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Tuesday November 11, 2008 8:29 pm

Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to the Washington Nationals

Olsen, tall and left-handed

The Washington Nationals traded for left-hander Scott Olsen and outfielder Josh Willingham from the Florida Marlins for second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, first baseman Jake Smolinski, and righty P.J. Dean. While Bonifacio is a solid defensive second baseman with some on-base ability and tons of speed, and Smolinski may yet be a good hitter one day, this trade seems lopsided in the Nationals’ favor. Smolinski is only 19 years old and in his first 390 at-bats, has just five professional home runs. Bonifacio has no power. P.J. Dean has fifteen starts under his belt.

In the other corner, we have a solid major league left-handed pitcher with some upside still at 24 years old, and an everyday left fielder with middle-of-the-order power and a career .800+ OPS (not to mention his 62 homers in the past three years). Three young prospects with limited upside for two major league regulars controlled at under-market prices for at least the next couple of years - that seems like a slam dunk, even for an embattled GM like Jim Bowden.

Unfortunately, this deal really doesn’t make much sense for both sides in the end.

Read More | Washington Post

In the case of the Marlins, it’s clear cut that this was a bad deal. Yes, you’ve got two players nearing arbitration awards among a host of players waiting for their raises. But you’ve got a passable team, one that with a couple tweaks might be competitive soon. You’ve got a keystone combo that you can build on - Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez probably rank in the top three of such combos, and are young and under financial control. You’ve got nice young pitching. Your team might be moving into a new ballpark soon.

Do you really want to give away two parts of that building team, to save a couple million bucks?

On the other side of the trade - it seems that the Nationals are trying to make their way back towards respectability. They’re even rumored to be in on Mark Teixeira. Does this make any sense to anyone with eyes? That’s a terrible team. Aside from Ross Detwiler, who may or may not be a prized pitching prospect after his recent struggles in the minors, their minor league system boasts just a two-star pitching prospect otherwise (Josh Smoker, a 19-year old lefty with upside). This is a team with one solid infielder (Ryan Zimmerman), one solid up-and-coming outfielder (Elijah Dukes), no solid major league pitchers, and very little coming up in the system.

Why oh why should they be making trades and giving up young prospects for major-league regulars? They should have been shopping anyone and everyone instead, looking to horde prospects.

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