Dave Sheinin: On the MLB Trade Deadline, the Nats and his Set for Life Series

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After 14 big league seasons and one aborted comeback attempt, former all-star second baseman Bret Boone has found closure, but not exactly fulfillment. He spends his days playing golf and being a father of four, but is still contemplating his next move.Video by Dave Sheinin, Edited by Ashley Barnas/The Washington Post

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Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 30, 2009; 11:00 AM

Post national baseball writer Dave Sheinin will be online Thursday, July 30 at 11:00 a.m. ET to take your questions about the MLB Trade Deadline, the Nationals and his recent story in the Set for Life Series on Bret Boone.

You can read this installment of the Set for Life Series here.

Read more about Major League Baseball in Baseball Insider.

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Dave Sheinin: Howdy, friends. Welcome to our MLB trade deadline/"Set For Life" project/all-things-Nats-and-baseball-in-general chat. Let's get right to your questions...

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Fairfax, Va.: Dave, any chance we can send Belliard anywhere for anything? I would take a stick of chewing gum at this point. He approaches every plate appearance like it is the home run derby.

Dave Sheinin: No chance. Believe me, scouts are seeing the same things you are. No team is going to trade for Belliard in July when there is a very good chance he could be released or placed on waivers in August.

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Blacksburg, Va.: Adam LaRoche went to the Red Sox. Jack Wilson went to the Mariners. Freddy Sanchez went to the Giants. Felipe Lopez went to the Brewers. Yunieski Betancourt went to the Royals.

Why can't the Nats get rid of any of their veterans if there's a market for them? It seems to me that Guzman and Johnson should be names on that list but I've seen no action yet.

Dave Sheinin: In a roundabout way, you've answered your own question. Part of the difficulty in trading Guzman and Johnson this month has been the relative glut of shortstops and first basemen available at the deadline. And in the case of Guzman, the $8 million owed to him in 2010 (thanks, Mr. Bowden!) is a major hindrance.

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Richmond, Va.: Hi Dave:

I've seen writers refer to Willingham, Johnson, and others as "drawing interest" from other teams. Does that mean that actual talk is ocurring, with players' names being bandied about, or is it just a phone call to say "what'll it take to get this guy?"? A better question might be: for whom would the Nats trade a Willingham, Johnson, Guzman, etc.? I saw that the Marlins might be interested in Willingham. What would they have to give up?

Dave Sheinin: Yeah, "drawing interest" is vague, but in general it means GMs are calling each other to gauge each other's inventory and needs, and to see if there is a match. If there is, they begin to discuss names. But in the case of Willingham, as Chico pointed out in an excellent blog post earlier this week, there is little incentive for the Nats to trade him when he is relatively cheap and productive.

And in the case of Nick Johnson, I really believe the Nats are serious about bringing him back for another year or even two, to bridge the gap until (hoepfully) Chris Marrero is ready. I think they have caught a glimpse of the disaster that Adam Dunn would be at first base next year.

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Edgemoor: The only trade that I can identify that really makes sense is Johnson, and that one only because of his combination of contract status and brittle health history. Why trade Dunn when he has performed exactly in the way that he was expected to perform when he was acquired -- good bat no field? Beimel is one of the few reasonably reliable relievers. Don't we need some reasonably reliable relievers? These are just examples. Your thoughts?

Dave Sheinin: When I first saw the Dunn contract -- $8M this year, $12M next year -- I thought it was structured in a way that signaled he would be traded after the (cheaper) first year of the deal. Frankly, I don't think he's worth $12 million, because for every run he creates on offense, he basically allows one run to the opponents because of his defense. If it were me, I'd trade him. But of course, the Nats are also factoring in the expected public outcry if they trade their biggest bat.

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Richmond, Va.: Great article on Bret Boone. I'm enjoying the entire series, actually.

There are lots of steroid rumors about Boone, even though he was not listed in the Mitch Report. Did Bret comment on steroid use, either his own or in the game generally?

washingtonpost.com: Bret Boone, the Reluctant Retiree, Confronts Life After Baseball (Washington Post, July 26)

washingtonpost.com: Set For Life: When Wealth and Family May Not Be Enough (Washington Post)

Dave Sheinin: Thanks, Richmond. I figured I'd get this question. First of all, you're right about Boone not being named in the Mitchell Report. Despite the circumstantial evidence and the whispers, the only real link to Boone's alleged steroids use came in Jose Canseco's first book.

Now, in a story I did when the Nats signed Boone back in Feb. 2008, I asked Boone point-blank about the steroids accusations -- because it was a news story, and the allegations were out there, and it was pertinent to the story -- and he said he had never used them.

In reporting the "Set For Life" piece on Boone this summer, I did not bring up the subject of steroids. It certainly crossed my mind, but ultimately I decided that subject was neither germane to the topic -- how multi-millionaire athletes struggle with retirement -- nor necessary.

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Sec 114, Row E: If I was Steven Strasburg - it's be hard to turn down $15 million - or whatever the Nats eventually offer.

That said - would you sign with a team coming up on back to back 100 loss seasons with an Interim Management structure?

Interim GM. Interim Manager - which means all the coaches are interim. This is his entire career at stake; might it actually be prudent for him to sit a year and go to San Diego next year?

Dave Sheinin: Hey 114-E. I think you nailed the central dilemma in this negotiations. All of these issues -- the Nats' uncertainty, the allure of pitching for the Padres, the money he would conceivably be leaving on the table -- are part of a complicated equation.

And believe me: the fact the Padres may be in position to draft Strasburg in 2010 (that's assuming the Nats have the top pick, but don't get Strasburg's permission to re-draft him, and the Padres pick next) constitutes a significant bit of leverage in Scott Boras's mind.

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Washington, D.C.: Dunn's wins above replacement are always well into the positive -- 1.5 this season, so the offense outstrips the defensive issues. Still, he makes a better designated hitter.

I like to hear the Nationals are aiming to keep Nick. An OBP guy that good is tough to find.

Dave Sheinin: That's why I said "basically." It's not a complete wash, statistically, but it's enough of one to conclude that Dunn is overvalued (to an NL club) at $12M in 2010.

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Austin, Texas: Dave - Can you comment on the package Cleveland received for Cliff Lee? Did they get robbed, or was that the market price considering what Toronto was supposedly asking for Halladay?

washingtonpost.com: Baseball Insider: For Phillies' Sake, K. Drabek Had Better Be Good (Washington Post, July 29)

Dave Sheinin: I don't think the Indians got robbed. There are talent evaluators who believe Jason Knapp is going to be better down the road than Kyle Drabek, and all four players the Indians got -- while none are slam-dunk superstars-in-waiting -- are likely to help them at the big league level.

Obviously, it will take years before we know whether the deal works out well for the Indians (or the Phillies, for that matter), but I'm not buying the notion the Indians got robbed.

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Reston, Va.: I love it when the Nationals buy low on a guy that nobody believes in. It makes me feel great to see a redemption story or a fantastic deal pan out as their stock rises. The only thing that sours this feeling is when the Nationals front office decides to drink their own KoolAide and keep the guy around until his value drops again instead of dealing him for anything that could help the organization move forward.

For past examples of this phenomenon see: Kearns, Young, Belliard, Guzman, Pena, Hanrahan, Milledge

For future examples see: Morgan, Willingham, Dunn

Dave Sheinin: Great analysis, Reston... although I think you may be wrong on Morgan. I'm beginning to think he is a late bloomer who will be a productive big leaguer for a good, long while.

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Singerlands, N.Y.: Why are the Nats reluctant to hire Rizzo as the full time general manager?

Dave Sheinin: It may just be procedural. Before they can name him to the permanent position, they probably need to go through MLB's hiring procedure, which must include minority candidates. (I say "probably" because Bud Selig has waived the requirement in the past for internal hires.) To me, the power the Nats have given Rizzo to make significant player moves would seem to suggest they are at least strongly considering him for the permanent job.

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Sec 114, Row E: Shiner, did you see Mark Lerners comments to Bill Ladson on Nats.com?

He's delusional. He thinks he's accessible because he's at the games. "Members of my family, and other members of the ownership group, are at practically every game and certainly accessible to fans."

He also is obsessed with the money that his roster costs him. In the first paragraph, he mentions, "We spent money in the offseason to bring in Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, among others, and offered what would have been the second highest salary in baseball history."

Then he goes on to whine that the media aren't kissing his feet for having a foundation and giving money to some kids, "We recently hosted a huge D.C. high school baseball program at Nationals Park that allows all area D.C. public high school baseball teams to practice on our Major League field was all but ignored by our daily newspapers. That means they are ignoring our partnership with the city, and they are ignoring the kids we are introducing to the game."

Cry me a river - that guy was born standing on third, but he thinks that he hit the triple. What an unlikable little weasel.

washingtonpost.com: Q&A with Nationals owner Mark Lerner (Nationals.com, July 23)

Dave Sheinin: I did see the interview. I'll let your post stand without comment.

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Set For Life: Dave, while the articles make for some interesting reading, it is quite hard to feel any real sympathy for rich, young athletes that are 'retired' and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. Most everybody would love to have that problem. Throw me in that briar patch.

washingtonpost.com: Set For Life: When Wealth and Family May Not Be Enough (Washington Post)

Dave Sheinin: That's a common sentiment I hear from readers in e-mails, voice mails, etc. All I can tell you is that it's more complicated than it seems on the surface (as I hope the series has shown). For star athletes, their entire lives have been spent focused on defined goals, while their sense-of-self has been inflated by the way fans and the media view them as gods. When all that goes away, it's not easy to re-focus your life.

An interesting note: In reporting the series, I've had four different athletes tell me they refuse to attend games in the stands -- or very rarely do so -- because they can't handle the fact they're just lumped in with the masses, instead of being out there between the lines.

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Burke, Va.: The Yankees are red hot. The Red Sox are ice cold. How do you see the AL East finishing up? What do the Sox need to do to turn it around?

Dave Sheinin: There is a loooooong way to go in that race. What do the Red Sox need to do? For one thing, they need to keep throttling the Yankees in their remaining head-to-head matchups.

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Washington, D.C.: Why send Elijah Dukes to the minors and retain Austin Kearns? While not Willie Mays, Dukes still has potential to be something special. Objectively, his offensive and defensive numbers are better than Kearns right now!

The fact another team may pick up Kearns seems far fetched. Kearns has not had a suberb season since his rookie year seven or eight years ago! Similarly, why is Shairon Martis (5-3), the only Nats pitcher with a winning record, in the minors? Are the Nats acting "stupidly"? It seems so.

Dave Sheinin: The only reason Dukes got sent down instead of Kearns is because Dukes had minor league options. I think the Nats hoped Kearns would turn his season around and raise his trade value (from "none" to "marginal").

(By the way, nice use of "stupidly.")

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Washington, D.C.: Any buzz on whether the Lerners, with all the money coming off the payroll this summer (Kearns, Young) will open their wallets a bit? Or is there now enough evidence to say that we're dealing with owners who are going to operate this team on the cheap for a while?

Dave Sheinin: There is no doubt this will be a critical offseason for the Nats -- and for the Lerners, whose public image has taken a huge hit.

That said, the "Lerners are cheap" argument is incomplete. To be fair, they did offer Mark Teixeira something about $200 million, and they did give Ryan Zimmerman a $45 million deal, and they did outbid everyone else for Adam Dunn (albeit at a discount price).

By no means am I a Lerner apologist (I'm the one, after all, who asked Bud Selig if he cared to defend them, because they won't come out publicly and defend themselves), but let's be fair here.

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Fairfax, Va.: Dave,

There is a lot of discussion about whether this team is two years away or five years away from competing. The answer to this certainly plays a role in what we do at the deadline.(i.e if we are two years away, you keep the Dunn's and Willingham, five years - no reason to)

I like our core of young pitching along with Nyjer, Dunn, Willingham, and Zimmerman and hope we just need a few more key ingredients.

What are your thoughts?

Dave Sheinin: I don't see this team as being ready to win until 2012 at the earliest, and that's assuming a lot of things start to go right (beginning with Strasburg signing). To me, the Nats have only two position players who are future cornerstones -- Zimmerman and Flores. The jury is still out on Morgan. Dunn is signed for only one more year. Willingham is 30 and has a history of back trouble, but is still a good piece to have for the next two years.

As for pitching, Lannan and Zimmermann are clearly parts of the future rotation. Not sure about the rest.

Contrast that to the Orioles, for example. They have cornerstone players at catcher (Wieters), left field (Riemold), center field (Jones), right field (Markakis) and second base (Roberts) -- plus one of the best trios of pitching prospects in baseball (Tillman, Matusz and Arrieta).

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Washington, D.C.: I'm sorry, but Willingham's value to this team is what he brings back, not what he does for the next 1.5 years. It's time to make some real moves and actually "build the farm system," instead of just saying it. Same goes for Johnson and Dunn.

Dave Sheinin: I can understand this sentiment.

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Centreville, Va.: Dave -

There seem to be two Nationals camps: let 'em all go and start from scratch, or keep what we have and plug a few holes. With 21 blown saves, a bullpen that's pitched better of late and the inevitable free agent churn, I say the Nationals are closer, rather than further away. If they'd closed out those 21 save opportunities the team would be in the thick of it. Your thoughts?

Dave Sheinin: Well, they wouldn't be "in the thick of it" if the bullpen hadn't blown all those leads, but they wouldn't be as hopeless as they are today. Think about this season in terms of players emerging as future building blocks, instead of wins and losses, and you can see some positive developments. Off the top of my head, J. Zimmermann and Morgan both qualify as having emerged this year.

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Steroids and Retirement: It would seem the question of steroids and retirement could be related in that there are cases whereby players took steroids, increased their production and then signed "set for life" contracts. Whether or not it helped everyone financially, if players took steroids it may have also affected their health in retirement (see Webster from the Steelers in football). Seems like a pretty relevant topic to cover for a piece on post-retirement issues for players.

Dave Sheinin: This is true, of course. It just sounds to me like a totally separate story.

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Prince Frederick, Md.: Dave - Why the remarkable premium that teams appear to out on prospects? I mean, I understand wanting to build for and maintain a competitive and relatively cheap future, but the Phillies had (I guess they still have) a chance to win 3 World Series in a row had they pulled the trigger on Halladay. I don't care how good Drabek turns out to be, the chance to be a dynasty and have the greatest run in franchise history seems like a lot to pass up. Drabek might be a very good prospect, but he is still a prospect, and chances are good he will never be as good as Halladay is.

washingtonpost.com: Baseball Insider: For Phillies' Sake, K. Drabek Had Better Be Good (Washington Post, July 29)

Dave Sheinin: Good question. I think in recent years teams have begun valuing their prospects more dearly because the game is skewing younger (in the post-steroids, post-amphetamines era), and at the same time it has been proven that the key to success is building from within, while using free agents only to fill holes. Has it gone to the extreme? Perhaps.

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St. Louis, Mo.: What did you think of the Cards trading their future for Matt Holliday, Lugo and DeRosa?

Dave Sheinin: It looks to me like a go-for-it-all-now strategy designed, at least in part, to impress Albert Pujols -- whose contract status (signed through 2010, with a club option in 2011) is already an obsession in St. Louis.

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Reserving Judgement: ... on the Lerners until 11:59:59 PM on August 17, 2009.

Dave Sheinin: Fair enough. But let's say they offer Strasburg $15M (or 50 percent more than anyone in history has ever received), and he turns it down -- is it the Lerners' fault?

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Arlington, Va.: As one of the 5K or so that watch the Nats on MASN, I have grown to like and appreicate Rob Dibble as a color guy. He and Carpenter are a pretty entertaining team and have done a good job in what must be a tough broadcasting gig with the Nats as bad as they have been. Dibble is refreshing.

Dave Sheinin: I agree. I groaned when they hired Dibble, and I got tired very quickly of the "We..." thing. (In fact, he said "we" so frequently, I accused him in print of trying to speak French.) But that said, he is insightful, edgy (even though I hate that word) and -- yes -- refreshing. He's not like any other color guy in baseball that I've heard.

So despite my better judgment, I can't help but like him as an analyst.

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Ballenger Creek, Md.: Dave,

Was just able to get to chat ... Why isn't Willie Harris capable of being an everyday ballplayer, say like at second base. He seems to play quite well when he gets time. Why is he only considered as a utility guy?

Dave Sheinin: In the past, for whatever reason, Harris has been a bit exposed when teams have tried to use him as an everyday player. But when used smartly, primarily against right-handers, he is an extremely valuable player.

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Section 417: Dave,

Nolan Reimold has emerged from relative anonymity to have a pretty good half season for the Orioles. Nyjer Morgan has emerged from relative anonymity to have a pretty good half season for first the Pirates and now the the Nationals. What other factors are at play that make Reimold a cornerstone player for the O's but keep Morgan from being a cornerstone player for the Nats?

Dave Sheinin: I didn't say Morgan wasn't a cornerstone player. I said the jury is still out. By which I meant: I personally haven't seen enough of him to know yet.

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Manager Value: Dave, how many wins is a really good manager worth to a team over the course of a season, in your opinion? If the Nats let Riggleman go and get someone else in the off-season, what difference will that really make in terms of extra wins assuming the person they get is really better than J.R.?

Dave Sheinin: This is a question that has perplexed baseball thinkers for generations, and there is no consensus on it. But my hunch is that a manager's value is less than what most folks think it is.

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Sec 114, Row E: Nats acting "stupidly" - fans in this town still have a lot to learn. Dukes was sent down to work on his swing; he was in a slump. Furthermore, I think that the Nats wanted to test his attitude after a demotion. Kearns is not part of the long term plan, he's solid defensively and given that he costs the same coming off the bench, or sitting at home - sending down Dukes and keeping Kearns isn't stupid.

And sure - Martis has a 5-3 record. So. Who looks at Won/Loss record as a serious stat anymore? He'd walked more batters than he struck out. Martis' 1.424 WHIP isn't hideous but his 5.25 ERA and allowing 11 homers in only 85 innings indicates that he needs more work. He's only 22 years-old; he'll be back.

Dave Sheinin: Nice post, 114-E.

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Washington, D.C.: There's been a lot of talk about whether the Lerners will open their wallets after this season and sign a free agent. Which guys do you think they should consider? Think they'd take a shot at a Matt Holliday or Jason Bay? Josh Beckett? Anyone else they might consider? Seems like the free agent class is pretty slim in 2010 or than a few "Mark Teixeira" types who will draw huge contracts.

Dave Sheinin: You're right: the 2010 free agent class is very slim. Holliday is probably the best hitter, and John Lackey might be the best pitcher available. But the Nationals have enough holes to fill that they can still improve themselves via free agency if they choose to go that route.

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Damascus, Md.: Given the number of holes on the major league roster and in the minor leagues, would the Nats consider trading Ryan Zimmerman in the next year? I realize he's considered the face of the franchise, but it's the worst franchise in baseball. Wouldn't a nice three or four player return be better than a good, but not great third baseman?

Dave Sheinin: If the Nats were looking to deal Zimmerman, they wouldn't have locked him up in that long-term deal. I just don't see a trade happening there.

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Dibble Ditto: Dave,

I agree that Bob and Rob are a fun team to listen to. And that's the right word: fun. When things are going well, they celebrate with you, and when things aren't going well, their silliness and random musings on baseball help get you through it.

Dave Sheinin: I agree.

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McLean, Va.: The Nats have kept the negotiations with Strasburg and Boras under the table (if there actually have been any to date). How soon before the Aug 15th deadline do you expect both sides to start using the media/public angle in trying to influence negotiations? What percentage chance do you think there is that Strasburg will not sign with the Nats by the deadline?

Dave Sheinin: I don't think there will be any significant movement in the Strasburg negotiations until the week before the deadline.

In the beginning, I would have probably said there is an 80 percent chance they sign him. But now, I'd probably say 50 percent. What has changed? The Padres have bottomed out, putting them in position to draft Strasburg in 2010, which is one more reason for him to spurn the Nats.

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Washington, D.C.: I just traded George Sherill in a fantasy league. Will the O's make this a good move by trading him in the majors? Does Jim Johnson get the first shot at closing for the O's?

Dave Sheinin: I think Sherill will be traded. There are maybe a dozen teams in on him. And yeah, you'd have to give Jim Johnson the first shot at closing, at least until Chris Ray gets himself right again.

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Sec 114, Row E: If the Nats offer $15M and he and his agent reject it, it is absolutely the Nats' fault. 100 percent, absolutely, no doubt, the Nats fault. The Nats cannot keep running out there saying that there is a plan based on drafting and signing young talent, and then annually wasting the first rounder.

The No. 1 overall pick is an asset. If you don't sign Strasburg, you've wasted that asset. Furthermore, with an asset of that high of a value, the Nats have to do their due diligence to know what it would take to sign Strasburg. If you don't want to pay $30 million, or whatever the number is, then draft someone else.

They wasted their pick last year, then to save face, they needed to use that compensation pick (9B), on a guy who would sign. If they cannot ink Strasburg, they've lost a year's worth of draft picks.

Dave Sheinin: Touche.

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Dave Sheinin: OK folks. Gotta go. Enjoyed it, as always.

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