Who left a rival to come to play in the Nation’s Capital?
The Washington Nationals weren’t always a powerhouse. In fact, they had a losing record every year from 2006-2011. The team was able to turn things around thanks to an influx of home-grown talent. Players such as Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Jordan Zimmerman, and Victor Robles helped stabilize the Nationals over the years. But it takes more than homegrown talent to be a winning team. Washington’s front office was able to fuze the team with smart trades and free-agent acquisitions. Some of the players the front office acquired used to play for rival teams in the NL East. Some of those signings and trades didn’t pan out, while some of the moves paid dividends. Here are five players that used to play for division rivals that came to D.C.
Jayson Werth signed with the Nationals in 2011, after spending five seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. He won the World Series with the Phillies in 2008, and the Nats signed him to a seven-year deal worth $126 million for his veteran leadership.
He left the Nats division rival to come to the bottom dweller but, changed the franchise’s trajectory. With the Nats, Werth helped bring the Nats out of the dark times and turned them into contenders. He assisted in the team winning division titles in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017.
In seven seasons with the Nats, Werth hit .263, with 109 homers, 393 RBIs, and an OPS of .788. While his production didn’t live up to the contract, Werth signed with the Nats when many top free agents were turning down the franchise. He turned the Nats into a viable free-agent destination and taught the young core how to live in the majors. His attitude played a big part in changing the culture of the team.
Daniel Murphy was drafted by the New York Mets in the 13th round of the 2006 draft and played with them through the 2015 season. In the 2015 playoffs, Murphy won NLCS MVP and was a big reason the Mets reached the World Series. He hit a homer in six straight playoff games which broke the record. After the Mets lost the World Series, the team offered him the qualifying offer which he declined.
Murphy who wanted to stay in New York signed with the Nats on a three-year deal. In two and a half seasons with the Nats, Murphy was a two-time All-Star, won two silver sluggers, and finished second in the NL MVP race. Murphy helped the team win two division titles in 2016 and 2017.
Murphy elevated his play with the Nats and became one of the top hitters in the league. While in D.C., Murphy hit .329, with 54 homers, and 226 RBIs. To put it in perspective, in seven seasons with the Mets, Murphy hit 62 homers.
Despite only playing in Washington for two and a half seasons, Murphy left a lasting impression in D.C. that was highlighted by his impressive hitting performances.
Howie Kendrick is mostly remembered for spending the majority of his career with the Angels, but he spent a brief stint in the NL East before arriving in D.C. Before the start of the 2017 season, Kendrick was traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies. He spent half a season in Philadelphia before being traded to D.C. at the trade deadline.
Kendrick provided the Nat’s with depth for their playoff run, but they lost in the NLDS to the Chicago Cubs. Kendrick missed the majority of the 2018 season when he ruptured his Achilles in May. Kendrick persevered and came back strong in 2019. Washington was able to ease Kendrick back in 2019 which paid dividends. In 334 at-bats, Kendrick hit .334, with 17 homers, and 62 RBIs. The 36-year-old played a key role in the Nats turning their season around and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
He went on a tear in the playoffs, hitting two of the biggest homers in Franchise history. Kendrick was named NLCS MVP after hitting .333, with four doubles, and four RBIs. In-game seven of the World Series, he hit the go-ahead home run off of Will Harris that ended up being the winning run. His postseason heroics was essential in the team winning their first-ever World Series title.
Oakland traded Kurt Suzuki to Washington in the middle of the 2012 season before being traded back to Oakland in the middle of the 2013 season. In 2017 Suzuki ended up in Atlanta where he stayed for two seasons. Suzuki played a key part in the Braves dethroning the Nats as division champs in 2018.
In 2019 he decided to come back to Washington on a two-year deal. The veteran catcher had a productive homecoming in D.C. as he hit .264, with 17 homers, and 63 RBIs. He platooned with Yan Gomes to form a reliable tandem. Suzuki was a vast improvement over the 2018 tandem of Spencer Kieboom and Matt Wieters. In 2019 Suzuki had a wRC+ of 105 which was leagues above the 73.5 Kieboom and Wieters combined for in 2018.
Kurt was the primary catcher for Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Stephen Strasburg. He was also leaned on for his offensive production but was a liability when it came to defense. Suzuki struggled in the playoffs but, suffered multiple injuries in October which played a huge part in his drop-off of production.
Anibal Sanchez signed with the Nationals in 2019 on a two-year deal. Before that, he spent a season with the Atlanta Braves, where he had a career resurgence.
Sanchez struggled when he first arrived in D.C., starting the season off 0-6, with a 5.27 ERA before ending up on the IL. When he returned, Sanchez was a different pitcher. He finished the season 11-8, with a 3.85 ERA, and 134 strikeouts. The veteran put the teams pitching staff over the top and turned it into a big four.
In one year with the Franchise, Sanchez helped end the team’s playoff curse and was a key cog in bringing a title back to D.C. In-game one of the NLCS, Sanchez almost threw a No-Hitter. He went 7 2/3 innings before he gave up a hit. His pitching performance was a glimpse of what was to come, as the Nats ended up sweeping the Cardinals.