The Washington Nationals had a lot of chips to use at the MLB Trade Deadline. But in the end, it was a bit of an anti-climax. So what grade do the Nats get?
There were several different ways the Washington Nationals could’ve played the MLB Trade Deadline. In the end, they more or less maintained their existing stance save for trading away Brandon Kintzler.
This deadline of all deadlines could’ve boiled down to a franchise-altering decision. The team could’ve conceivably sold heavily, or bought heavily to make a proper push for the playoffs.
We took a look at what did and didn’t happen, and give our grade on the team’s performance at the deadline.
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Harper’s will he, won’t he frenzy
Late on Monday night, news broke from MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that the team was prepared to listen to offers on superstar outfielder, Bryce Harper. As you would expect, the baseball world was ready to tear each other limb from limb at this news.
The theory behind the move made a lot of sense, given Harper is a free agent at the end of the season. The team was wise to float his name out there to see what other teams were prepared to offer.
In the end, Chelsea Janes from the Washington Post reported that Mike Rizzo reached out to say “Bryce is not going anywhere. I believe in this team”. It seems fair to assume that they simply wanted to see if anyone would blow them away, and evidently, nobody did.
This was probably the correct decision to hold onto Harper given the season he’s had, and the fact management still wants to re-sign him in the off-season. While not trading Harper doesn’t necessarily mean they should’ve ruled out trading other pieces, it did give them slightly less incentive to.
The only trade that ended up happening
Although Mike Rizzo did say that he believed in the team, he did make one trade with the Chicago Cubs for former All-Star, Brandon Kintzler. In return, they received Jhon Romero, a right-handed reliever in Single-A.
At the time it seemed very odd for a team that had decided to hold firm to deal away one of its best reliever for a low-level relief prospect. But there was a quote that emerged later on Monday night in an article by Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post:
"“Kintzler was shipped out because the Nationals believed he was responsible for anonymous reports that painted Washington’s clubhouse culture as iffy.”"
If this report from Svrluga is true, then it certainly adds some clarity on the logic behind the trade. Whether it was the right move is up for debate, but if they feel he was incorrectly spreading exaggerated reports of clubhouse atmosphere, they did the right thing.
No new major league additions
This was probably the most bizarre part of the trade deadline from a Washington Nationals perspective. After being given a vote of confidence from the GM, they didn’t even make one addition to the major league roster.
The price for some of the major chips, such as Chris Archer and J.T. Realmuto, were too high and the front office did well to avoid the temptation. However, looking at other deals, there’s no clear explanation as to why the Nats didn’t get involved.
The primary example is Wilson Ramos, who ended up going to the Philadelphia Phillies for cash or a player to be named later. The Nationals had been connected to him all season but didn’t end up pulling the trigger despite their catching woes. It was baffling, to say the least.
The Overall Verdict
While there were some positives from the trade deadline, they were few and far between. For example, in the grand scheme of things, not dealing Bryce Harper probably looks like the right move.
However, completely standing pat is certainly a strange decision.
If they truly do believe in the team, there was clearly affordable rental talent out there. But at least they didn’t vastly overpay for anyone, just to make a trade for the sake of it.
On the other hand, if the Nats continue to look phased out the rest of the way, the decision not to try and get something for pending free agents looks worse. While they may not have gotten a team’s very top prospects, they could’ve added some nice prospect depth.
The team likely should’ve done something one way or the other. But given they only would’ve gotten marginal prospects, it’s not as bad a decision as some make it out to be.
Initially, the grade was set as an D- based on the strange activity by the team at the deadline. However, after the quote on Kintzler came to light to give a little more logic, it got bumped up slightly to a D
It was much ado about nothing in the end for the Washington Nationals at the deadline. Now they’ve made their bed and have to lie in it. Hopefully, it works out and the team can climb back into nthe playoff hunt.