I wrote about the Nationals defensive issues two weeks ago, and now they’ve gone and puzzled me even more.
Over the weekend reports suggested the Nationals are interested in Pirates outfielder Nyjer Morgan, the best despite an iffy bat has statistically the best defender in baseball . Apparently the Nationals were hoping to swap out wild child Lastings Milledge for Morgan in a good ol’ fashion challenge trade. In terms of assets, Morgan makes sense for the Nationals. He’s a bit older than you would expect (28) for the reasonably newcomer but has an excellent handle on defense and a below average bat that won’t sink a team.
What confuses me, is the Nationals then dealt Ryan Langerhans to the Mariners for Mike Morse. Langerhans is 29-years-old, a fantastic defender, and Langerhans has always hit better in the minors than Morgan. His weak 2007 was mostly due to bad luck on balls in play. Even if you argue Langerhans is slightly worse on defense, he closes the gap on offense and availability, since, you know, he’s already in the Nationals system.
While Milledge has a laundry list of past transgressions, it’s hard to believe the Nationals value him approximately the same as they value Morse. Milledge is a 24-year-old outfielder with two seasons of league-average hitting. Morse is 27, has no real defensive position and in his only real exposure to the majors hit about as well as Milledge.
So if the Nationals are interested in essentially trading Milledge and Langerhans for Morgan and Morse they gain nothing. The desire to dump Milledge’s baggage is understandable, but considering their 40-man roster already contains eight non-Milledge outfielders, it seems like they could stand to reshuffle assets to other positions than the outfield.
As for the Mariners, they get their Endy Chavez replacement for a spare part. Maybe the Mariners outfield defense will remain the best in the league after all.
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