MLB: APR 13 Phillies at Nationals

Peter Gammons went on Mike and Mike’s ESPN Radio show this morning. Thanks to Hacks with Haggs, there is a transcript of the proceedings. An interesting tidbit:

Washington with their 2-16 bullpen are trying to move Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns and some of their semi-attractive veteran players to get relief pitchers. I know they offered Nick Johnson to Boston for Manny Delcarmen. That hasn’t happened and may not until the Red Sox make a decision on David Ortiz.

This is a deal the Red Sox would instantly do if Big Papi was at his current level of production on July 31.
It’s May 22, however.
It still begs the question: should the Red Sox do the trade? If so, when?
First, let’s get the local kid out of the way.
The Hyde Park native has really come through this season, checking in with a 0.95 ERA in 18 games. He’s struck out 15 and walked eight in 15 innings, giving up 17 hits.
Those numbers can’t support a 0.95 ERA, and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) agrees, saying Delcarmen’s ERA should actually be 3.34. It matches up nicely with last year’s 3.32 FIP (3.27 actual ERA).
Delcarmen’s career 3.25 ERA in 199.2 innings is nice to look at. As most Sox fans know, though, the 28-year old has struggled at time with fastball command and high-pressure situations. That seems to be turning around… or is it?
Delcarmen’s K/9 and BB/9 are not as good as they were last year. Heck, his BAA (Batting Average Against — different from BABIP) is higher, too. The one thing that’s saved him so far this year is his zero home runs on the year. Clearly, that won’t last.
The Red Sox have an embarrassment of riches on the pitching side of the equation, and to give up a reliever — perhaps the most fungible and volatile position in all of baseball — for someone who could help anchor the middle of the lineup… well… it’s a deal you should make.
The Nationals would love to make this deal. Their bullpen ERA on the year is 6.52, dead last in the big leagues by quite a wide margin. (Angels, 5.82.)
I follow baseball as a whole, and I can tell you that they’re tearing their hair out over in Washington. They’ve made countless pitching moves and played musical chairs with the closer’s position all in an attempt to get some measure of stability in the position over in Washington.
Delcarmen is what, the sixth man out of the bullpen? In Washington, he would be numero uno — the closer.
That’s why the Nationals would do the deal — they need bullpen help and they need it fast. Trading Nick Johnson makes sense for them because they have a glut of left-field/first-base types (Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn, Dmitri Young off the top of my head) and Johnson is a free agent after the year.
Makes sense, right?
The Red Sox could use Johnson, that’s for sure. The lefty, 30, is a former Yankee (who would join Mike Lowell and Ramon Ramirez in that category should he end up in Boston) who was traded to the then-Montreal Expos in the offseason of 2003 along with Randy Choate and Juan Rivera (now on the Angels) for Javier Vazquez.
Johnson has acquired a reputation — deservedly so — for being incredibly injury prone. Check out his games played each year in Expos/Nationals (or should I say Natinals?) threads respectively: 73, 131, 147, (missed year), 38. He’s in 40 games so far this year, so… progress?
So far this year, he’s hitting .338/.435/.473 with four home runs and 25 RBI. To push that over an entire season, that would be 16 home runs and 101 RBI. Perhaps not your power-hitter, but that average and OBP is mighty nice.
One way we could mitigate Johnson’s propensity for injuries is to –surprise!– put him at designated hitter.
Only problem is, we have a hulking beast who’s seen better days in that position. Yes, we’re talking David Ortiz — the one who may or may have not turned a corner the other day by finally hammering his first home run of the year.
I can understand why the Red Sox didn’t pull the trigger. To me, there are two major reasons why:

1. It’s too early to give up.
Look, Ortiz has meant a lot to the ballclub over these past several years. Are you telling me that through May 15 is enough time to throw in the towel on the season? Ortiz started slow last year as well but fashioned himself just fine as a No. 3 hitter the rest of the way.
If the Red Sox were to throw in the towel that quickly on Ortiz (putting aside for the moment statistics), they would send a tough message to players on their team and around the nation: perform now, or else.
After all, Mike Lowell suffered through an awful 2005 and has been one of the best third basemen in the game the last four years for us. Words can’t describe the play Lowell has done for us. Sure, some people think he’s overrated, but if you look strictly at the numbers, the dude has been valuable no way you slice it.
How about Dustin Pedroia? The pudgy, McDonald’s loving kid looked like he was going to wash out after a brutal September campaign in 2006. He trimmed some weight and showed up ready to take over the second base job in 2007 and his April was eye-gougingly bad. We all know what happened from there.
Heck, Carl Yastrzemski went almost an entire year without a home run.
It’s too late in the season to say it’s early, but… it’s not time to give up on Ortiz. If we’re at the end of June, then you can start saying that alternatives need to be considered. But now? No.
Reason two: Our pitching isn’t deep… yet. Might seem like an odd remark, but it’s true. Fortunately, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett are turning it around. Justin Masterson is returning to the bullpen to solidify it, but despite Brad Penny’s numerous quality starts, his ERA stands at an unsightly 6.07 with a less than encouraging 5.00 FIP.
The rotation, for all its talent, has not performed up to snuff. But it’s coming. Dice-K will try to turn his season around when he takes the mound tonight. John Smoltz tossed three innings of shutout ball for the Greenville Drive last night. As we all know, Daniel Bard has hit the big leagues and Clay Buchholz is screaming “what else do I have to do!?” in his sleep every night. (Bowden sleeps peacefully because he’s 22 and has plenty of time.)
Once a roster crunch ensues, then you’ll see Delcarmen — or another reliever, perhaps — shipped out if, and only if, they need the person who would come into town. If David Ortiz can’t hit, I would do the Johnson/Delcarmen trade in a nanosecond and plug Johnson third in the order (to me, he’s a better option than J.D. Drew at the three-spot).
I say give it until Smoltz returns. If Ortiz’s one home run has proven a fluke, do the trade.
What do you think? Should the Red Sox do the trade? If so, when?