Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nationals Considered Trading Strasburg to Yankees

Reports are streaming out of Washington that the Nationals were approached by the Yankees in regard to the availability of Stephen Strasburg in mid-July.

Phil Hughes was mentioned as the player going to the Nationals. Hughes has been bouncing between the Yankees rotation, bullpen, and Scranton Wilkes-Barre (AAA affiliate). The one time prospect that New York was unwilling to trade to land Johan Santana has found some success this year in the pen. With veterans CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and youngster Joba Chamberlain locked in the staff there is only one spot open. And the Yankees were looking to place Strasburg in the spot, since he has a higher ceiling than Hughes (cathedral ceiling?). The Yankees were likely going to be able to skip Strasburg in the rotation going forward this season to limit his innings and could have used him a setup man to Rivera in the postseason. This move could have paid huge dividends both this year and going forward (buy some shares of it).

Because of the Yankees position in the standings (AL East leaders) and the country (New York…) the Yankees stood to make more off of Strasburg than the Nationals. Yankee Strasburg jerseys would have began to fly off the shelves as even an ERA between 4.25 and 4.50, if Strasburg struggled to harness his blazing fastball and curveball, would have been good enough to pile up more wins in New York than an ERA in the low 3.00’s would in DC. It is essentially a foregone conclusion that Strasburg will have over one strikeout a season. And power sells on both sides in baseball. If Strasburg flames out the Yanks would be able to write it off. The Nationals will take years to dig out if that happens. The Nationals are trying to save the face of the franchise, which is what made the Yankees offer so interesting.

The Yankees offered Phil Hughes, 10 wins in the 2010 season and 15 wins in the 2011 season. The point of the game is to win and Yanks were willing to give the Nats a bit of a head start at their expense. Part of the thinking is that long term Strasburg would be worth more in terms of both wins and money in New York than the 25 they would be giving up. If the Nationals were to take such a trade they would only have needed to go .500 to have a reasonable chance at making the playoffs. Negotiations hit a bit of a snag when the Nationals realized that they may be better off without the 10 wins in 2010 when the team figures to be uncompetitive. Why finish fourth in the division when you can finish fifth? The Yankees added in 12 more wins for the 2012 season based on the qualifier that Strasburg had at least 35 career wins going into the 2012 season. The Nationals asked the Yankees to keep their 2010 wins and make the 2012 wins a base condition. The Yankees agreed.

So why didn’t it happen? One may think it was because the Nationals were unable to come to terms with Strasburg before the July 31st non-waiver deadline. But if the Yankees were going to be paying the salary it would not have been an issue. What happened was the commissioner’s office told the two clubs that they could not trade wins. Selig found it rather troubling the Yankees thought that it was even a possibility but was less surprised with the Nationals. They are still learning.

1 comment:

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