The 2022 MLB trade deadline is less than a month away and for the second straight year, the Washington Nationals are expected to be sellers. Josh Bell is arguably the top bat on the market and the Nationals should receive a pretty penny in return for the slugger’s services. Behind him, Nelson Cruz, Steve Cishek, and Carl Edwards Jr. are virtual locks to be flipped.
Also expect the Nationals to exhaust all options on other players on expiring deals (César Hernández, Maikel Franco, Ehire Adrianza). Kyle Finnegan, Tanner Rainey, and Yadiel Hernández all have multiple years of control left and would could all fetch decent returns.
The Nats will be seeking prospects and MLB-ready talent as they navigate their rebuild. With plenty of turnover expected come August, the question arises — what will the Nationals’ starting nine look like after the deadline?
Nationals Lineup 1-3 Hitters
1. Lane Thomas, Left Field
Mike Rizzo and Dave Martinez have said in the past that they view Lane Thomas as a vital part of the team’s future core. The 26-year-old has been splitting playing time all season long with Victor Robles and Yadiel Hernández, but has now become the everyday starter.
On the season, he’s hitting .221, with nine homers, 33 RBIs, and an OPS of .652. He’s shown spurts throughout the season, but has been unable to put everything together. His bat woke up in June, slashing .281./347/.517, with five homers, 12 RBIs, and an OPS of .864, but has already seemed to cool off.
2. Keibert Ruiz, Catcher
Acquired in last year’s firesale in a package for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, Keibert Ruiz has been as advertised. The former top prospect is tied with J.T. Realmuto for runners caught stealing (16) and has also teamed up with Josh Bell to pick four runners off of first. The clear starter behind the plate, Ruiz is a vital part of the Nationals’ core moving forward.
On the season, he’s hitting a respectable .247, with three homers and 20 RBIs. He’s yet to flex much power (.653 OPS) and only 20 of 66 hits have been for extra bases. But keep in mind, that he just turned 24 and this is his first full season in the majors. The power will come as he adjusts to the increase in competition (50 homers in 459 minor league games).
3. Juan Soto, Right Field
Over the last week, it has become increasingly likely that Juan Soto could be traded before the upcoming deadline — especially if Washington is blown away by an offer. But they don’t have to move him now and can decided to hold off in order to continue contract negotations. For now, we will pencil him into the starting lineup for the rest of the season. After his slow start, the 2022 Home Run Derby champion is slashing .250/.405/.497, with 20 homers, 43 RBIs, and an OPS of .901.
4. Luis García, Second Base
Since being promoted earlier this season, Luis García has been one of the few bright spots in what has been an abysmal season. Currently the starter at short, García has proven he cannot consistently make the throw to first and will benefit from sliding to second. Washington needs to find a new home for César Hernández, who is currently blocking the youngster at second.
On the season he’s slashing ..294/.304/.411, with two homers, 15 RBIs, and an OPS of .715. He’s still impatient at the plate (2 walks, 34 Ks), but has shown he can flat-out hit. García has also flashed his clutch factor, hitting the game-winning double off of Aaron Nola in the seventh to drive in two runs in a 3-2 victory against the Phillies earlier in the month.
5. Yadiel Hernández, Designated Hitter
Arbitration-eligible to 2026, the Nats may choose to hold onto Yadiel Hernández, but keep in mind he’s 34. Nelson Cruz is almost a lock to be traded — opening up a hole at DH. Hernández has been inconsistent all season long — going through random hot streaks just to go cold for multiple weeks. On the season, he’s hitting .264, with six homers, 3 RBIs, and an OPS of .713. Hernández will be leaned on to help drive in runs and replace some of Bell’s production in the lineup.
6. Riley Adams, First Base
This is where things get interesting. With Josh Bell a lock to be traded and no clear replacement on the roster, Washington will need to improvise. Adams who was recently demoted to AAA in order to play every night has recently started to take reps at first. With Bell gone, the Nats will need some extra pop in the lineup, and Adams can help relieve some of the stress. Something to keep an eye on is that he hasn’t played since July eight.
7. Dee Strange-Gordon, SS
This only works if Ehire Adrianza takes over at third (more on that in a moment, but the recently signed Dee-Strange Gordon will more than likely be called back up come August third. Strange-Gordon started the season with the Nats before being DFAed to make room on the 40-man roster. He chose free agency after not wanting to go to the minors, but recently changed his mind and signed a minor league deal with the Nats.
At the end of his career, the speedster is a viable placeholder till to the end of the season. Before he was DFAed, he was hitting .305, with two RBIs, and an OPS of .681.
8. Ehire Adrianza, Third Base
More than likely Maikel Franco will still be the starter at third for the rest of the season — but he shouldn’t be. One of the worst defenders on the team, he’s posted -9 DRS at third and should be benched for Ehire Adrianza. The veteran can play all over the infield, but in 93 1/3 innings this season at the hot corner, he’s posted 2 DRS. Offensively, he’s struggled (.484 OPS), but his glove is worth starting him for the time being.
9. Victor Robles, Center Field
Will the Nationals finally pull the trigger and end the Victor Robles era? Teams could be interested in buying low on the speedster, but for now, Washington holds onto him. With Lane Thomas and Yadiel Hernández also becoming potential starters, Robles won’t have to look over his shoulder anymore, hopefully releasing any pressure that still might be holding over his head. Despite not being the elite defender he once was, Robles has still been above average in the outfield — posting one DRS and a 4.5 UZR.