Marlins Trade Willingham and Olsen to the Nats

November 10, 2008 at 10:38 pm 9 comments


The Florida Marlins sent LF Josh Willingham and left handed SP Scott Olsen to the Washington Nationals in exchange for infielder Emilio Bonifacio, pitcher Philip (P.J) Dean, and 2B Jake Smolinski. This had to be a money move because the Marlins didn’t get a ton in return.

The Nats get a guy in Willingham that can play an adeguate LF and can play some at 1B too. He has decent power, great plate discipline, and a nice compact stroke. He gets on base and will post an OPS above .800. This moves Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns (if he isn’t non-tendered) to the bench as extra outfielders.

Olsen will go directly into the rotation. He is a lefty with good stuff that sometimes doesn’t find its way into games. He is young (currently 24) so he has upside but his strikeout rates have worsened. This is a good gamble for the Nats.

The Nats gave up Emilio Bonifacio who profiles as a utility guy that plays plus defense but adds very little on offense. He has little power, no plate discipline, and some speed. The Nats got him straight up for Jon Rauch in July and flipped him in this deal. Not bad.

Jake Smolinski is a young player that moved from the OF to 2B this past season as a 19 year old. Here is the report on him from Keith Law:

Jake Smolinski has a good swing, geared for contact, but he lacks a clear everyday position. He can play left but lacks the power to be more than a fringy regular there, and he didn’t adapt well to second base this year. He also had major knee surgery this month, repairing tears to his MCL and ACL, and will be out into 2009.

Phillip Dean was a 19 year old in short season ball and posted good numbers as a starter. He was 4-1 in 10 games (all starts) with a 1.57 ERA, 34/16 K/BB rate, .169 BAA, and only 2 homres allowed in 46 innings. Here is the report on Dean from Law:

P.J. Dean is an aggressive strike-thrower with a solid-average fastball and a below-average curve that you could see improving to average, but he’s also an undersized right-hander without much velocity projection and is probably four years away from having big-league value. It’s not much of a prospect return for the Marlins.

I am not as down on Dean as Law is and I think size is very overrated/underrated. I think Dean has a good shot at becoming a decent reliever in the bigs if not a starter. Baseball America thinks he can be a mid-rotation starter. I’m in the middle of BA’s and Law’s prediciton of Dean.

The Marlins sent two first-time arbitration eligible players to the Nats so they save roughly $3M-$4M but they lose one of the few patient bats in the lineup in the process. It seems to me the package of Willigham and Olsen should’ve fetched a higher ransom than a major league ready utility man and two short-season prospects.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cody S  |  November 11, 2008 at 5:48 am

    I can’t believe what the marlin are doing here. I understand that they usually know what they are doing with trades but they got merely nothing in return.
    They first lose their solid firstbasemen already to the royals for a reliever that isn’t the greatest.
    Then, they trade their starting left fielder and a solid lefty. Olson does have a decent upside and Willingham is an average left fielder.
    Maybe they are making a spot open now for Cameron Maybin, a prospect that will be a stud.
    Furthermore, the prospects the Marlins recieve are pretty trashy.

  • 2. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  November 11, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I agree with you Cody. I think Maybin has to step in if they want any of the production back that they lost when they traded Willingham. I don’t think Jacobs was a big loss, though. He was one of the worst fielding 1B in the game and he can’t get on base. Sure he has power but that’s about it. I am still not sure what the Marlins are doing but like you said they usually have a plan. Who knows, maybe they are saving this cash and they are going after a big ticket FA?

  • 3. Erik  |  November 11, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    How to take a contending team and turn it into something else.

    For the record I do not have issue with the Jacobs deal. but that is neither here nor there.

    Step 1. Trade 2 starters in Olsen a #3 starter to a division rival for a potential 4,5 or middle reliever.

    Step 2. trade for Bonifacio, cause Bowden messed up trading Rauch for this guy so let’s make it seem like Bonifacio can actually play this game even if he hasn’t proven himself. For a guy with a bad back but is still infinitely better in Willingham.

    My opinion which means squat leads me to believe the Nationals make out on this deal for at least the next 5 years cause all the marlins got aside from salary relief won’t make an impact for the Marlins for at least 5 years from now.

    Bad move Marlins. (Did Bill Bavasi become their GM?)

    Only bright side to this deal is it allows an Outfield of Ross, Maybin and Hermida. Provided of course Hermida isn’t traded.

  • 4. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  November 11, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    I agree with you Erik. I have no issues on the Jacobs deal (below average MLB 1B and arb-eligible) either. The Marlins gain nothing for the next 5 years (like you said) and they may not get anything ever from this deal.

    I do like the potential OF of the Marlins too.

  • 5. Cody S  |  November 12, 2008 at 5:37 am

    Jon, Marlins don’t like to give out money at all. So the possibility of the Marlins making a move to a free agent is highly doubtful.
    And, no players want to go to play their because of their lack of fans and being the scum of the baseball world; not because of the team, but the area.
    One question, who is going to be their first basemen now?

  • 6. Erik  |  November 12, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Marlin’s 1b option is Jorge Cantu, Wes Helms

  • 7. supremesportsjustice  |  November 12, 2008 at 6:58 am

    I totally don’t understand what the Marlins are thinking, especially since they stated that they would be willing to INCREASE payroll for the 2009 season. And I am one of the few who thinks trading Jacobs was a bad bad move. Despite the low OBP, 30 homers is 30 homers. A team would have paid more for Jacobs than what Florida got in return.
    Nice job on the article Jonathan!

  • 8. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  November 12, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Cody – Gaby Sanchez is going to be given every opportunity to win the 1B gig. Sanchez hit .314/.404/.513 with 17 homers, 42 doubles, and 17 steals in AA. Like Erik said, I think Cantu is the best bet to move to 1B.

    Thanks Dan! I just can’t justify anyone playing full-time when they can’t crack a .300 OBP and they are in the bottom 5 fielders for their position. He badly needs a RH platoon partner and his salary is likely to increase to the $3M range. I don’t blame the Marlins for moving him at all.

  • 9. Erik  |  November 13, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Gaby Sanchez is the future for the 1b gig but since he is unproven I put Cantu as the proven 1b commodity.


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