Washington Nationals: Team Is Sitting At An Uncomfortable Crossroads
By Max Rayman
Mike Rizzo and company are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
On October 30, 2019, after years of postseason futility, the Washington Nationals were sitting atop the baseball world. They had just defeated the Houston Astros in Game Seven to secure their first-ever World Series title. This was largely thanks in part to an impressive core.
Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Howie Kendrick, Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Sean Doolittle, and Daniel Hudson all made their presence felt throughout the playoff run. Fast forward to a year and a half later and while the majority of the core is still intact, the team has taken a 180.
Anthony Rendon left for a lucrative contract from the Angels. Howie Kendrick decided to hang up his cleats. Sean Doolittle is now in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen. Ryan Zimmerman has been relegated to a bench role. Since being named 2019 World Series MVP, Strasburg has only thrown 20.1 innings. Patrick Corbin has become a shell of his former self, plagued by control issues.
Only Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Max Scherzer, and Daniel Hudson are all still playing at an elite level. Sadly that is not enough for Washington to compete in an ever-increasingly talented National League.
The Nationals are currently 21-29, seven games back of first place in the NL East. Last night marked their fifth straight loss and they have a run differential of -26. With the New York Mets continuing to inch away atop the division, Washington is faced with a franchise-changing question. Do they continue to follow the path, hoping the starting rotation and offense finally correct themselves? Or do they start to gauge the trade market and receive the best haul they can for their expiring free agents? Regardless of which option they choose, the result will have immense repercussions.
Mike Rizzo has never been one to rebuild and holding on to his upcoming free agents would cost Washington an opportunity to restock a barren farm system.
Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison, Starlin Castro, and Kyle Schwarber are all impending free agents and would all intrigue contenders who are looking to add depth for a World Series run. But in order to receive a decent haul, the team would have to part with Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, and even Max Scherzer.
Parting with Scherzer who is in the last year of his deal would officially mark the end of an era and would not go over well with the fanbase. After all, the 36-year old has become an integral part of D.C. sports over the past six years of his career, going from superstar to future Hall of Famer.
With Washington falling farther and farther behind every day, the clock is ticking before Rizzo has to make a decision.