Thomas Boswell on Scott Hairston trade and its implications

During his weekly online chat, Post columnist Thomas Boswell was asked about the Nationals’ acquisition of Scott Hairston and what additional moves might be on tap. Below is an edited compilation of Boswell’s answers.

Question: Scott Hairston? Really? So if it were up to you, who would you send down to make room on the roster?
Thomas Boswell: The Hairstons are one of the great baseball families: three generations and a total of five Hairstons in MLB and all of them very classy. Scott hit 20 homers last year. And his .244/.299/.448 career hitting line is productive for a bench player who even started in centerfield 11 times last year. You can give Denard Span a day off against a tough lefty and put Hairston in center once in a while if you want.

Scott Hairston is under contract through next season. (Nam H. Huh / AP)

Scott Hairston is under contract through next season. (Nam H. Huh / AP)

It’s a very strong pickup. And it has implications. Hairston is on a two-year deal thru next season at $2.5M-a-year. So that means the Nats are committed to him for ’14 if he works out reasonably well. Obviously, the odd man out is Tyler Moore. He now becomes a viable trade piece. If you have Hairston, LaRoche and Span all under contract through 2014, then there is really no room for Moore at either first base or left field until 2015. And he’ll be 28 by then. However, he showed so well last year and has such big minor league numbers with back-to-back 31-homer seasons that someone should find him useful.

Also, by 2015, the Nats may want to move Zimmerman to first, so that’s another reason Moore wouldn’t be able to play his only natural position.

I’ve ALWAYS wanted to start a blue-sky rumor based on nothing but my own logic. So here’s my contribution to disinformation for today!

If the Tampa Bay Rays have an awful July and become possible sellers — a long shot since they are 49-40 –they have tough questions to answer when they look at the next couple of years. The Rays have an incredible number of key players who are in their walk year and they are concentrated in two roster areas: left field/first base and middle infield: Ben Zobrist (second base), James Loney (first base), Yunel Escobar (shortstop), Kelly Johnson (leftfield) and Luke Scott (DH) are all in the last year of their contracts.

The Nats now have a surplus with the addition of Hairston as a right-hander outfield bat, so Tyler Moore is a trade piece. Danny Espinosa has just gone 10-for-21 in his last six games, so it looks like he may have fixed some of his hitting problems. If that continues and he puts together a good 50+ AB stretch he may regain some of his trade value. The Nats also got A.J. Cole back in trade and he has value. If not Cole, then there is also Lucas Giolito, though I don’t think Nats would consider dealing him now that he is back from Tommy John surgery and pitching in the minors again.

The Rays’ big prize is Cy Young winner David Price. He is under team control through ’15. Put him with Zimmermann, Strasburg and Gonzalez who are all under control through ’15 (or much longer) and that’s an amazing Top Four. What wouldn’t you give for that?

Ross Detwiler is under team control through ’15, just like Price, and is an established solid southpaw. Espinosa is under control through ’16 and Moore through ’18. Would the Rays be interested in all those years of reasonably low-cost control of Detwiler, Espinosa (second base or shortstop) and Moore (first base, leftfield or DH) plus a top prospect pitcher such as Cole?

Drew Storen is also interesting in a trade, especially with Rafael Soriano signed through ’14 and the arrival of Ian Krol. But the Nats see Storen as part of their future.

To those who think this is not enough, consider that if you made an offer of Detwiler, Espinosa, Moore and ’12 No. 1 pick Lucas Giolito for 2 1/2 years of Price, I think the Rays would be crazy to turn it down and the Nats crazy to offer it.

That makes such a trade feasible in that the Nats have the kind of pieces the Rays will soon need, plus an established lefty to take Price’s rotation place. And the Nats would be sure only of keeping Price through ’15.

Remember, years-under-team-control is now a huge issue for teams with money issues, and the Nats can offer a ton of relatively inexpensive players who could fill positions of need. The Nats got Gio Gonzalez, after he’d been an All-Star, won 31 games in two years and averaged 195 strikeouts a year, in exchange for three prospects with almost no MLB experience at all.

So, this month, as well as later in the season or during the off-season, if Moore, Espinosa, Detwiler, plus a farmhand pitcher perform well and build their value, I see no reason why Nats couldn’t be a logical player for Price.

Also on Nationals Journal

Nationals announce trade with Cubs for Scott Hairston