Josh Willingham: What’s His Trade Market?

In Ken Rosenthals’ Latest Buzz From The MLB Offseason piece on FOXSports.com, he mentions that the Washington Nationals are receiving strong interest in OF Josh Willingham.

I have always liked Willingham and have believed he has been one of the more underrated players in the game for the last couple of years. I guess underrated comes with the territory when you play for the Florida Marlins and the Nationals.

Josh Willingham

Willingham could be trade bait this offseason

Now that Willingham’s name has emerged in trade rumors, let’s take a look at what GM’s are potentially getting. Here are the pros, the cons, and what teams would be interested in trading for the Nationals’ OF.

Pros

As I mentioned, Willingham has been vastly underrated over the last couple of years. Since 2006, Willingham has averaged 22 home runs with a .256 avg., a .362 OBP, and an .844 OPS.

Willingham’s .863 OPS in 2009 was 13th amongst all oufielders in baseball–ahead of Matt Kemp, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Lee, and Nick Markakis.

Willingham is also very consistent versus left-handed and right-handed pitching. He has a .264 avg. versus righties and a .265 avg. versus lefties. A team doesn’t have to worry about a platoon situation with Willingham.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Willingham is his age and his salary. Willingham is only 30-years-old and should be entering the prime of his career.

That coupled with which ever team would trade for Willingham would have him under team control until after the 2011 season at around $4.5-$5 million in salary, makes Willingham a very appealing option for teams.

Cons

While Willingham might be a consistent offensive player, his defense makes him a borderline DH. Willingham has always ranked towards the bottom in UZR for left fielders and he is no better in right field.

Besides defense, teams might be concerned with Willingham’s health. He has never played more than 144 games in a season and has battled back problems the last couple of years. One has to wonder if those back issues will get worse as Willingham gets older.

The last concern teams might have about Willingham is that he has never played in a big game in his life. It’s one thing to put up numbers when your team is 20 games out of first, but it’s another thing to put up numbers in a pennant race.

I am not saying Willingham wouldn’t thrive in a pennant race, but it is something for a GM to think about.

Now that we have looked at the pros and cons of Willingham, let’s take a look at what teams might be interested in the former University of North Alabama star.

Atlanta Braves: Rosenthal mentioned the Braves as having interest in Willingham and it makes sense. The Braves need a right-handed bat and Willingham is a southern guy.

He was born in Florence, AL and as I mentioned above, went to the University of North Alabama.

San Francisco Giants: Randy Winn is a free agent and the Giants could use a left fielder. Perhaps if the Giants miss out on Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, they can go for a more cost-effective option in Willingham.

Oakland A’s: The A’s could really use an offensive boost. Willingham would be an upgrade over Jack Cust at DH or Scott Hairston in left field.

Kansas City Royals: Mike Jacobs figures to be a non-tender candidate, leaving an opening at the DH spot for the Royals. Willingham would be a huge upgrade over Jacobs.

Willingham could also be an internal option to fill the open spot in right field in 2011 once the Jose Guillen era thankfully comes to an end in Kansas City.

Seattle Mariners: Willingham really doesn’t fit GM Jack Zduriencik’s defense first philosophy, but the Mariners need a left-fielder and they need a DH.

Both needs make Willingham an appealing option for the M’s.

It will be interesting to see if the Nationals trade Willingham this offseason because they really don’t have to. I would say the Nationals would have to be really blown away to trade him.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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