It appears that Sammy Sosa, of the Chicago Cubs, is a step or two away from becoming a Baltimore Oriole. It is probably for the best that the Washington Nationals did not succeed in their quest to obtain the slugger. There were two ways to look at a possible acquisition of Sammy Sosa from the Nationals perspective.
The first view was from a business perspective. Obtaining Sosa - a proven MLB superstar (at least pre-steroid suspicions) - the Nationals would have had an opportunity to sell more tickets and jerseys by obtaining a marketable and well-known player, even if he is in his waning years.
However, from a purely baseball perspective, it did not appear to be an overly smart move to make. For one thing, Sosa is due to earn $16 million this season and the Cubs surely are not going to trade their most marketable player AND pay his entire 2005 salary. For a small to mid-market team, like the Nationals, obtaining Sosa's hefty could be pure suicide. After all, the Nationals have to be teetering pretty closely to their budget limit with the off-season acquisitions of Vinny Castilla, Christian Guzman, Esteban Loazia and Jose Guillen. Couple that with the hefty contracts of holdovers Jose Vidro and Livan Hernandez and you have reasons to worry. A $40 to $50 million budget does not go as far as it use to.
The Nationals (I almost wrote Expos) are also deepest in the outfield than at any other position. They already have the aforementioned Guillen, Brad Wilkerson, Endy Chavez, Terrmel Sledge, J.J. Davis (a former 1st round pick who deserves a shot), rookie Ryan Church (who also deserves a shot), and Rule 5 picks (who have to stay on the Major League roster all season or be returned to their original teams) Tony Blanco and Tyrell Godwin.
If I were running the Nationals - which I am clearly not - I would be looking more to developing my minor league system over the next few years, while giving playing time to young, promising players. Expansion teams in the past (Colorado, Arizona) have gotten in too big of a hurry to compete and have either decimated their team by trading all their young players away for "quick fixes" or gone into deep debt by overpaying free agents.
Every fan prefers to watch a winning team, but the Nationals could easily sell tickets for the first few years mainly on the novelty of having a team in Washington again, as long as they put a high-energy, exciting team on the field. Then, in three to five years, start rolling out the dough to sign major free agents, once there is a solid base to build on. Let’s face it, years of Major League Baseball control has almost completely stripped the franchise of all its great players and promising youngsters, although there is hope.