A year ago the Nationals decided to do the unthinkable and blew up the roster — a decision that was long overdue. They shipped out eight players with Max Scherzer and Trea Turner leading the way, receiving 12 prospects in return. The fanbase who was still on cloud nine after seeing their team win the World Series in 2019, but were quickly reminded that sports was a business and left feeling emotional.
Fast forward to this season and the trade deadline is just over a month and a half away and the Nationals need to become sellers for a second straight season. Outside of Juan Soto, the Nats don’t have any pieces to trade that will help overhaul the farm system in one fell swoop, but the team should look to trade almost everyone on an expiring contract.
Earlier in the month, General Manager Mike Rizzo went on the local D.C. sports radio station 106.7 The Fan and alluded to the team’s plans for the trade deadline.
“We still have a long ways to figure that out,” Rizzo said. “But I would assume that if we’re playing at the rate we’re playing, we’ll probably be careful sellers and make sure that we maximize the players at least with expiring contracts. I don’t think that would come as shock to anybody at the radio station right now.”
Here are seven players the Nationals should take offers on and look to flip to a contender.
The best player on the Nats not named Juan Soto, Josh Bell has revitalized his career after arriving in D.C. two off-seasons ago. On the season, Bell has been the Nats most consistent batter slashing .290/.368/.433, with seven homers, 38 RBIs, and an OPS of .801. Amongst all qualified first basemen, he’s seventh in RBIs, 13th in wRC+ (124), and 17th in SLG (.433).
Now, it never should have come to this because the Nats should have attempted to work out an extension with the slugger before the season started, but it’s past the point of no return. At this point, the best case scenario is to trade Bell to the highest bidder and then re-sign him in the offseason.
Bell will undoubtedly bring the Nats their best return because slugging first basemen who can also DH don’t grow on trees. Toronto, Milwaukee, San Diego, and San Francisco are all in win-now mode, are in need of an extra bat, and could afford to submit a better offer.
Behind Bell, Cruz will bring the Nats their best return. After a slow start, the veteran slugger has finally woken up, slashing .260/.337/.397, with seven homers, 36 RBIs, and an OPS of .735 in 59 games. But over the last 30 days, he’s slashing .347/.415/.526, with three homers, 16 RBIs, and an OPS of .941. No longer the 40+ homer threat he once was, Cruz can still mash and would be an upgrade to any offense.
Lacking the power he showcased last year with Cleveland, César Hernández has been serviceable as the Nats’ leadoff hitter. In 62 games, he’s hitting .269, with 16 RBIs, and an OPS of .644. Despite yet having to hit a homer this season, he hit a career-high 21 bombs last year and could always rediscover his power stroke. Defensively, he is very versatile, having played second, short, and third in his career. After posting -11 DRS last year, he’s sitting around the league average this season (-1 DRS). Hernández would help any team looking for a bench bat or defensive depth.
The former top prospect became the Nationals’ starter at third after Carter Kieboom landed on the IL. With the youngster out for the year, Franco has received extended playing time — hitting .257, with five homers, 28 RBIs, and an OPS of .658. Similar to César Hernández, Franco can assist any team looking for an extra bench bat. He wouldn’t bring much of a return, but last year’s Jon Lester for Lane Thomas trade proved a change of scenery can pay dividends for a prospect.
A team can never have too many relievers, and Steve Cishek is one of the better options available on the deadline. This year he’s 0-1, with a 3.90 ERA, with 29 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings this year. Cishek would help solidify the backend of a team’s bullpen — posting 107 holds and 133 saves in his career.
Despite yet having reached arbitration, the Nats should look to move the 34-year-old Yadiel Hernández. He can play both corner outfield spots and is a decent contact hitter, while also flashing power in the past. On the season, he’s hitting .261, with four homers, 16 RBIs, and an OPS of .693 in 46 games. He’s cooled off a bit after slashing a respectable .282/.337/.447, with 16 RBIs in the month of May. Already 34, his age doesn’t match up with the Nationals’ rebuild window, and should look to capitalize on the multiple years left on his contract.
Carl Edwards Jr.
Known for his time with the Chicago Cubs, Carl Edwards Jr. has bounced around the last few years, unable to find himself a home. He signed a minor league deal with the Nats in February and since being recalled has slowly revitalized his career. In 18 1/3 innings, he’s 0-1, with a 3.44 ERA (seven earned runs), 17 strikeouts, and a 4.72 FIP. He’s under contract through 2023 and has multiple years of playoff experience — having been a key contributor to the Cubs bullpen when they won the 2016 World Series title.