The Washington Times - November 11, 2008, 01:31PM

Boys Town welcomes another player

As we have all learned from the Felipe Lopez-Austin Kearns trade in 2006, you can’t judge the value of a deal in the immediate aftermath of the trade. It took several years to determine the Nationals were the big losers in that deal with the Reds. Neither side made out as far as players acquired, but the Reds’ mistakes only cost them a few million dollars. The Nationals’ mistakes could wind up costing them $22 million or more, as they are on the hook still for $8 million next season for Austin Kearns.


With that perspective in mind, the trade Monday that brought outfielder Josh Willingham and left-handed pitcher Scott Olsen from the Florida Marlins to the Washington Nationals for second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and prospects Jake Smolinski and P.J. Dean appears to be, in the immediate aftermath, a good deal for Washington.

Willingham hit 15 home runs and drove in 51 runs in 102 games for the Marlins last year. He already becomes the Nationals’ best power hitter. Olson , 24, went 8-11 last season with a 4.20 ERA in 33 starts, and is 31-37 in 102 major league games. He is a left-hander with the potential to be a quality starter — if he can keep his personal life in order. Sound familiar?

According to Mike Bernardino of the Sun Sentinel, Willingham is a first-rate teammate and standout guy in the clubhouse. That should be good new for Nationals manager Manny Acta, who now finds hmself playing Father Flanagan again for another player, this time Olson, who has a history of personal problems.

Olsen has fought with teammates and was suspended by the Marlins for two games after one fight. He was fined for making an obscene gesture at fans in Milwaukee. He also was arrested for DUI in 2007 in an incident in which officers used a Taser to subdue him. Last season, there were no reported incidents.

This is not what the Nationals need — another high-maintenance guy who requires managing beyond what a baseball manager should be dealing with. The Marlins traded both of them because they are up for salary arbitration, and they didn’t seem to get value in return.

But look at the track record of Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest when it comes to deals like these. Then look at the record of Nationals GM Jim Bowden.