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With Bowden, There's Two Sides to Every Deal

Monday, March 2, 2009

Jim Bowden came to Washington saddled with the nickname "Trader Jim," a label applied because he pulled off more than 100 trades -- including a blockbuster for Ken Griffey Jr. -- in his decade as the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds. The trade for Griffey was typical Bowden -- a huge splash, with mixed results. Griffey came to Cincinnati as perhaps the game's brightest star, but injuries limited him to an average of 105 games during his eight full seasons with the Reds.

That upside-down side was typical of Bowden's deals with the Nationals. Here are five of his most significant moves -- and the fallout from each of them.

1.Signing SS Cristian Guzmán to a four-year, $16.8 million contract in November 2004.

The Good:

The Nationals needed to announce their presence to Washington, and making such a deal indicated that Major League Baseball, which then owned the franchise, intended to field a competitive team. Guzmán had been the shortstop for a Minnesota Twins team that won three consecutive division titles. He became an all-star in 2008 .

The Bad:

Guzmán endured a 2005 season that was nearly historically bad. He needed a sizzling September just to hit .219. He then missed all of 2006 following shoulder surgery and all but 46 games of 2007 with a thumb injury.

2.Trading outfielders Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and minor league pitcher Armando Galarraga to Texas for second baseman Alfonso Soriano in December 2005.

The Good:

Soriano provided Washington with an electric 2006, hitting 46 homers and stealing 41 bases in an all-star season. His presence in the clubhouse and the lineup was one of the few positives in an otherwise lost season that ended with the firing of Manager Frank Robinson.

The Bad:

Bowden demanded Soriano move to the outfield against his will, creating a circus-like atmosphere in spring training. Bowden then failed to deal Soriano for prospects at the trade deadline, leaving the team with a pair of compensatory draft choices when Soriano signed with the Chicago Cubs.

3.Trading relievers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray, shortstop Royce Clayton, infielder Brendan Harris and minor league pitcher Daryl Thompson to Cincinnati for outfielder Austin Kearns, infielder Felipe López and reliever Ryan Wagner in July 2006.

The Good:

Bowden billed Kearns and López, both 26 at the time, as key pieces of Washington's rebuilding process. The deal gave the Nationals' fan base reason to believe that new ownership meant true legitimacy headed into the second half of 2006.

The Bad:

López struggled, hitting .245 in 2007, and turned into a clubhouse cancer in 2008, when he was released. Kearns, whom Bowden later signed to a three-year, $17.5 million extension, has only 31 homers in 310 games with Washington and likely will be a reserve in 2009, when he will earn $8 million.

4.Signing first baseman Dmitri Young to a minor league contract in the spring of 2007.

The Good:

Young, beset by personal and legal problems in 2006 when he was cut by Detroit, resurrected himself with Washington, becoming an all-star and using his story of overcoming his issues, as well as diabetes, as an inspiration to others. The Nationals rewarded Young with a two-year, $10 million contract that July.

The Bad:

Young could not duplicate his 2007 season last year, failing to keep his weight under control or properly deal with his diabetes. He played in only 50 games last season, and was eventually cut from the 40-man roster, though he is back in camp this spring on another minor league deal.

5.Announcing the team would not offer a contract to injured closer Chad Cordero following the 2008 season.

The Good:

Cordero, an all-star when he saved 47 games in 2005, blew out his right shoulder early in 2008. Per terms of baseball's collective bargaining agreement, he would have been due at least 80 percent of his $6.2 million salary this season -- even though he isn't yet able to pitch. Not tendering Cordero a contract made sense.

The Bad:

Bowden announced the club's intentions during an interview on WTEM-980 in July -- before he had spoken with either Cordero or his agent about the matter, and long before any such decision had to be made public. The move offended Cordero and put the club on defense from a public relations standpoint.

-- Barry Svrluga

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