Jim Bowden isn't the most popular man in Washington, D.C. right now. In fact, he and President Bush may be able to compare notes on approval ratings.
Bowden's latest gaffe came on a radio interview Wednesday night when he made the impromptu announcement that the Nationals would non-tender pitcher Chad Cordero, a move that they don't have to make for almost five months.
Cordero, who has missed most of the season and likely won't return until well into the 2009 season because of shoulder surger, is eligible for arbitration after this season. If the Nationals were to tender him an offer, it could be no less than 80% of his current contract, which would amount to just under $5 million and the Nationals aren't interested in investing that amount of money in damaged goods. Bowden stressed that the move is procedural and that the team hopes to re-sign Cordero, just at a much lower number which would be backed up by incentives.
Cordero and his agent, Larry Reynolds, weren't as upset at the news as they were at the timing and how it was delivered. The news came to Cordero through a phone call from his father, who got the news from a friend who happened to hear the radio interview. "I knew this was probably going to happen. For me, that's not the issue. The issue is how it went down," said Cordero, who said he felt disrespected by the announcement. Reynolds also believed the timing was bad and said he and his client will "react accordingly."
Earlier in the week, Bowden took some heat from other general managers who were felt he didn't demand enough for reliever Jon Rauch in a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bowden shipped Rauch to Arizona for second base prospect Emilio Bonifacio, who Bowden instantly pronounced to be the Nationals starting second baseman and leadoff hitter in 2009. Bonifacio has struggled in two major league auditions, but has impressive minor league stats on his resume.
Other GMs who will be shopping relievers believe that Bowden set the bar too low and that they won't receive the type of offers that they were hoping since the Nationals didn't command too much for Rauch.
Then, there's the signing of Cristian Guzman to a two-year, $16 million extension. While he's putting up solid numbers this season, Guzman's value to the Nationals might have been better realized by dealing him for more prospects to aid in the rebuilding of the Nats.
There have been whispers that Bowden would need to pull off something impressive to save his job. After all, he has been often criticized for his moves, including his insistence to not trade Alfonso Soriano at the deadline in 2006 when it was clear he would be unable to re-sign the pending free agent. During the following off-season, Soriano inked a free agent deal with the Chicago Cubs and the Nationals received two compensation picks. The good news from that move is that Bowden used those picks to add left-hander Josh Smoker and right-hander Jordan Zimmerman to the organization and both are listed among the top prospects in the organization. However, there has been some debate as to whether Bowden could have gotten even more by dealing Soriano to a contender.
With less than a week to go until the trade deadline, the Nationals will continue to talk to other clubs. They still have some potential trading chips, including second baseman Felipe Lopez and infielder Ronnie Belliard, to move to contending teams. For Bowden, there has to be hope that next week will be better than this week when it comes to his reputation and job security.