Wilson Deal: What's the Holdup?

The deal between the Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies to send outfielder Preston Wilson to Washington in exchange for pitcher Zach Day and minor league outfielder J. J. Davis remains where it was on Monday when it was first reported—close, but not done. The question is why.

The holdup apparently involves the relatively paltry sum of a half a million dollars. The Rockies want to the Nats to pay $2.5 million of Wilson's remaining salary, the Nationals have offered to pay $2 million.

As this drags on, one has to wonder why. In the world of big-time pro sports, a half a million is petty cash, it's a utility infielder, it's less than one home date at RFK can bring in, chump change. It's not an amount that normally would be haggled over for several days.

Regardless of the merits of the trade—that's something that's subject to debate, to be sure—why is it that if Jim Bowden and Tony Tavares want to make the deal, that the owners of the team won't let them?

Oh, wait a minute. The owners. They are the other 29 major league teams. You know, the teams that the Nats will be fighting against for postseason berths. Would they be dragging their feet on this, hoping that Wilson goes to the Cubs, who are safely buried a mile behind the Cardinals in the NL Central, rather than to the first-place Nationals?

The longer this drags on, the more apparent it will become that the answer to that question is yes.

Another question surrounding this possible deal is why the team wants to add another player, one who is not under contract for next year, to an already-crowded outfield picture. One possibility is that the team could be concerned that Nick Johnson's heel injury will take much longer to get better than most think. Manager Frank Robinson hinted at that earlier this week.

"Nick won't be back for the start of the second half," Robinson said. "I told you guys about that type of injury. Nobody can determine how well it is and how bad it is. It's in there in the heel, and that's a tough area to really have a feel for how good it is or how bad it is."

If the Nationals are thinking that it's still more on the bad side, they know that they can't stay in contention for long with Wil Cordero and Carlos Baerga at first base. Putting Wilson in center and moving Brad Wilkerson to first might be their long-term answer to the problem.

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