right fielder.

Maybe they thought that people were catching on to that. They may have felt the more he played, they more he’d demonstrate that he didn’t hit like a corner outfielder and didn’t field like a center fielder. That’s understandable. They also probably want to move on to a team that can field much better. They are going to be relying on a strong starting staff, it’s important to get the gloves to go with that. It’s how the Rays got good, and the Braves back in they day. So why not try it here?

But I am still disappointed in the haul. Burnett has some potential, 29 year old Morgan does not. I know they need warm bodies to play the OF, especially if they’re gonna trade Willingham and maybe even Dukes as well. But this isn’t what I expected. Maybe this really was the best they were gonna get for Milledge, and they got something for nothing, but I doubt it. I really just hope that when they make more trades, they get younger and more talented, not older and less.

By the way, Rob Neyer doesn’t hate the deal for the Nats. He admits that they may be the “winners” but at the same time doesn’t seem to have much faith in Milledge’s character or his ability.

I wonder, though. When you’re trying to build an organization, shouldn’t character be a significant consideration? I know I’ve basically dismissed such things for some years now, because I believe in writing about things I can quantify, and I don’t have the first idea about how to quantify character and chemistry and all those wonderful things. Still, a lot of baseball executives with a lot of wins under their belts do talk about those things with great passion, and I would be foolish to summarily dismiss that passion.

There’s another little issue, which is that Milledge has been terrible this season… A meaningful sample size? No. But at some point you actually have to produce. Milledge is now 24, and he’s got an OPS almost exactly the same as Nyjer Morgan’s. Milledge might yet become a star. He’d better hurry, though.

By Charlie