This week, the Nationals attempted to send two relievers down to the minor leagues – Kip Wells and Jesus Colome. Both rejected this premise and instead filed for free agency. The Nats probably knew this was gonna happen, and probably didn’t much care. Wells was a shot in the dark and he didn’t work out. Colome pitched a few good years between here and Tampa Bay. But he hasn’t pitched that well in DC in a while, and they weren’t keen to wait him out. Fine, no problems there. They have other relievers who can throw just as poorly.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Arizona Diamondbacks traded 27 year old Tony Pena (not to be confused with 52 year old Tony Pena) for a first base prospect from the White Sox, Brandon Allen. Allen is a strong prospect, ranked #4 in the entire White Sox organization by Baseball America. He hits for power and has gotten into first base shape – that is, he used to be considered a DH only type but hard work has moved him back to a 1B prospect. He hit .290/.372/.452 with 7 HR in 241 ABs in AA this year before being promoted to AAA where he’s doing alright but struggling a bit, not at all unexpected. Wait a second, the DBacks got the NUMBER FOUR PROSPECT IN THEIR ORGANIZATION FOR A RELIEVER?

Let’s look at this reliever. Tony Pena is 27 years old, and he’s in his fourth season with the Diamondbacks. He’s now under control of Chicago for 3 more seasons, I believe. So he’s a long term kinda guy, which helps. But his numbers aren’t exactly spectacular. He’s got an ERA of 4.24 this year, in 34 IP he’s K’d 26 and walked 11. So those numbers aint bad. In 2008 he was at 4.33, 72 2/3 IP, 52 K, and 17 BB. K/BB from 2008 was about 3, while now it’s about 2.4.

If we look in the Nats bullpen, there aren’t any true comparables. The closest may be newly acquired Sean Burnett, who’s got a better ERA at 2.97, but a lower K/BB at about 1.7. But he’s under control for a while. And then there’s Joe Beimel, who’s also got a better ERA – 3.24, and a lower K/BB of 1.45. His numbers in that regard looked better over the last few years though. But he’s only under contract until the end of this year. Ron Villone is a LOOGY that’s gotta be able to help someone out – he had a streak of 19 appearances without allowing an Earned Run, this year!

My point is that Byrnes or Shiraz or whoever over in Arizona spun a good reliever, better than average but still a reliever (remember, most of these guys are wildly inconsistent from year to year) into the White Sox NUMBER FOUR PROSPECT (do you get that this part should be yelled?) should be praised and then emulated. It’s a position they have a need, because Conor Jackson hasn’t yet panned out, and regardless, it’s a top prospect in exchange for a reliever. I’m not saying that the Nats have the same pieces to get the same value. But if they could turn their relievers into someone’s #10 or #14 or #40 prospect, it’s gotta be considered a win. Get on it, Rizzo!

By Charlie