- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

The Washington Nationals open their one and only series in Cincinnati tonight, which means Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez will be making their first trip back to Great American Ballpark since last summer’s blockbuster trade with the Reds.

It has been 10 months since the two clubs consummated the eight-player deal that brought Kearns, Lopez and Ryan Wagner to Washington and sent Gary Majewski, Bill Bray, Royce Clayton, Brendan Harris and Daryl Thompson to Cincinnati. Yet talk about this trade never seems to go away.

Last week word surfaced that Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky had filed a formal grievance to Major League Baseball, claiming the Nationals did not properly inform him about the state of Majewski’s right shoulder before the deal was finalized. The reliever has battled shoulder problems since and has looked nothing like the pitcher who compiled a 2.93 ERA in 79 games in 2005.

It was probably no coincidence that news of the grievance came out now, just before the Nationals invade the Queen City. Reds fans were upset as soon as the trade was announced, believing Krivsky was robbed, and perhaps the only way he can save face is to claim he was duped.

There’s no timetable on a resolution to this case, but it’s unlikely the Reds will succeed. It was common knowledge Majewski had battled shoulder trouble early in 2006 and had received a cortisone shot for it. Perhaps Washington general manager Jim Bowden wasn’t as forthcoming as he could have been, but it’s going to be hard to prove he flat-out lied.

Disgruntled Cincinnati fans might want to amend their feelings about the so-called, one-sided nature of the trade. A close look at the stats of all players involved reveals this wasn’t as huge a coup for the Nationals as originally thought. …

• Kearns has had his moments since joining the Nationals, but he has been far from the 30-homer, 100-RBI slugger Bowden envisioned. In 107 games with his new club, the right fielder is batting .247 with 12 homers and 52 RBI. He already has been signed to a $17.5 million contract extension that could keep him locked up through 2010.

• Lopez, too, has showed flashes of greatness in Washington, but he has hardly played as well as he did during his 2005 All-Star campaign. In 113 games since the trade, the infielder is hitting .264 with four homers, 32 RBI and 96 strikeouts. He’s making $3.9 million this season and should earn a raise in arbitration next year.

• Wagner, at one time thought to be the steal of the deal, has a 5.04 ERA in 40 games and is on the disabled list with his own shoulder injury, which could be serious.

So the players the Nationals received haven’t exactly lived up to expectations. On the other side, the Reds have little to show for the trade … right now. That could change over time.

• Majewski has been awful with a 6.25 ERA in 36 games split between Cincinnati and Class AAA Louisville. The shoulder remains a problem and is certainly a cause for concern.

• Bray pitched well, going 2-1 with a 4.23 ERA and two saves. He hasn’t pitched yet this season because of a hairline fracture of his index finger but is on a rehab assignment and could be close to returning.

• Clayton is now with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he’s hitting .256.

c Harris was dumped by the Reds but has thrived with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays this season, batting .331 while getting regular playing time.

c Thompson, a minor league pitcher, has enjoyed success in the Reds’ system. He’s still at Class A, but since the trade he’s 5-1 with a 2.49 ERA.

The final verdict on this deal won’t be known for a while. Certainly, Kearns and Lopez still can develop into consistent performers and key cogs in the Nationals’ rebuilding plan, and Wagner might return healthy.

But at this stage, it’s hard to declare them huge winners in a trade that has stirred such fierce debate.

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