Three Strikes: Cleanup Spot a Mess

Vinny is slumping, trade talk is swirling and the Nats need a different plan for the cleanup spot.

1. Cleanup spot a mess—Frank Robinson isn't questioned often around here—nobody can make a legitimate case that any other manager in history would have better results with this team. But his selection of cleanup hitters for the Mets series does create a head-scratching reaction. Wil Cordero, with his .130 batting average and Carlos Baerga, with a .276 slugging percentage, are not cleanup material. Baerga stranded nine runners in his two appearances in the four spot and Cordero stranded three in his one shot at cleanup. Twice in those three games the Mets walked the third hitter with two outs to get to the cleanup hitter. It worked both times. Almost anyone would have been better here, Guillen, Byrd, Schneider, even Livan Hernandez has a higher batting average and more home runs than Cordero, who batted fourth in Hernandez' start.

2. Trade Talk—The Nats will be shopping for help over the next three weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, no doubt. The question is what will they be looking for and what are they willing to give up to get it. The outfield will be somewhat crowded when Ryan Church comes off of the disabled list, which should be sometime shortly after the All-Star break. Do you deal a "spare" outfielder like Marlon Byrd and endanger your depth there? Or do you trade away a prospect like Tyrell Godwin and possibly hurt your future? And what do you trade for? A bat on the left side of the infield or another reliever? There is no question that the rumors and speculation will be flying over the next few weeks. The advice here, as always, is to remain calm until an actual deal takes place.

3. Vinny CastillaOne of the above-mentioned left-side bats that could be replaces is that of the third baseman, Vinny Castilla. His batting average has been on a steady decline from a high on .350 on May 2 to .259 today. He hit three home runs in April and three since. His defense has been solid, but you have to get some more pop out of that position, even when Church and Nick Johnson return.

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