Friday, January 14, 2005

Sosa for Sledge

It's nice of Blogger to finally let me post (the few times I tried yesterday, I was getting a page not found error). There is talk of the Nats once again pursuing Larkin for a bench role, since no one is going to offer him a starting job (a shame, since he's better than our starter). It sounds like it may either be Nats or retirement for him.

The major rumor from yesterday is that talk of a trade for Sosa is happening again. According to some sources, we may be willing to pick up some of Sosa's salary. Other sources report that we'll take him off the Cubs' hands, as long as it costs us nothing.

I can't believe talks would turn back on if we hadn't budged from our position, which, from the Cubs' perspective is 100% unreasonable. Since we're probably not going to end up breaking the bank for pitching (there's not much out there worth having, even through trade), and since Bowden has a wad of cash burning a hole in his pocket, this all seems a lot more realistic to me than it did a month ago.

I already commented on this rumor when talk was for Wilkerson, not Sledge. That was a bad move from a numbers point of view, but I would have understood it from a marketing perspective. Whereas Wilkerson is clearly more valuable on the field than Sosa, Sledge is another matter. Last year, they had about even OBPs, and Sosa had an OPS that was 50 points higher. To be fair, Sledge got off to a slow start last year, but Sammy was still more valuable, even throwing out the first month.

The question is, how much will Sledge improve, and how much will Sosa decline? I think there's a good chance that if he is in an environment where he feels happy and welcome, Sosa won't be any worse than last year (by far, his worst year in a long, long time). Sledge will probably be incrementally better next year, but he's pretty much at his peak, which, while good, still isn't quite as good as Sosa in his decline. Sledge has more long-term value, since Sosa will retire within a few years, but if money weren't an issue, I think Sosa would be the choice.

And then there's the value Sosa brings to the club, simply because he's Slammin' Sammy. More people will come to see a superstar. They'll sell more jerseys. Yes, optics are incredibly important and valuable. With the Mets making so many splashy moves, bringing in Sosa will at least make it look like we're doing everything we can to not get left behind in the dust. Heck, if the Marlins land Delgato instead of the Mets, we'll need to make this move just to appear like we're keeping pace with them!

In so far as the deal goes, Sosa is owed $17M in 2005, and $18M in 2006 if he is traded. Reports are that, to get out of Chicago, Sosa is willing to budge on the 2006 numbers, but I doubt the player's union would be too happy about that. More than likely, he'd have to restructure it, deferring a big chunk of it into 2007 and maybe 2008, then sign an extension at a below-market value. That way, the dollars are nominally 2006 dollars, but really go to his 2007/2008 contract.

If something like that makes sense to all parties and actually comes to pass, I could imagine we'd ship out Sledge and a prospect to Chicago in exchange for Sosa and $9 to $10M of his salary. Then, I could see sammy getting a 2 year, $8-$12M extension keeping him in Washington through 2008, and deferring $8M of his 2006 money over two years.

From a pure perspective of production per dollar spent, this probably wouldn't be a good deal, but when you consider the offset in additional revenue, it seems like it could be a reasonable move. It certainly wouldn't be the deal of the century, but I would probably pull the trigger, if I were Bowden.


At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, no, a thousand times no. I don't want Terrmel Sledge to be this generation's Aurelio Rodriguez (old-time Washington fans will get the analogy).

I'm not exactly 100% in favor of bringing Esteban Loaiza to Washington (although some of the criticism of him is coming from people who would only be satisfied if some Ivy League wonk was hired as Nats' GM, and we have too many Ivy Leaguers running things as it is) -- but if it was either-or Loaiza or Sosa, I'd say Esteban, come on down. Sosa has glitter and star power, but his career escalator is headed down, down, down.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

Yeah, cause certainly one needs to be highly educated at a great university to realize that Loaiza stinks.

At 10:33 AM, Blogger John said...

Sosa's only 36, so his bad year last year is probably more due to his injury, which was a fluke, and he has supposedly overcome. I think if he wasn't, and he does dip, it won't be so bad that he'll be worse than Sledge. I'll definitely put money up that he will hit at least 30 home runs for at least two more years. While there's no doubt he's a defensive liability, I think the move makes sense from an economic perspective, even if Sledge does happen to out-perform him a bit.

At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a worry that, in a post-(or sort of post)-steroid era, Sosa will have a Giambi problem?
-- sam

At 12:04 PM, Blogger tmk67 said...

Sosa has not been the same since he was beaned mid-2003. After that, he now sets up another four inches further off the plate, which causes him to miss pitches low and away that he used to drive out to right-center...So now he tries to pull everything, which is good for 35 HRs a year but not much more.

Despite that correctable fault, he would still outproduce Sledge, Larry Broadway and Ryan Church for the next three years.

The Cubs are looking to move Sosa in the hopes of acquiring an inexpensive reliever/closer candidate and free up salary to sign Magglio Ordonez. To do that, I think the Nats would have to pick up at least $8 million of Sosa's contract this year and toss in either Cordero or Ayala. The other rumored/conceptual offer on the table for Sosa is Cliff Floyd and Looper (about $8 million in salary) for Sosa. I suspect that conceptual ideal with the Mets will need to await Delgado's decision on where to sign.

Is this a good deal? It certainly increases the marquee value of the team, not necessarily a bad thing while the team is officially on sale. The merchandising revenue increase could increase the present value of the team by more than the value of the Sosa guarantee. I do not think the Nats will have difficulty drawing huge attendance figures this year, but this would probably help lock in their attendance in '06 and '07 until the new ballpark is open.

On the downside, it probably means that this team will not be able to afford to keep Wilkerson after next year. Even if they can restructure Sosa's contract to $10 million a year, Sosa, Livan, Vidro, Guzman and Castilla will cost the team over $30 million in 2006. Not such a big deal if the team's payroll becomes $70 million, but a big deal if they have to stick with $50 million.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger John said...

If we draw in as much revenue as it appears we will, we should boycott the new owners if they're not willing to spring for Wilkerson, at least through the period where he is under team control!


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