The first mistake was allowing Major League Baseball to own a team. There were too many mistakes after to even keep track of. Maybe at the top of the list was the trade of prospects Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Grady Sizemore to the Cleveland Indians for half a season of Bartolo Colon. The league was so sure the Montreal Expos would be contracted, they would have no need for prospects, so sell off the good players and play for now. This trade took place in 2002.
By 2004 the team was not going to be contracted, they were going to be moved. Therefore, the MLB owned Expos did it again. This time they traded a proven asset, yet failed to get a return which would benefit the team in the future.
That team was the 2005 Washington Nationals.
The Orlando Cabrera trade didn’t do any favors for the 2005 Washington Nationals.
Baseball economics says if a team is out of playoff contention they need to sell off high priced players and stock their organization with prospects.
At 40-63, sitting in last place of the NL East, the Expos traded Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the Boston Red Sox as part of a four-team trade. In return the team netted, Francis Beltran, Alex Gonzalez, and Brendan Harris.
This move was straight salary relief. Understandable, sometimes just getting the money off the books is the best part. The Expos couldn’t have gotten something back for the future?
Cabrera was not yet 30 years old. Although having a down year in 2004, he hit .297 in 2003 with a career high in home runs. For a guy who didn’t hit a lot of homers in general, Cabrera was a run producer.
Beltran floundered in 11 games for Montreal, then got hurt. Gonzalez played 35 games then was traded to San Diego. Neither played for the Nationals. Harris had 50 at-bats for Montreal and 41 for Washington, across three years.
The 2005 Nationals didn’t reap any rewards from the Cabrera trade. Not a serviceable player who could have helped the overachieving team (which finished 81-81), nor a second-tier minor leaguer who could have been groomed for future Nationals teams.
The MLB had a history of sabotaging the Montreal Expos, and here was their first mark against the Washington Nationals.