Who’d we get from the A’s?

A quick take on the two prospects acquired in the Josh Willingham trade

Most of you already know that Josh Willingham has been traded to the A’s for two prospects. After an eternity in Internet time (a couple of hours), the news is out on who they are. The Nats will receive RHP Henry Rodriguez and OF Corey Brown from Oakland.

Rodriguez fits a rather familiar description — short and stout (6′ and 220lbs), fastball approaching 100mph, hard slider with some tilt, and control problems. The 24-year-old-in-February posted a 4.55ERA in 29 games for Oakland after saving 11 games with AAA Sacramento and struck out more than a batter per inning at both levels. He is, however, one year removed from a 5.77ERA/1.740WHIP at AAA and two years removed from 7.46/2.317 campaign at AA. As you might imagine, scouts are intrigued with his power and believe he’ll be a force if he can learn to stop overthrowing and tame the wildness. Baseball America named him the #17 Prospect out of the Pacific League for 2010.

Brown split time between AA and AAA in 2010, posting a .320/.415/.502 line at the former but just .193/.253/.378 at the latter. Sickels described him in ’09 as a cross between Jeromy Burnitz and Kirk Gibson… on a good day, but when he’s bad, he’s horrible. He’s struggled with strikeouts (443 in 390G) but draws a fair amount of walks (185) and has good speed and a strong throwing arm. He just turned 25 in late November.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of NationalsProspects.com. Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

38 thoughts on “Who’d we get from the A’s?”

  1. Best analysis I’ve seen. Good executive summary.

    One thing though you might mention that Brown hit 15 homers and 11 triples between AA and AAA and since he is left handed, has athleticism and speed he represents an interesting potential left handed power hitting upgrade over Morgan in center. Not sure he would end up in center in the majors. But if he were to prove himself in AAA and Morgan and his very weak arm continued to slide?

  2. I really hope that this move is a transitional move to something else, like maybe making Storen a key piece of an upgrade in pitching. There’s a reasonable chance that Willingham would have been Type A. According to A’s guys, Rodriguez is out of options, and we’re supposed to be high on a bullpen who’s only significant loss is Joel Peralta who we could have kept if he thought he was any good. Brown’s got to be on his way to Syracuse, and you hope our people have scouted him well. The last toolsy CF who was supposed to be the answer is hanging on by a thread to our 25-man roster and is old too. Basically, we’re selling Willingham lower than if we had sold him in the first half of last year and potentially lower than we’d sell him in the first quarter of this year. Our offense looks weak and guys barely outside of the A’s top 10 don’t make my heart go pitter pat.

    1. Will all due respect, there is virtually no chance, based on Willingham’s track record, that he would have been a “Type A” free agent. Dunn barely made the cut and LaRoche, who had a significantly better year than Willingham, was a type B free agent.

      I agree though that the return for Willingham seems less than exciting.

      When you write about “making Storen a key piece of an upgrade in pitching,” are you talking about turning him into a starter or trading him? I don’t know about the former but I’m definitely against the latter. This farm system is still pretty shallow and trading away the likes of Storen and Norris strikes me as preposterous.

  3. It certainly looks like Rizzo is creating a derby among the OFs and the bullpen for Spring Training. I agree with Dave Nichols at the Nats News Network that Rizzo is making way for “his” kind of OF (i.e. Roger Bernadina). While a lot of folks are unhappy with moving a good guy, and others view this a cost-saving move, I look at it as we just traded a 32-y.o. coming off surgery following a near-career year but has never played 150G in a season.

  4. I view Brown, unlike others, as the key component of this trade. He has good speed, and a good OBP.

    Rizzo’s comments are that he historically has struggled, then progressed strongly at each level during his career. This would explain his “bad” AAA performance this year. But based on prior numbers, and his AFL results, I think it is safe to view him at least performing at AA as safe start, or going to AAA depending on his spring with a hope for a late season call up.

    But again, look at the OBP, even including his K rate. With decent speed and that OBP he’s clearly additional incentive, and the best thing we have to a back up plan above AA, in case Nyjor predictably can’t hang for 2011.

    Color me pleased.

  5. Like the potential of the trade. Good analysis Sue. Willingham, to me, is not a high impact player for two main reasons. First, he is a major health risk. Second, he goes into prolonged slumps the second half of the season, if he makes it that far. Oh, and he’s not getting any younger, or healthier. I’ve said it before Sue. This is my favorite site, mainly because it is the most intelligent and the most civilized in terms of those who participate. Okay, in my case, I’ll plead the civilized factor.

  6. BTW, I think its important to put that asterisk by Corey Brown indicating that he is a left hander drafted in the same round and after still mired in AA but younger Michael Burgess.

  7. Keith Law summarized the trade as Washington getting a minimum-salary reliever plus a fringe prospect, and called it “a reasonable return for just one year of Willingham’s services.”

    Might be worth recalling that the Nats got Willingham and Olsen for what turned out to be a bench player (Bonifacio) a failed prospect (P.J. Dean, who appears to have never pitched again professionally) and another that’s only cracked High-A (Jake Smolinski). I look at that and say “Even if Willingham’s injury had been a career-ender, the Nats got the better end of that trade.”

    @peric – I was going to do a strikethrough joke with Brown, comparing him to Burgess. Now I wish I had!

    1. Only Burgess is younger. I’m not expecting much from Brown. Rodriguez has to turn into a late inning guy by 2012 or this move has to empower Rizzo to move one of the more valuable current late inning guys as part of a package for another need for me to like this move.

  8. Lessee – Rizzo trades Willingham (good OBP guy coming off knee surgery at 31, and in his last Arb year at $4.6M+) to OAK for a 23 y.o. hard-throwing RHRP (Rodriguez) who may or may not have an option remaining, and a 25 y.o. LHCF (Brown) with some speed, minimal knowledge of the strike zone & two or three options remaining.

    Rizzo looks to have been ‘short-sheeted’ on this trade by Beane, imo. He swapped a proven hitter in WSH for a couple of B- / C “prospects”, imo. It helps the 2011 lineups in SYR & maybe HAR, but pulls Bernadina & Morse off the bench into a platoon situation in LF. Maybe Knoor can get Rodriguez ‘sorted out’ in SYR & turn him into a valuable bullpen arm. Brown initially strikes me as an older version of Hood, and will probably top out as a fair 4-A level player.

  9. BinM — Rodriguez is out of options and with ability to throw 100, he’s not going to clear waivers, so he’s either on the roster Opening Day or traded or waived and lost.

    Overall, it’s too early to judge the trade or the prospects received. Let’s see how it plays out in 2-3 years.

  10. If Rodriguez is out of options, then this is a bad trade.
    The Nats only had three really good hitters last year and now they have two. Plus, Werth is no upgrade over Dunn offensively.
    Yet another reason to focus 2011 on the farm, that’s where all the positive stories are going to be next year.

  11. Interesting how many Nat bloggers say that Rizzo overvalues his trading pieces. Especially since the same fans seem to do the same. Rizzo took the best deal he was offered for Willingham. I believe that. Other teams were wary of a thirty-one year old player who had/has a history of health problems.

    1. The thing for me about it is that there wasn’t much that mandates that he does this deal today. Willingham could get off to a good start and get a better return. Willingham is also Type A. And Rodriguez is out of options if he starts walking people. Corey Brown is an upgrade for the Chiefs but a longshot for the Nats to me.

  12. I like HRod, he seems to have turned the corner control wise. His BB/9 in ’08 was 6.51, in ’09 it was 7.1!! Last year he got it down to 4.1 and carried that through in the Dominican Winter League (3.9).

    But again, this helps the ball club only if other changes result – sign a rent-a-mentor closer to tutor HRod (maybe Trevor Hoffman?). Send Storen back to minors to be a starter. When Storen was drafted at 10, commentators said its an overdraft, unless Storen is tried at starter. And he seems to have the repertoire for it.

      1. Yeah, I know, it was more wishful thinking that instead of having an 8 deep bullpen after trading the Hammer, the trade would free up Storen to develop him as a #3 (maybe #2) starter instead.

        Shades of CJ Wilson.

  13. Sue,

    I like this trade and believe that shoring up the bullpen now will leave us able to deal from an area of strength. Contenders always need bullpen help, especially Tampa… so maybe this will work out for us. I think that Brown was brought in as insurance for Nyjer just in case he continues to produce at below replacement levels. It is hard to imagine anyone with the tools Brown has performing below replacement level. (J. Max is a notable exception of a guy who does have tools and performs poorly in the bigs)

    If you had to rank (just basic back of the envelope type of stuff) these guys in our system, where would they land?

    1. Rodriguez would have to now be the #3 arm (behind Ray and Solis), ahead of Carr and Kimball if for no other reason than he’s stuck at the MLB level. Brown is probably somewhere around #10-12. Until he shows something more at the AAA level, I can’t see bumping down guys 3-4 years younger.

      Since it’s been referenced a couple of times, I still haven’t changed my opinion that JMax would (have) be(en) best suited in an organization that has young OF prospects and has no illusions of contending in the near future. The parentheticals indicate my fear that his window may have passed, a la Van Every.

      Imagine, though, what would have been in ’10 if he’d been told by a team like that: “RF is yours for 500AB – this is is your shot to stick once and for all. Next year, we can’t take that chance but we’re not going to push Johnny Prospect past A+ or Jimmy Tools in AA this year and we’d rather not platoon you and Steve Fouray”

      1. He was pretty much toast when we traded for Nyjer Morgan in hindsight. Wish we’d sold high(er) on the guy then. I’m with Dave at Nats News Network who says that even last year, JMax would have contributed the team if he’d been considered as a platoon option with Morgan in center last year. Is he playing Winter Ball? Seems like he should be doing something of significance over the offseason to try to hang on to the 25-man roster.

      2. Sue: If I’m reading you correctly, you’re right in your implied observation that Maxwell has been ‘jerked around’ by the Nationals org. It’s my personal opinion that between the injuries, ‘re-starts & re-directs’ he’s suffered through in WSH that he’d be better served in another organization.

        The problem is, he’s not getting any younger, and is coming back from yet another injury (rotator cuff surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, IIRC). If he wasn’t a local product (U-MD), he’d probably have been waived / traded a year or two ago. It might finally be time to cut bait with J-Max.

          1. Thanks for the analysis Sue, et al.

            I am split on Mr. Maxwell myself. He has performed so badly when he has gotten opportunities in the bigs that there seems to be very little rationale (IMO) for keeping him up. Moreover, when he goes back down to the minors he doesn’t tear it up in a way that screams to me (based on his stat line, that is) that ‘I belong in the bigs, NOW!’ Combine a 40% mlb strikeout rate with decent but not overwhelming minor league performance, and you have a AAAA player. Granted, he looks great on the field – slick and natural – but I just don’t see much to justify why he should have gotten more ABs. I wish he did better and wanted him to succeed, but I personally understand why he wasn’t played more.

  14. Two more minor league contracts folks: Matt Antonelli former Padres farmhand for your Syracuse Chiefs will be more organizational depth up the middle (although maybe he miraculous bounces back from injuries the last two years) and Chad Guadin will be trying to follow in the footsteps of Atahualpa Severino and Doug Slaten as minor league invites who’ve cemented roster slots.

    1. So do I have a volunteer for a draft coverage story? I’ll admit that I’m not strong in that department and would love to have someone that follows the college game (would that a pinger?) do a writeup.

    1. Do you really see us taking a high school arm with our first pick, though? I think Rizzo might take the best college arm on the board. We’ve got two upside high school arms in the system. I think Rizzo likes overslot high schoolers and high schoolers starting in maybe the fourth round. I could see the supplemental round pick being a high schooler, but not our first overall. But I am real, real green when it comes to draft stuff.

      Matt Antonelli signed by Nats. Seems like a middle infielder for Syracuse to me. Move Bynum to third and Antonelli to second?

      1. No, I really doubt we draft a HS guy with our first pick. I commented on MLBbonusbaby saying that much. I think Rizzo gets more of a polished guy like Jackie Bradley or one of the college arms with the sixth pick. Then I think he’ll draft a high upside high school guy with one or both of our other two first round picks. We have the 6th, 23rd and 34th pick in this years draft at this point. We lost our 2nd round pick by signing Werth and we’ll loose our 3rd round pick if we sign any more type A FA. Since we don’t have a second and maybe not a 3rd round pick that gives us more money to spend on the 1st round guys.

      2. Souldrummer: Has Bynum re-upped with the Nationals? I currently project Antonelli as a probable 2B in Harrisburg, given that Lombardozzi will most likely start the year in Syracuse, with Bynum at 3B (if he re-signs). Wilberto Ortiz is making a little noise in winter ball, and could make the jump to Harrisburg, alongside Adam (ugh) Fox, who is already under contract.

        Any thoughts?

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