3 Nats Players who could be next on the Chopping Block

With the Washington Nationals recently saying goodbye to some lineup mainstays over the past week in favor of fresh faces, I chose to identify 3 Nats players who should be counting their days with the big league club.
Jordan Weems could be next to get the axe.
Jordan Weems could be next to get the axe. / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

In the last week alone, the Washington Nationals have undergone a facelift of sorts. The team has said goodbye to some familiar faces around the clubhouse in place of others who offer more of a glimpse to the future, in hopes of igniting a team that before winning 3 of their last 4 coming into Sunday's action, had lost 7 of 8 games and were seeing their slim playoff hopes fleeting by the second.

But now, with Eddie Rosario, Joey Meneses, and Nick Senzel all moved out of the everyday lineup and off the MLB roster in favor of James Wood, Juan Yepez, and Trey Lipscomb, the precedent has been set by General Manager Mike Rizzo that if you aren't performing, you won't have a firm place on this team.

Needless to say, although a small sample size, it appears that the message was received in the clubhouse, as the Nats exploded for 14 runs on 15 hits Saturday afternoon against the Cardinals, with everyone in the starting lineup reaching base at least once, including the new #1 prospect in baseball (according to Baseball America):

The Nats, currently sitting at 42-47, are just 4.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot in the National League entering Sunday's action, and face an important looming decision in terms of whether or not they decide to be sellers at the July 30th deadline. While veterans on expiring deals like Jesse Winker and Dylan Floro are expected to be dealt, the team's performance over the next few weeks could decide the long-term fates of other pieces such as Kyle Finnegan, Lane Thomas, or perhaps even Luis Garcia Jr.? Who knows.

But as of right now, with Mike Rizzo showing this team that underperforming is not an option, who are some potential candidates on the chopping block that could follow in the path of Rosario, Meneses, and Senzel? I identified 3 candidates on the team who should be looking over their shoulder.

1. Jordan Weems

Jordan Weems
Jordan Weems. / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

This one feels like it is just a matter of time now. There's no need to sugarcoat this one, Jordan Weems has been downright dreadful in 2024. Coming of a 2023 campaign in which he posted a pitching line with a solid 3.62 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, this season has been a massive step backwards in terms of his outlook for the future.

The 31-year-old righty carries a 6.03 ERA and 1.51 WHIP entering Sunday's action, and only appears to be a usable option in mop-up duty at this point of the season. He has surrendered earned runs in his last 3 appearances, and is firmly entrenched in Davey Martinez' "B-Bullpen" after opening up the season as a trusted arm pitching more in the middle innings in higher-leverage situations.

The reality of the situation as it stands is that he can't be trusted in any sort of situation with leverage, and his ERA continues to trend in the wrong direction every time he steps on the mound. The writing appears to be on the wall for Weems, and as soon as an MLB-caliber arm such as Cade Cavalli or Jose A. Ferrer gets healthy, I'd expect Weems to be the first one gone.

2. Nasim Nuñez

Nasim Nunez, Jacob Young
Nasim Nuñez (#26). / Denis Poroy/GettyImages

At some point, you've got to feel a bit bad for Nasim Nuñez and how his tenure in the Washington Nationals organization has played out. The Nationals' Rule 5 Draft selection this past offseason, the expectation was that the Nats would find a way to have a useful role for Nuñez, as giving up on him and optioning him to the minor leagues would include offering him back up to his previous team, the Miami Marlins.

However, it is currently July 7th, and Nuñez has just 13 at-bats and just 1 base hit to show for being on the roster since Opening Day. He has stolen just 3 bases in 5 tries, and has seldom been used as a defensive replacement, barely getting the chance to show off his 70 grade speed, 65 grade arm, and 70 grade fielding that he was touted with as a prospect. It's clear that Davey Martinez would rather give backup infield reps to Ildemaro Vargas over Nuñez, and that he hasn't yet earned the trust of the Nats' skipper.

I wrote back in April that the best option for Nuñez would be to stay ready to be used as a pinch runner or late-game defensive replacement, but at some point, the Nats might be willing to deem him expendable, as he was rumored to be the corresponding move before the news of Senzel being DFA'd became public on Saturday afternoon. If I were to make a prediction, I'd say the 23-year-old doesn't finish the season as a member of the big league club with the Nats, and would be the next position player gone if another change was deemed necessary.

3. Tanner Rainey

Tanner Rainey
Tanner Rainey. / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

Tanner Rainey, to his credit, has been much better recently than his overall numbers would reflect, which is why I have him as third on this list of potentially expendable pieces on the big league club. Before anyone wonders where Patrick Corbin is on this list, I encourage you to look up his recent numbers as well, as he very quietly has not been as horrible as you'd think, and is serving his role eating innings as the fifth starter in this Nats rotation.

Anyways, back to Rainey. The 31-year-old righty has been a shell of his former self in 2024, that can't be denied. However, despite one rough outing in the month of June in San Diego in which he gave up 4 earned runs, he quietly posted 7 scoreless appearances last month and perhaps seems as if he is maybe returning to (ever so slightly) being a serviceable reliever in the Nats' bullpen.

While his velocity will likely never recover to the upper 90s he was able to consistently touch before the injuries, he is comfortably sitting around 94-95 MPH on his fastball right now, and has begun to miss more bats than he was earlier in the season. While his overall line of a 7.13 ERA and 1.75 WHIP is downright atrocious, Rainey appears to be slowly earning back the trust of Davey Martinez, and should be given a longer leash than Weems at this point.

It's always tough to make articles like these, especially about 3 players that I genuinely want to see experience success in a Nats uniform. However, with the team in its current state and the team surging towards being competitive sooner rather than later, it seems as if this roster is going to look different within the next couple weeks. Mike Rizzo & co. will be sure to make moves as the deadline approaches, whether it's being full-blown sellers, or a combination of buying and selling. While I don't have all the answers, I would guess that the only one who ends the season on the big league roster with the Nats from this blog is Rainey, and even then, that's a stretch.

Perhaps with the deadline looming and players like Dylan Floro and Jesse Winker set to be playing for other teams in a few weeks, the opportunity is there for any of these guys to make their case to stick around. Alas, only time will tell.

What do you think of my chopping block candidates? Who will be next to go should the Nationals make another roster change? Is there anyone else who you'd get rid of that I didn't name? As always, let me know on X @DCBerk.

All stats in this article were provided by MLB.com.