Nationals Get Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen from Marlins

Another strange trade. For the Marlins, who get infielders Emilio Bonifacio and Jake Smolinski and pitcher P.J. Dean, this is pretty standard. They trade two guys who are about to get expensive for some young players, and as those things go, they've done pretty well here. Bonifacio has been regarded as an interesting young player for a while, but I've never really understood why; he never hit especially well even in the wacky ballpark in Tucson, and he has no power whatsoever. Smolinski and Dean, though, are more intriguing.

Smolinski is a 19-year-old who held his own in full-season ball this year. He was supposed to be pretty polished for a high school player when he was drafted in 2007, so his solid 2008 season may not be a sign of great things, but he at least stands a pretty good chance of eventually being a decent everyday player.

Dean (not to be confused with T.J. Beam; maybe the Pirates could trade for Dean and try to win games by perplexing the scoreboard operator, thus increasing the chances that they end up with an "8" instead of a "0" some inning or something) is a projectable young pitcher who was very good--though not as good as his 1.57 ERA suggested--in the New York-Penn League this year, until he was shut down with a "tired arm." If Dean's healthy, he could be a good sleeper for prospect-watchers next year.

As for the Nationals, this trade might make some sense if they were in playoff contention, but they're nowhere near it, and Willingham and Olsen aren't the sorts of players you build around. Olsen, in particular, is not very good; last year he combined control issues with 30 taters allowed and an inability to strike hitters out, and in 2007 he was downright terrible. He's only 24, but his attitude problems are well-known, so he may never get better. Putting him in the same clubhouse with Elijah Dukes should be some sort of felony; I pity the other 23 guys who will have to share a locker room with them.

Willingham's perfectly decent, but next year will be his age-30 season, and he had back troubles this year. With the implosion of Austin Kearns in 2008, the Nats should have room for Willingham in left field, but... why? Willingham probably doesn't have more than a couple years left in him, and he's about to get really expensive as the Nats take him to arbitration.

Good trade for the Marlins, although it actually looks worse if they trade Dan Uggla and make Bonifacio their starting second baseman. As for the Nationals, this looks to me like lipstick on a pig.

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