Washington Nationals have Atlanta Braves to thank for Matt Adams

The Atlanta Braves didn’t expect Matt Adams to become the most valuable offensive player for the Washington Nationals when they non-tendered him last winter.

When Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo signed free agent slugger Matt Adams to a one-year deal in December, he couldn’t have envisioned Adams being the team’s offensive MVP during the 2018 season’s first two months.

Neither could the Atlanta Braves, who nevertheless made a mistake by non-tendering Adams three weeks before the Nats came calling.

Rizzo gladly scooped him up, and in making the move to replace a key role previously filled by Adam Lind, may have saved the 2018 Washington Nationals season.

On Dec. 1, Atlanta Journal-Constitution Braves beat writer David O’Brien wrote:

“…the 29-year-old one-dimensional slugger (typo omitted) was projected to see a raise from last season’s $2.8 million to more than $4.5 million in 2018, his final year before free agency,” O’Brien then added “And the Braves didn’t have a need for a bench player who plays just-serviceable defense at first base and doesn’t have another position, making him more of a fit for an American League team.”

Assuming the Braves shared that logic, they miscalculated. Adams not only ended up on an NL East rival, but has been solid at both first base and left field, where he has yet to make an error so far this season.

You may remember this spectacular grab against the Philadelphia Phillies, highlighting his defensive strides.

While declining to pay Adams with the great Freddie Freeman on the roster is defensible, Nats first baseman Ryan Zimmerman was actually coming off a healthier, more productive season. It resulted in a Comeback Player of the Year award and the long-time Nat’s first NL All-Star start.

But with Zimmerman struggling and eventually hurt, coupled with an injury to Adam Eaton, Adams began filling in at both their positions. In 2018 Adams has 12 home runs and 32 RBI in 47 games for the Nats after hitting 19 dingers and driving in 58 for the Braves in 100 games in 2017. Adams has also cut down on strikeouts, played quality defense, and stayed in excellent shape.

“I’m just glad that we got him,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Adams to The Washington Post in March.

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The Atlanta Braves could have kept Matt Adams out of the NL East by tendering him a contract or working out a trade. The Washington Nationals are fortunate they didn’t.