Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Skins and Wiz vs. the O's: teams headed in different directions?

First, let me preface this post by saying that I'm still on board with what the Orioles and Andy MacPhail are doing. Yes, they're 16-41 and have undoubtedly played some terrible baseball this year, but they're continuing to stockpile as much young talent as possible, including the recently drafted Manny Machado. Some of their offseason signings simply haven't worked out, and most of their young players, both pitchers and position players, just haven't performed well enough yet at the major league level.

Let's start with the Redskins, a team that's had a fantastic offseason after such a dreadful 2010 season. By finally hiring both a competent general manager (Bruce Allen) and coach (Mike Shanahan), Daniel Snyder, for the time being, has silenced many of his critics and has actually given fans a lot to look forward to. The somewhat-risky Donovan McNabb trade (i.e., trading draft picks) certainly helped, but the Redskins have also made a lot of low-risk, high-reward moves as well (Phillip Buchanon, Adam Carriker, Vonnie Holliday, Larry Johnson, Maake Kemoeatu, etc.). They also finally drafted an offensive lineman in the first round (Trent Williams), which filled an obvious hole on the line. If not for Albert Haynesworth's and Santana Moss's names surfacing a few times over the last few weeks/months, the Redskins offseason would have been nearly flawless.

Are the Redskins significantly better than last year's 4-12 team? Maybe, maybe not. But they're doing a lot of things the right way and many, if not most, Redskins players have bought into what Shanahan wants to do. And with the Allen-Shanahan combination leading the team instead of Snyder-Vinny Cerrato, it's really hard to nitpick, at least right now, about what the Redskins have accomplished since Jim Zorn was fired.

While the Redskins have basically taken the more traditional route of trying to turn a team/franchise around, the Wizards basically just got lucky. After a very disappointing 26-56 season, the Wizards won the draft lottery despite just a 10.3 percent chance of doing so. And not only that, but they won the chance to select John Wall, the consensus choice for the No. 1 pick.

After the Wizards (hopefully) select Wall on June 24, they'll still have several decisions to make. They have a couple of choices after the No. 1 pick (No. 30 and No. 35) and may be able to trade up or trade into the draft if there is another player they covet. But, besides the draft, the Wizards' two biggest decisions are probably 1) figuring out what (if anything) to do with Gilbert Arenas, and 2) deciding whether or not they want to throw some money at any of the 2010 free agents.

First, no one really knows how Arenas will react to playing with Wall, but the two could potentially make a dynamic backcourt duo if Arenas can shift over to shooting guard. Then again, trying to decide how Arenas will react to anything is just about impossible, so the Wizards will either have to hope that he won't cause any problems or decide to trade him away (if possible). But, still, there's no real right answer to the Arenas question.

As far as choosing whether or not to sign free agents, it may just depend on how committed Ted Leonsis and the Wizards front office are to the rebuilding effort. The odds of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh coming to Washington are slim to none, but after the Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler trades, the Wizards have a lot of cap space to work with. Would it be worth it for the Wizards to go after a few second-tier free agents to potentially play alongside Wall, Arenas, and Andray Blatche? I guess that just depends on your point of view. The important thing, though, is that by earning the chance to draft Wall, the Wizards have options -- always a good thing.

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