Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nats320 Conversation With Craig Heist (Part Two)

Continuing where we left off yesterday in our mid-season wrap up here on Nats320, Craig Heist from WTOP Radio and I are discussing trade possibilities for Our Washington Nationals leading up to the July 31st Non-Waiver Trade Deadline. With that, here we go with the conclusion.

There are probably a handful of players that Rizzo can say he needs to keep on this roster. Does he need to blow it up? Does it need a complete overhaul? (SBF)

“I don’t know if they have to blow it up. But I would certainly think in my mind that if Jesus Flores is healthy—you have your catcher, your starting catcher. You have your starting 3rd Baseman (Zimmerman). You have your starting centerfielder (Nyjer Morgan). I certainly think Anderson Hernandez has shown me enough that he can play second base, plus you have Alberto Gonzalez. So defensively, up the middle, this team has the potential to be fairly decent. And the one thing about the pitching, even though it’s not been very good—especially from the bullpen—overall during the first half. The one thing I feel the guys do feel they can do (as pitchers) is put the ball in play now knowing Morgan can get to the balls in the gaps. Its only been a couple of weeks (since the trade), but we’ve seen him catch balls that no one else gets to or even comes close to getting to—other than Willie Harris.”

Do you see Harris, as popular as he is, and good all around utility player as he’s been—do you see him being moved soon? (SBF)

“To me, he is one of those guys with value. Any team in contention could all use a guy like Willie Harris, no question in my mind.”

How about Dunn or Willingham? Do you think they both have futures here? (SBF)

“I think Willingham could have a future here without question. I don’t think you would want Adam Dunn as your everyday leftfielder. Let’s face it. Adam Dunn is a DH and belongs in The American League. If I am an American League Team, and I am in contention and my DH situation is mediocre at best, I could go after a Adam Dunn—no question.”

Are you a person that believes Washington should trade some of these guys to get bullpen help—if available? Or should The Nationals wait until the off-season to maybe pick up some reliable arms in free agency? (SBF)

“I think they are going to wait until the off-season. That is the way I think it is going to shake down. I think they are going to wait until the off-season. Again, Bill Ladson and I talk quite a bit—as you know. My way of looking at this is you could get rid of Dunn and expect some pitching in return—which gives Willingham the chance to play everyday. To me it’s absolutely ludicrous—and Nick’s (Johnson) health is always a question—we know that. But you know what, this year he stayed healthy and you can’t argue with his On Base Percentage, can’t argue with his average, can’t argue with what he brings to the table in the two hole. And with an offense that has trouble scoring runs, has trouble hitting with runners in scoring position, letting him get away (via trade or free agency at the end of the year) is kind of ludicrous at this point.”

“Now, having said that, he is in his contract year. What are The Nationals doing in the off-season? Do they want to sign him? In my mind, it’s got to be like a year contract, with a one-year option. And strictly not because of anything he has done on the field, but just because of his history of health.”

I am actually happy to hear you say that. I think they should re-sign him—given an option year in case he stays healthy. I think he helps the team and he plays a position they are not strong at. (SBF)

“I am in total agreement with you there. And I know others that would just like to see the whole thing blown up and start over. You have some core pieces—maybe two or three. If you are not looking at Nick as one of your core pieces—you are certainly looking at Zimmerman, Flores and probably Nyjer Morgan as your core pieces (in the field).”

I want to compare The Nationals to The Orioles. In many respects for the last few years, they have been in the same boat, both rebuilding, both trying to become decent again. You see The Orioles all the time. They have a wonderful and talented young outfield (Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones & Nick Markakis). What have they done differently than The Nationals in restocking? Did they have any advantage? (SBF)

“They have a little bit more depth position wise (Baltimore). Although in their system itself, there is not much there. They did get Nolan Reimold to come up here and he is their everyday leftfielder and he certainly has done far and above what they thought he could do at this level. His numbers were good at AAA, if fact, pretty good. But now when you add him along with Adam Jones & Nick Markakis—that outfield is set for quite a few years to come. But the biggest thing in my mind in The Orioles and their rebuilding—you have to go back to the trades of Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada. The 10 Players they got in return, five each for those two players, last year half of them made contributions to The Big League Club. Some of it has been in the pitching department. But that’s been the biggest thing. They have continued to try to build off that.”

I don’t know the particulars of those two trades, but I know that Adam Jones, George Sherrill and Luke Scott all came over then to Baltimore. Are The Nationals in a similar position to trade big veterans for young talent? (SBF)

“They could be, but it’s going to take some maneuvering and things of that nature. I don’t think The Nationals have anybody to trade that is the caliber of player that Tejada is. Or the caliber of pitcher that everyone thought Bedard was when they traded him. Bedard was kind of in a situation where everyone knew he had broken Mike Mussina’s strikeout record with the club that year. And he wound up not pitching the last four or five weeks of the season because he got hurt. But I think everyone knew what the potential was there. And that’s why Seattle went out to make the trade. Yet, I have been on a couple of Seattle radio shows where people ask me flat out---what is the deal with this Bedard guy? ‘He can’t stay healthy. He's a bad guy (in the clubhouse).’ Yeah, I respond, but we like that Adam Jones Fellow!!” (laughing)

Nationals Fans probably don’t want to hear too much about it, but Adam Jones is going to be a great player!! (SBF)

“Absolutely. Here is a guy that is 23 Years Old and he is a member of The All-Star Team. And George Sherrill, the other main component in that Seattle Deal, was a set-up guy there. And then he comes over here to Baltimore where he was the closer and an All-Star last year. And this past weekend, he just got his 20th Save.”

And The Nationals top saves leader is five (Mike MacDougal/Joe Beimel). But that’s where trading good veteran talent can possibly get you better younger talent. (SBF)

“Yes, and it’s going to take something like that for The Nationals to jump start. But, it takes two to tango. Andy MacPhail (Orioles President/GM) has been doing this for a long time. He made The Twins winners. He wound up making The Cubs winners. He knows what he is doing. And for the first time in a long time in that city (Baltimore), there is actually some hope they could get things righted. And I am here saying that and at The All-Star Break while they are still eight games under .500.”

You just made a good point. Andy MacPhail has been the stabilizing force in that team. Do The Nationals not have that? (SBF)

“Well, I think that stabilizing force in The Nationals Front Office could be Rizzo. There is no question there. Let’s face it. The Nationals want to do whatever they can—and I think that’s a large part of what we saw with Milledge. That’s a large part of what we saw with Dukes. They want to change the culture. And they want to change the way things are done from the way Jim Bowden was doing. And I think it will probably take more tearing down to have that happen. But I think that is the direction they are going to go in.”

Rizzo needs to have the chance to prove his new thought process over the team is worth following. (SBF)

“Yeah. I think you are absolutely right. He has got to be given the chance. You had the situation with Bowden and how all of that unraveled for a lot of different reasons—certainly more that we will find out about later on—I am sure. But to have Rizzo come in here and do what he’s done to stabilize things—he deserves the shot to run this team. And that is just my personal opinion.”

You see all the different reporters and writers for all the teams, while I see things more locally. Are The Nationals really a laughingstock as some proclaim? (SBF)

“You can’t be as far behind as they are in a division that a lot of people felt was the best in baseball—but to this point has been mediocre--and now find themselves not even snipping close the 4th place team. In that regard, yeah they are, but I think that more people will be ready and willing to do some things with Mike Rizzo (in trades) because I think Mike Rizzo is respected throughout the game. A few good moves could change the entire outlook.”

He’s a potential big game changer for this team. (SBF)

“Yes, but they still have a long way to go.”

What do you expect to see from The Nationals in the second half? (SBF)

“I don’t know what I am going to see from them. But I would like to see from them, and I think this is very important, and I mentioned this on the radio and a couple of times on the postgame show on the weekends: I think the second half of this season is big for this club for a number of different reasons. You want to see the young pitching continue to develop. You want to see guys that are obviously fighting for jobs maybe next year too. But they owe it to themselves to look themselves in the mirror and say why are we not more competitive? They beat themselves way too often—it’s their biggest problem. They have got to stop beating themselves. Whether it’s a stupid error on the basepaths, or it’s an error in the field, throwing to the right base—all these things—they have got to stop beating themselves. They have done it way to much this year.”

“And I would say the reason the record is as bad as it is for a last place club—is because they lost too many games they have simply given away that the other team really hasn’t won—just rewarded. At the Major League level that will kill you. You can’t really do it anytime, especially against good clubs—but you can’t do it anytime. You can’t give teams extra outs. You can’t run yourself into outs—things of that nature. And I think they do that quite a bit.”

In all your years covering baseball, have you witnessed a half-season quite like The Nationals played in 2009? (SBF)

“I have seen. I have covered. I was there. My first year covering The Orioles was the 0-21 Season Start (1988). Granted, I only covered the home games at that point. But that team lost 107 games. I think this team is liable to lose more than that. Last year, I thought 100 losses was going to be out of the realm—because you have to try really hard to lose 100 games in Major League Baseball. You really do. You have to do a lot of things wrong. But right now—at 61 losses—with half the year over with –it’s certainly going to happen again in my mind.”

“Now, are they going to lose 120 like the ’62 Mets? I don’t think so.”

Despite all the losses and with the fact you believe a lot of the players need to man up. Do you think there are people still in that clubhouse that can move things forward and in a different direction? (SBF)

“I think so. Adam Dunn is a pretty good dude. I like Adam. And Ryan Zimmerman, they talk about him being “The Face Of The Franchise”—he’s never been a really vocal guy but, trust me, in talking to Ryan—he hates this as much as anybody. And Willie Harris is the same way. Here is a guy that won a World Series Ring in Chicago (White Sox ’05). You think this hasn’t been killing him? Absolutely, especially with how hard he plays this game.”

With that final answer, Nats320's Conversation With Craig Heist concluded. Many thanks to Craig for taking away from his always busy schedule to chat about all things baseball involving Our Washington Nationals. Sohna and I were very pleased that upon first being approached for these posts--Heist willingly agreed. From time to time in the future, Craig Heist might be back here on Nats320 to provide even more insight. He enjoyed the opportunity and Craig Heist said he would like to do more in the future.

That's fine with us.


SenatorNat said...

This is actually one of your best interviews, out of many, over the years SBF: I recommend that you touch base with him periodically. And your questions were excellent.

Acta apparently has left virtually no impression on this team - he is Steve Spurrier without the fun or the golf. I suggest that should baseball not pan out that he investigate running a chain of distinguished funeral homes, as he has the perfect deportment.

Zimmerman is a solid guy, but is not the Nationals version of Cal Jr. He does not bleed Nationals red - yet I am pleased that he put a small knife in Manny's back over the course of the All-Star Game. Z-man is like his peer David Wright. Nats need a Beltran to go with their David Wright, in actuality. Morgan is spicy, but not a full-stocked stew like Beltran. Had they pursued Torii Hunter two years ago, this team would be radically different and playing competitive ball. Add Orlando Hudson, and one excellent reliever, and it would be in the mix.

Concur with Craig that Rizzo disinclined to put Dukes back into the Nats mix, but I think Riggles may prevail on him that Dukes adds and he can manage him appropriately. Should Johnson go to Giants, for example, in trade, then Dukes has to come up, since Willingham must move to first base. As Craig says, Dunn to first would be disasterous!

Interesting that Stan may have his eyes affixed on another permanent GM - will depend on whether they need a fall guy for not signing Strasburg and further disasters for the rest of 2009.

Trust in the Nats to stay classless. And thirsty, my friends. All going to be better. And, All-Star Game in Dos Equis.

John R. said...

I'm less concerned about Nick Johnson and injuries than I am about his fielding this year. The 2006 broken femur was an injury caused by all out hustle. It took a long time to recover from that, but he seems to be hitting as well as ever. And he's been injury-free for more than a year now. It's not like he has a chronic condition that pops up every few months.

So, I say we build with Nick at First Base and not trade him away for prospects.

SenatorNat said...

John R. makes very cogent point all: BUT, Johnson earning $5.5 million in his K year, and if he stays out of freak injury, the market will bear $8 million for him, more than Nats care to pay for him, I believe. This is my overarching point in my commentary: the invisible hand in player moves and even managerial and coaching is whether it actually saves money to make a move "to improve the team in the longterm as part of a re-set PLAN." Johnson brings something in trade which no one besides Zimmerman and Lannan would, albeit less than premium since the Giants, Mets & Red Sox know what I know - that Nats are anxious to unload him now.

"That's just it Nick - you are a steer." The Sun Also Rises

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Is it Rizzo's job to sign Stephen Strasburg or Stan Kasten's?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Eddie: It's a combination of the two.