The Washington Nationals acquisition of Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez makes them a better team for sure. But, does their latest addition make them contenders for the Phillies National League East throne?
The Nationals went hog wild when they offered last year's Phillies free agent Jayson Werth a mega-deal. His acceptance allowed a solid outfielder to change NL East addresses, but didn't influence the balance of power at that time.
Clearly Werth made his decision for the guarantee of money now and money later. Any and all considerations about the Nationals potentially being a winner were purely of secondary importance.
The Thome trade
The emergence of Ryan Howard as a star allowed general manager Pat Gillick to trade Jim Thome to the Chicago White Sox after the 2005 season.
He initially received two players for the slugger. One was Aaron Rowand, whose gritty play was perfect for a rebooted Phillies team that was building toward championship caliber. The other player obtained was modest left-handed pitching prospect Daniel Haigwood who never panned out.
The White Sox also agreed to send a player to be named later to the Phillies as part of that deal. Slightly over two weeks after the November transaction had occurred, Chicago fulfilled their obligation by sending a promising lefty to Philadelphia. That pitcher was Gonzalez.
In December 2006, Gillick proved that even a future Hall of Famer was human when he included Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd in another trade with the White Sox. That move put Freddy Garcia in red pinstripes.
In retrospect that deal proves just how strong the Phillies system was and still is, because they went on to win the 2008 World Series and have remained a perennial playoff contender ever since that time.
What about the future?
Various teams experience building years. Just ask Oakland A's fans whose 'Moneyball' dreams are forever under construction.
The difference in organizational abilities is quite clear though, big-money teams are able to use sabermetrics to supplement their financial strengths.
That's where the Nationals are right now. They have built a nice base of young players and have been adding other key pieces through free agency and trades. In time their efforts should certainly result in a playoff berth. After that happens anything will become possible.
The Phillies current challenge involves the balancing of a massive payroll with the need to infuse their roster with young players who will battle teams like the Nationals in coming years.
In order for Philadelphia's divisional reign to continue, general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. needs to continue to review his eBook, CD, or DVD copy of Billy Beane's famous methods. As he does, the Phillies money machine will enable him to fill-in the green gaps that his Oakland A's counterpart can't.
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