Mike Rizzo made his first major move as acting General Manager for the Washington Nationals yesterday by trading Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan to Pittsburgh for Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan.

In Morgan the Nationals get a slap-hitting outfielder in the mold of Willie Harris and in Burnett they get a major league ready reliever who has contributed well this season.

The Nationals gave up two key members from last year’s roster in the deal.

Hanrahana entered 2009 as the teams closer. In 2008 he stepped into the stopper spot after the team traded John Rauch. In 69 games the hard throwing righty saved nine games, blew four, earned a 3.95 ERA and had 93 K’s in 84 innings. Solid.

2009 was a falling out. The closer lost his position two separate times and often had trouble locating anything but his super straight fastball. In 34 games Hanrahan save five games, blew five, struck out 35 in 32 innings pitched and boasted a bloated ERA of 7.71.

Lastings Milledge was a former super-prospect acquired from the Mets as a raw 22-year-old outfielder with both a crazy brain and crazy potential. The now 24-year-old entered the season as the clubs starting centerfielder. While there were questions early on about his work ethic, Milledge proved that he was taking the steps to become a superstar outfielder. In 2008, his first full season, he put up a line of .268/.330/.402.  He hit 38 extra base hits and stole 24 bases. He showed promise that his power would develop and so would his fielding.

Milledge too had a falling out in 2009. It seemed from the get go that the Nationals management wanted him out. After a poor, but not unheard of 4-24 start, the Nationals immediately dropped their future star to AAA, never to be heard from again.

Now for the rant

With this trade the Nationals were able to rid themselves of two talented players that they weren’t quite clear on how to use/handle. The result of their mishandlings made them completely useless to the club right now, and in return they got two players who can help them in the short run.

This season’s outcome is clearly very important, didn’t you know?

It’s okay though, because evidently Nyjer Morgan has character.

You know, Darren Erstad stuff. We’re talking contact sports, the guy used to play hockey, and according to Bill Ladson the Nats like his, “Hockey attitude.”

Speaking of attitude, the Nats are actively trying to get rid of Elijah Dukes.

It appears the club wants to kill two birds with one stone; getting the two extremely talented, but immature, outfielders out of Washington.

Dukes has struggled so far in 2009, not as badly as he did in his first hundred or so at bats in 2009, but still pretty bat. The slugger is batting a measly .244/.308/.415 and has played shaky outfield defense. He has also only stolen successfully twice in nine attempts. 

Despite his off-field antics Dukes project to be a tremendous player if he figures out all his tools. Perhaps his time down in Triple-A will help him get it together, hopefully before the Nats give up and send him somewhere for hardly nothing in return.