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Revisiting all those Nats and Athletics trades

Dec 17, 2013, 2:43 PM EDT

Photo by the Associated Press AP

Since Mike Rizzo took over as Nationals general manager in 2009, he’s found quite the trade partner in Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics. Since late 2010, the two have orchestrated seven different trades, sometimes sending the same players back and forth in separate deals.

Rizzo and Beane clearly enjoy doing business with each other, or this trend would have stopped a long time ago. It just so happens that Beane and the A’s are always trying to shop their major league players for prospects, and Rizzo and the Nationals have generally been flush with young talent in the farm system.

Here is a look at those seven trades in three years, and what we know about their results so far. Some of the trades were very recent and therefore are ‘to be determined’ as to who came out on top.

Dec. 16, 2010 – OF Josh Willingham for RHP Henry Rodriguez and OF Corey Brown

The first deal between the two is one Rizzo would probably want to have back. Sensing Willingham would be better suited for the American League – and with one year left on his contract – the Nats sent him to Oakland for the legendarily wild Rodriguez and Brown, whom they just DFA’d. Willingham went on to post career highs in home runs in his next two seasons (29, 35) and drove in 110 runs in 2012. Those RBI were with the Twins after he signed with Minnesota as a free agent, but given the Nats’ return, this one goes to Beane.

Winner: Beane

Dec. 23, 2011 – C Derek Norris, RHP A.J. Cole, RHP Brad Peacock, LHP Tom Milone for LHP Gio Gonzalez and RHP Robert Gilliam 

A year and a week after trading Willingham for prospects, Rizzo decided to flip the script and go after an All-Star in Gio Gonzalez. He paid a heavy price of four prospects, including minor league standout Brad Peacock. Looking back, however, the Nats easily got the better return in Gio who led the National League in wins in 2012 and finished third in NL Cy Young voting. Gonzalez signed an extension and figures to be a mainstay in the Nats rotation for years to come. Norris and Milone are still contributing for Oakland, but none of the prospects have produced like Gio in the two years since.

Winner: Rizzo 

Aug. 3, 2012 – C David Freitas and cash for C Kurt Suzuki

With Wilson Ramos out after tearing his ACL, the Nationals needed a catcher to help Jesus Flores who hit just .213 in 2012. In came Suzuki who helped the Nats complete their playoff push and win the division. Freitas never made it above Triple-A Sacramento with the Athletics and is now in the Orioles’ system after being traded again. Suzuki didn’t make a massive impact with the Nats, but he did the job they asked of him and also played 79 games for the Nats in 2013. Rizzo gets the edge in this one as well.

Winner: Rizzo

Jan. 16, 2013 – OF Michael Morse to Seattle, C John Jaso from Seattle to Oakland, RHP A.J. Cole, LHP Ian Krol (PTBNL), RHP Blake Treinen from Oakland to Washington (3 teams)

At the time, getting A.J. Cole back plus two low level prospects seemed like a small return for Michael Morse, especially considering they probably could have used him last season with all their injuries. The outfielder had just helped lead the Nats to 98 wins in 2012 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI and was thought to be a multi-year free agent in waiting. But almost a year after the fact, you can’t blame the Nats for what they got. Krol was a nice surprise as the player to be named later, and just weeks ago helped land Doug Fister in Washington. Cole is still in the Nats’ farm system and is starting to realize his potential as a young starter. Meanwhile, Morse was traded from the Mariners to the Orioles and has now joined the Giants. All the A’s have to show for it is Jaso, who was decent last year, and Xavier Avery whom the Orioles sent over.

Winner: Rizzo

Aug. 23, 2013 – C Kurt Suzuki for RHP Dakota Bacus

Once the Nationals realized Ramos was ready to be the primary catcher, Suzuki and his $6.45 million salary became expendable. The catcher did, however, play very well for the A’s down the stretch and helped them reach the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Bacus, meanwhile, has yet to pitch above Single-A. His minor league numbers (2.93 ERA in 46 appearances) are solid, but the Nats haven’t felt his impact yet. For now this one goes to Beane.

Winner: Beane

Nov. 25, 2013 – LHP Fernando Abad for OF John Wooten

It’s hard to judge this one less than a month removed from the deal. The Nats will now hope Wooten will build off his 20 home run 2013 season in Single-A.

Winner: TBD

Dec. 11, 2013 – OF Billy Burns for LHP Jerry Blevins

This one also gets an ‘incomplete’ as neither has played a game for their new teams yet. On the surface it looks like a good deal for the Nationals who deemed Burns expendable and needed a lefty reliever very badly. Looking at the money some lefties have received on the free agent market since, this looks even better.

Winner: TBD

  1. TimDz - Dec 17, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    I think these two make good trade partners primarily because neither one sees the need to “win” the deal. This is the reason why I don’t ever see the Nats being a trade partner with the likes of the Rays…Friedman, while skilled, will only make deals where he can win in a landslide…part of that is clearly due to their market and the lack of money (thus needing to recycle their expensive players for prospects etc.).
    The one thing that is keepin the Nats from becoming a top market is (as many have bemoaned before), the lack of a FAIR regional broadcasting deal…if there ever comes a time where the Nats can free themselves from that troll in Baltimore and get a 100 million + deal (with Comcast or Fox), they will have the potential to be good for a long time, as the money can be used to extend our own homegrown players, plus take the occasional free agent, and balancing the farm players (keeping some and trading others, like Rizzo has been able to do).

  2. Sonny G 10 - Dec 17, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Not a bad trading relationship at all. Good and bad for both teams.

  3. David Proctor - Dec 17, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Chris Cotillo ‏@ChrisCotillo 4m
    Source: #Nationals, #Padres, #Astros were most seriously involved in Matt Thornton bidding before he agreed with #Yankees. Lots of interest.

    I guess we’re not necessarily completely out of the lefty market?

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 17, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      If the Nats were interested, I’m guessing that it was on a one-year deal. The Yankees were willing to go two.

      • David Proctor - Dec 17, 2013 at 3:39 PM

        I feel more comfortable with Cedeno being the LOOGY anyway after looking at his stats. In his career, he’s held lefties to a .628 OPS. The only thing is he should NEVER EVER EVER face a righty. They have a .979 OPS against him.

    • Hiram Hover - Dec 17, 2013 at 7:04 PM

      Interesting. Of course, we don’t know when the Nats showed that interest – maybe before last week’s trade for Blevins.

      As for Cedeno – I’m willing to see him get a shot, based on his limited innings here last year, but man, his career #s are ugly – 4.4 BB/9, career WHIP of 1.6+.

    • JamesFan - Dec 18, 2013 at 8:12 AM

      I hope the Nats are still looking. I still see the team as thin on the left side of the pen.

  4. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 17, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    With regard to the Willingham/Rodriguez/Brown trade, even in retrospect I have no problem with it. The Nats were going nowhere in 2011 (at least nowhere significant) and Josh Willingham was clearly not in the team’s longer-term future. Turning him into Henry Rodriguez and Corey Brown offered the potential for longer-term value to the franchise once the Nats were in position to contend. And while neither Mr. Rodriguez nor Mr. Brown turned into the major league player many had projected, taking that risk is what GMs do.

    • David Proctor - Dec 17, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Agreed. And even if you just look at the end results, keeping Willingham would’ve blocked Morse. So Morse wouldn’t have had his monster 2011, who knows if he gets regular playing time in 2012. So we lose him there. And then consider the lack of trade value. We flipped Morse for AJ Cole, Ian Krol and Blake Treinen.

      So even if we didn’t get much for Willingham in terms of prospects, we still benefitted from it.

    • Steady Eddie - Dec 17, 2013 at 5:05 PM

      Could not agree more. Sure, Beane got the better of the deal, but who cares because it was only a one year rental of Willingham in 2011, a year when like Eugene said, we were going nowhere. If we had really wanted Willingham back in 2012, we could have outbid the Twins.

  5. David Proctor - Dec 17, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    Here’s a link to Steve McCatty’s interview on Hot Stove:

    http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=31271277&query=mlb%2Bnetwork

    • Sonny G 10 - Dec 17, 2013 at 6:44 PM

      Thanks for the link DP. I thought his interview went rather well.

    • nats128 - Dec 17, 2013 at 10:55 PM

      “We dont play the game on paper” which is true but assessments are made from statistics and in the old days they were written on paper. You are what your record is.

  6. joemktg - Dec 17, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    If there’s ever a Moneyball 2, Rizzo gets a mention. Who plays Rizzo? Bruce Willis? Stanley Tucci? Sinead O’Connor?

  7. JamesFan - Dec 18, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    My guess is that Rizzo is not easy to deal with. In the beginning, a lot of teams thought the Nats would continue to be a low rent, bottom feeding operation as it was in the Bowden years. Rizzo has turned that all around and now the Nats are serious players at the GM level. Every Rizzo deal has a logic and is balanced. Some work, some don’t but none seems stupid or extravagant. Beane operates in the same way but without the owner support Rizzo enjoys.

    Rizzo seems always focused on priority team needs. He has made three incredible deals: Capps for Ramos, the Gio deal with Oakland and potentially the Fister deal with Detroit.

    Let’s see if he can do it again for a backup catcher.

  8. wheretheyaint - Dec 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    I’ve been playing with the idea that the Nats and A’s trade so frequently (and so effectively) because they fit together in a kind of ecosystem. They’re both good player development organizations, but the Nats might be a little deeper in prospects and are certainly a bit wealthier. That means that Rizzo can move his surplus prospects and the occasional short-contract established player to Beane, who in turn gets to offload his young major-league talent that’s just on the cusp of getting too expensive. So Gio gets an extension in DC that Beane wouldn’t have wanted to pay, and in return gets a fresh supply of developed prospects that he can grow or use as trade chips. It suits everybody.

    By the way, I’d vote for Stanley Tucci to play Rizzo, but then, I’d vote for Stanley Tucci to play nearly anything…

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