Nationals avoid DFA on Jon Lester, trade for Lane Thomas instead

When the Washington Nationals opened up shop the day before the trading deadline, they must have hung signs which read, “everything must go.” When the team decided to tear down and rebuild we knew the Nationals were going to try to get something in return for all their rental players.

Apparently, they were able to get something in return for Jon Lester as well.

Was Mike Rizzo smiling on the other end of the phone after that agreement was reached? Was he relieved at not having to deliver the news to Lester he had been designated for assignment? Do the Cardinals think they can get anything more out of the 37 year old pitcher who had fallen on hard times of late? There are just so many questions spilling through our heads as the trade deadline comes and goes for another year.

The Nationals traded pitcher Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Signed to stabilize the backend of the starting rotation, as well as eat a ton of innings, Lester pitched well in the early part of his Nationals tenure. He also had a five game stretch in late May, early June, where he allowed two runs or less in every start. He may not have been pitching deep into games, but he was keeping the Nationals is all the games he pitched. Then the wheels fell off.

As the season progressed, Lester failed to pitch half a game (let alone deep into the game), and the earned runs were piling up against him. Giving up 25 runs in four starts sealed his fate with the team. Having a veteran in the rotation who could save innings for the bullpen was one thing, though Lester wasn’t filling this role. The time had come for him to be let go.

Giving a three time World Champion his walking papers, who has 16 years service in the league, with nearly 200 wins under his belt, is never easy. And it’s a conversation General Manager Mike Rizzo didn’t need to have. In dealing Lester to the Cardinals, he allows the pitcher a fresh start and a chance to compete with a team fighting for a Wild Card spot.

Lane Thomas is a former fifth round pick who needed a change of scenery as well. In parts of three seasons he struggled to hit, hit for power, or even get on base for that matter. Some call him a AAAA outfielder, as he has shown he can hit minor league pitching. He hit 21 home runs in AA a couple years ago.

In Thomas, the Nationals can kick the tires to see if he can stick as organizational depth. Had they cut Lester, they wouldn’t have gotten anything anyway, so the addition of Thomas seems like a win.

We can now close the book on the trading deadline for 2021.