The Padres and Nats exchanged two players the other day that are each owed about $3.5M in 2006 before potentially becoming free agents. San Diego gets 38-year-old third baseman Vinny Castilla, and Washington gets Brian Lawrence, who was the odd man odd for Bruce Bochy's playoff rotation this year.
On the surface, it seems like a straight-up trade, my problem for yours. However, I would say that the Nats came out way ahead. Lawrence is somewhat overpriced, but prior to this year was at least a league-average starter who consistently threw 200 innings a year.
Whereas Castilla could be done given a) his age and b) his mercurial past. He followed up a big 2004 (35 HR, .535 Slug) in Colorado with a sub-par though injury-plagued campaign this past year (12 HR, .722 OPS). It took him a few years to return to form after leaving the confines of Coors after his first tour with the Rockies. I don't think he has that much time left.
On top of all that, the Nats have no use for Castilla. 20-year-old Ryan Zimmerman (165 OPS+ in 20 games) now owns the third base job in DC, and they hope he'll keep it for the next couple of decades.
Meanwhile, San Diego isn't exactly deep in starting pitching. They had two starters with an ERA under 4.27 last year. Additionally, Woody Williams is 38 and Pedro Astacio is 35. And this team turned to the likes of Darrell May, Chan Ho Park, and Tim Redding for large chunks of last season. Not to mention that Castilla now is standing directly in the way of once-hot prospect Sean Burroughs, who although having some severely rough spots will be just 25 next year.
So here we have a trade that is win-win for the Nats and loss-loss for the Padres even though on paper it looks a straight-up trade of each team's payroll headache. I guess those beads looked like a pretty good trade for that old isle of Manhattan a few centuries ago too.