Nats Sign All-Star Old Dude

Pudge signs for two years, $6 million

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Walter Johnson was pretty good once, too. What's his contract status?

    The Nationals have signed former All-Star and current senior citizen Pudge Rodriguez to a two-year, $6 million contract.  Blech.

    When the Nats send out the press release or have their press conference, you're going to hear all sorts of warm, fuzzy things about the leadership he provides, his worth to the team's young (but mediocre) pitchers and all sorts of sops to the intangible he brings.  Phil Wood takes the first stab, pointing out that after having signed Pudge, bad teams have gotten better, why, sometimes within years of his signing.  Yay!

    But here's the thing: he stinks on toast.  For his last three seasons, he has a combined .297 on-base percentage.  To put that in other terms, when he comes to the plate, there's a 70.3 percent chance he's going to make an out.  (And with his tendency to ground into double plays -- he's eighth all time -- that percentage should probably be higher.)

    He has almost no bat any more, and although he deserves the title "future Hall of Famer," it doesn't mean he's good today.  The Nats didn't sign Pudge circa 1997; they signed a 38-year-old Pudge with nearly 2,400 games on his legs.

    If you're expecting anything with the bat, don't.  He might be a slight upgrade over what they got with Josh Bard last season, but if you're expecting .300 with 20 homers and 15 steals, as you would've in his prime, you're going to be disappointed.

    So why'd the team do it? 

    There's probably the mentor factor.  They hope he can be a good influence on both Jesus Flores and the pitchers -- although Pudge never had a particularly great reputation as someone working with pitchers.

    The team also has to deal with the reality that Flores is almost never healthy.  Rather than being stuck with unbelievably bad backups like Wil Nieves being thrust into full-time work, Pudge can at least stand around and do a reasonable facsimile of a bad starting catcher.

    But two years?  For someone who had to beg around for a one-year deal last year?  For a catcher who's almost at the end and has been ridden hard?

    And $6 million?  That's a lot of money, even for a washed-up starting catcher.  The guy made just $1.5 million last year, and wasn't any good, yet, he gets a raise?

    On a normal team, the $3 million per wouldn't matter, but with the way these guys pinch pennies, that's money that would better go toward pitching.  That's $3 million less to improve the team elsewhere.

    But the Nats got their man, a future Hall of Famer.  Huzzah.  If you hurry, season tickets might still be available.