Ken Rosenthal wrote following nugget to his column on Monday, June 6: "Add the Nationals’ Todd Coffey to the list of relievers in whom the Rangers are showing interest. The Rangers even have a player who would fit the Nats’ need for a leadoff man and center fielder: Julio Borbon. Of course, it’s doubtful the Rangers would trade a potential everyday player for a seventh-inning reliever. Still, Borbon could be a chip, given the Rangers’ depth in center field." On a normal week, I would have written about this immediately after it was brought up, but as you might have noticed, I was a little busy writing a ton of posts about the draft. Now that I've completed the draft posts, I finally have time to look at whether or not Coffey for Borbon would be a trade the Nationals should make.
First, a look at Coffey: The XL reliever has been solid for the Nationals this year, posting a 2.28 ERA, 8.75 K/9 and 3.42 BB/9. His FIP is a spectacular 2.69, but his xFIP at 3.44 suggests that he may have gotten a bit lucky with his numbers, including a .234 BABIP (.318 career BABIP against) and a 3.7% HR/FB (12.6% career HR/FB%). Even though we should expect a little regression from Coffey, he should still be a valuable late-inning reliever for the Nationals for the rest of the season. That being said, Coffey should be eligible for free agency after the season. If the Nationals don't move him now, they may lose him later without compensation, and even if they trade him, they can always resign him in December.
If the Nationals traded Coffey, who would take over his role? Sean Burnett has struggled all season and Drew Storen has gone through a few rough outings recently. While Tyler Clippard is still pitching well, it would be risky for the Nationals to move one of their most consistent relievers. Henry Rodriguez could step things up, but he has been inconsistent. Maya could be shifted to the bullpen when Gorzelanny is activated from the DL, or he could be sent to AAA and a reliever such as Collin Balester could be called up instead.
Is Julio Borbon any good? That is yet to be seen. The 2007 supplemental first round pick has spent parts of the last three seasons in the majors, compiling a .284/.324/.358 batting line in 745 plate appearances. Borbon has basically no power and essentially refuses to take a free pass, with a 5.0 career BB% largely fueled by his 8.4% walk rate during his rookie 46-game stint. He does have blazing speed (40/53 career SB) and plays good defense, albeit with a poor arm. The streaky player's true ML talent level is yet to be seen, as would be semi-expected with a 25 year old player with toolsy roots. Fortunately, the Nats have consistent playing time to offer Borbon in CF (that is, if they're willing to end the Ankiel as a starting player/leadoff hitter experiment). He has room to grow and could potentially develop into the player the Nationals thought they had in Nyjer Morgan, but younger and a better base-runner.
If a Coffey for Borbon trade was on the table (and there is no indication that such an offer ever was proposed), the Nats should take it in a heartbeat. Borbon will not be arbitration-eligible until after the 2012 and will be under team control for 4 years in total. I am in favor of a losing team trading free agent-to-be relievers for position players in pretty much any situation and think that the Nats should certainly trade a relief pitcher that could walk after the season for 4 and 1/2 years of a potential starting CF/leadoff man any and every day...if, that is, the offer is on the table.