Under 48 hours to sell, a COVID outbreak and speculation galore – where do the Nationals go from here?
The Nats are clearly a team in dire need of a rebuild at this point. A farm system that often sits at the very bottom of the rankings with ageing major league talent on short-term deals (or longer-term deals set to expire soon) has created a situation where the team’s prospects are bleak. When combined with a losing season, missing the magic of the 2019 World Series winning year, Mike Rizzo must trade pieces now.
The reality of the situation may not be as clear though. Following a COVID outbreak that affected 14 personnel including 12 players right before the deadline, the logistics of trading a player potentially positive for COVID throws MLB’s trade deadline directly into untested waters. There is, of course, the possibility that conversations about high-value names Max Scherzer, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson and the coveted Trea Turner (the 28-year-old All-Star shortstop with outfield experience who has another year on his current deal following 2021) stall or die out altogether, though it seems incredibly likely that at least two of these players will be moved at the deadline.
The killer blow for the Nats may come through some less coveted talent with less trade value. Utility infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison is putting together a very productive year, catcher Yan Gomes is having his best season in years, first baseman Josh Bell struggled to start the season but has turned it around at the plate over the last month. All of these players held value, but a sudden COVID outbreak may push teams away from the players given how close it is to the deadline.
The key to the deadline for the Nationals may not lie in Scherzer (he will inevitably command a high return), Hand, Hudson, or any of the other likely trade candidates though. Despite riding the bench while on the Injured List due to a severe hamstring strain, Kyle Schwarber has been widely reported as a player others have checked in on. The left-handed power left fielder (though he may be more suited to a DH role) is truly having a career resurgence year. Schwarber’s stats speak for themselves: 25 home runs, a .910 OPS, .570 Slugging% and 53 RBI through only 72 games creates a real appeal for the slugger as a trade chip, if Mike Rizzo can extract some value for Schwarber,
So where does the Nationals lineup lie on 1st August this season? Presumably as follows:
- 2B Alcides Escobar
- SS Trea Turner (assuming Rizzo believes he can extract further value for him next season)
- RF Juan Soto (the 23-year-old was recently listed as the only player untouchable in trade conversations for the Nats)
- 1B Josh Bell (provided no trade)
- LF Andrew Stevenson
- 3B Carter Kieboom
- C Tres Barerra
- CF Victor Robles
While this lineup may be depressing for Nationals fans, the team must avoid the fate they suffered when Harper walked at the end of 2018 after multiple trade opportunities fell through. While the team won the World Series in 2019, they missed an opportunity to restock the farm and opened Harper completely to a team like the division-rival Phillies. The team’s window is well and truly closed, and the office has nothing to be ashamed of. Not only did they bring DC multiple divisional championships, but they also facilitated a World Series trophy and developed multiple top-class players through the years. Please Mr Rizzo, make those trades and get us some prospects.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
James Knight is a guest contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds. You can follow him on Twitter @MidKnightTweets
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