Caps Miss Golden Opportunity to ‘Jussi’ Up Their Lineup

Posted March 27, 2013

Jussi Jokinen. Photo by Vesa Moilanen

I look at Mike Ribeiro and I think of Alfonso Soriano (and not just because he shares the same first name as another famous Ribeiro).

Way back in the dark days of 2006, the pending free agent Soriano hit .277, walloped 46 home runs, drove in 95 runs and stole 41 bases for a terrible Nationals team that won 71 games, while playing half his games in a ballpark that was as kind to hitters as the Grand Canyon. He became the fourth player in the entire history of baseball to join the 40-40 Club. Presumably, because they felt that if they traded Soriano they would be immediately out at any chance of re-signing him, the Nationals kept him at the trade deadline, whereupon he signed a massive deal in the offseason with the Chicago Cubs, and while he has remained a decent ballplayer, he has never regained that type of offensive production. The Nationals missed a chance to acquire some real top-level prospects or young players that could have made them even more dangerous than they are now.

I’m no businessman, but one of the concrete “rules” of business I’m aware of is to “buy low and sell high.” Ribeiro will have no greater value than he has right now. He’s 33, and in a contract year. He’s shooting 25%. I feel confident he will never approach these numbers again. Based upon what the Dallas Stars got for Brenden Morrow’s decaying corpse (a top prospect and a 5th) and what San Jose got for Douglas Murray’s equally-decaying corpse (two second round picks), I feel very confident the Caps could get an impressive haul for Ribeiro’s services. With Stephen Weiss’ wrist exploding into a million pieces, and a paper-thin UFA market at center, Ribeiro is “the guy” right now. Buy low, sell high.

But, as so many have asked, where does the team find a new 2C? This is where Jussi Jokinen would have come in, if the team had been bold enough or forward-thinking enough to claim him off waivers from Carolina.

Jokinen is essentially being what I like to call “Wolski’d.” He’s got good possession numbers, but he’s having terrible puck luck. At even strength, he’s shooting 5.32%. His PDO is 971. Look at Wojtek Wolski. He’s shooting 6.83% at even strength, has similar good possession numbers, and his PDO is 972. It takes an act of God (or Eric Fehr’s shoulder blowing up) just to get Wolski in the lineup. Jokinen cleared waivers today.

What’s been going around Twitter is that teams were (understandably) afraid of Jokinen’s price tag (he’s carrying a three million dollar hit for next season). But if we’re talking about making investments, Jokinen is the ultimate low risk, high reward investment. If he regresses to the mean shooting percentage-wise, the Caps would have given up nothing for a solid 2C/LW that they could potentially flip at the Deadline next year if they needed to. If Ribeiro regresses to the mean (which I feel confident in saying he will), combined with what he’s going to be making (somewhere in the 5-6 million range for 5 or more years) AND what the Caps could potentially have received for trading him now, that’s an absolute calamity. It could cripple the franchise for years, and it’s ALREADY starting with one foot in the hole because of how much it’s paying Alex Ovechkin.

Here’s what it all boils down to: would you rather have paid Jokinen three million for one more year, or five more years of Ribeiro at 5-6 million per? I know which one I would have gone for.

It’s not like this organization doesn’t think creatively or for the long term. Look at the Wolski and Fehr signings. Both of those were cheap, one year deals for guys who were on the scrap heap and have produced far beyond what they’ve been paid. Matt Hendricks came here on a tryout and has solidified himself as a solid bottom six forward. Jokinen was a guy who would have fit that mold. I just don’t know what to think of why the Capitals do what they do sometimes.

The Nats made a big mistake when they decided not to deal Soriano, and not just in hindsight. I can see the same thing coming with Ribeiro, and it just seems like there’s no way to stop it from happening. The Caps already made a huge mistake when they didn’t move Dennis Wideman in a similar situation at the deadline last season, when Mike Green’s return made him superfluous.

Winter is coming, y’all. Better put on sweater and a scarf.