The obvious reaction to the Nationals' decision to trade Josh Willingham to the Oakland Athletics for two young players (Henry Rodriguez and Corey Brown) is to declare it a salary dump used to free up money to spend elsewhere. However, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo shot down that notion in a press conference today, saying that had nothing to do with it.
Rizzo said "the decision to trade Josh was not based on his salary or money whatsoever." Rather, Rizzo felt like now was the time he could get his best return. Rizzo also listened to offers on Willingham last year at the trade deadline, and he felt the A's offer in the past few days trumped what he been offered in July.
The reason Rizzo traded Willingham now is that he wanted to get something for him before he left in free agency, which is what the organization didn't do with Adam Dunn. Willingham could have left after next season ends, and this way, the Nationals will get actual players as compensation.
Rizzo said the team will likely replace Willingham with a platoon of Roger Bernandina and Michael Morse and said that he envisions Rodriguez as a set-up man in the bullpen for Drew Storen. Rodriguez cannot be optioned to the Minors, so he will be with the big league club. Brown, on the other hand, will start in AAA.