Monday, November 22, 2004

Biddle, Guzman, and Castilla

Because the franchise has already made a few decisions, I'm going to have to play a little catch up to be current.

The first move by the new team was to hire Jim Bowden as its GM. The former wonderboy GM who had a rather poor record with the Reds was known for being an aggressive dealmaker. I'm not a fan of the hiring and so far his decisions have made me even more suspect of his decision.

Bowden's first move was to release Rocky Biddle. No one can really quibble with this decision. Biddle was a waste of roster space and pretty much defined "below replacement level player." And, as a side note, he plagued a friend of mine in our fantasy baseball league so much that all horrible players in the league became compared to Biddle. So, on a personal note, I was especially happy to see him gone.

Fresh off the inspired move to rid the Nationals of Biddle, Bowden made a couple free agent signings. We begin with the signing of Vinny Castilla. I'm not sure what impressed Bowden more about Castilla. Was it his .218/.281/.493 line on the road? Was it the fact that he will be turning 38 years old next season? Perhaps Bowden has not heard of the crazy little place baseball fans call Coors Field. Signing a 37 year old 3B, who can't possibly be expected to get better, to a two year, $6.2 million deal is just stupid. Of course, Castilla did lead the NL in RBI's with 131. This signing just proves Bowden has no grasp of modern baseball metrics and is wedded to concepts like "veteran leadership" and "clutch hitting."

Another interesting point about the Castilla signing is that he is replacing a very similar player in Tony Batista. Batista had a .241/.272/.455 season for the Expos. The offense left a lot to be desired, but was not far removed from Castilla's road numbers from last year. More importantly, Batista is about to turn 31 years old and would have cost a lot less money. And it wasn't like the Expos didn't have cheap, in-house alternatives to turn to outside of Batista. But, I'm sure Bowden didn't want to explore using no-names like Jamey Carroll and Brendan Harris when he could make a big splash by signing a known, but below average, commodity.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Bowden, he decided to commit a 4 year, $16.8 million deal to Christian Guzman. At least he is young. Of course, being young counts for very little when you have proven to be a below average SS over an extended period of time. Guzman's 2004 line of .274/.309/.384 is remarkably consistent with his career line of .266/.303/.382. The fact that he will be entering his prime means very little when his prime is likely to be worth far less than the deal Bowden offered him.

Again, the Expos had other in-house options with Maicer Izturis available. While he does not look like he will ever hit that well (maybe not even at Guzman's level), he is at least a competent defender and would have cost substantially less.

Even worse (if that were possible), the deals cost the Nationals two draft picks (in the 2nd and 3rd rounds) because Bowden didn't wait until December 7th (when Guzman and Castilla would have been non-tendered) to sign the players.

These deals are just horrible and it makes me pray that the new owners will fire Bowden at the first opportunity.


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