It's been awhile since I said anything nice about Jim Bowden. I hated the Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard extensions. I was not a fan of the Lastings Milledge trade. I absolutely hated the Jon Rauch trade. And did anyone mention the Aaron Crow debacle? Doesn't look too good for Bowden.
But I think he did good today. If you haven't heard, the Nationals acquired SP Scott Olsen and OF Josh Willingham for 2b Emiliano Bonfacio, OF Jake Smolinski, and PJ Dean. On talent alone, the Nationals scored a big victory here. Olsen and Willingham add some much needed talent to the floundering Nationals, who have a noticeable absence of impact players. But Olsen and Willingham are impact players. Olsen, 24, is a potential stud lefty, who is coming off the best season of his career in 2008. Olsen delivered a 4.20 ERA in just over 200 IP this season and looked fantastic in September against my Mets. Needless to say, I'm disappointed he's not out of the division. While Olsen may never develop to be more than a #4 starter, he's much better than most of the pitchers the Nationals were throwing out there last season. And hey, he's a young starter! There aren't too many of those who come cheap!
(Note: I cannot believe that the Nationals gave up on Bonifacio so quickly. Wasn't this the guy that they traded Rauch for straight up? What gives? The trade today really makes me scratch my head even more at the Rauch deal and makes me wonder what Jim Bowden was smoking during when he consummated that deal. Bravo!)
As for Willingham, no one will ever confuse him for a gold glove defender, but the guy shure can hit and get on base. Injuries limited Willingham this season, but Willingham should produce a .270 batting average with 20 homers, 85 RBI, and a .350-.360 OBP. Those numbers, while unspectacular, are an upgrade for the Nationals who have had to suffer through Wily Mo Pena, Austin Kearns, and Willie Harris for too long. All of a sudden, an outfield of Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, and Willingham doesn't look too bad. If nothing else, Willingham gives the Nationals some protection for Ryan Zimmerman and a power threat that they lacked in 2008.
Neither guy is bound for stardom, but this trade works well for the Nationals. Yes, they will be adding some salary, especially after arbitration, but the benefits significantly outweigh the costs in this situation. So kudos to you Mr. Bowden, lets hope for your sake the Nationals play better in 2009.
More on the Marlins tomorrow.