Nyjer Morgan: How Valuable Is Defense? (Part Two)

Sixty Feet, Six Inches Correspondent IAugust 21, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 08:  Nyjer Morgan #3 of the Pittsburgh Pirates leads off second base against the New York Mets on May 8, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 7-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In my post last Wednesday, I took a look at Nyjer Morgan and how valuable he has been to the Washington Nationals since coming over in a trade.

In this post, I'll take a different path: Was the trade a smart one for the Nationals?

Well, that's a different story.

It all breaks down, simply, to looking at the position the Nationals are in right now.

Nyjer Morgan has been very good this year. However, he is also 29 years old and in the prime of his career. Next year he will be 30, and then it's a safe bet that it's all downhill from there for him.

Now, while it's true that some players have continued success after 30—PEDs not withstanding—those players typically don't have the same skill-set that Morgan does. Almost every tool Morgan has branches from speed, which is the first skill a player has to go.

Of course, that alone doesn't make this a bad trade for the Nationals. If the Nats were in a place where Nyjer Morgan would have put them over the top and vaulted them to contention, then a good case could be made that they'd be foolish NOT to trade for him. But, as we all know, the Nationals are the proud owners of the worst record in Major League Baseball right now.

However, the Nationals will control Morgan's contract for a few more years. He hasn't even approached his first year of arbitration yet. Could it be that the Nats are planning to be in contention next year?

Again, I doubt it. The Nats may have drafted Stephen Strasburg, but they're still a long way away from having one of the Majors' best farm systems. There's a good core of young guys like Ryan and Jordan Zimmerman in the Majors, and there's more talent coming, but they're not exactly a Nyjer Morgan away from contending in the next year or two.

A counter-argument I've heard from Nats fans is that Morgan's defense is invaluable to a young Washington pitching staff. The argument is that Washington's rotation is full of very young pitchers, and having the good defense of Nyjer Morgan behind them gives them confidence and aids their development.

While that may be true, I'm still not convinced Washington couldn't have gotten a good-glove center fielder for a much cheaper price than what they paid to get Morgan from Pittsburgh.

This is, in the short-term, a good trade for Washington. The problem is that this club is not built to win in the short-term. At this moment in time, Washington should be holding on to every young player they have that has even a sliver of a chance at becoming something great. Lastings Milledge certainly fits into that category.

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