Grading the Nationals' Trade Deadline

Milwaukee Brewers v Washington Nationals
Milwaukee Brewers v Washington Nationals / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

The Nationals made some noise at the Trade Deadline, it just wasn't the type of noise most might have expected. After trading Jeimer Candelario to the Cubs for LHP DJ Herz and SS Kevin Made, the Nationals opted to stop there and continue on with the remainder of the 2023 season. Was that the right choice? Only time will tell. Or, we can tell you as well...

What were your initial thoughts on the Nationals trade deadline?

Nick - Mike Rizzo has had a history of doing less than expected at the deadline, with the exception being 2021 when they traded everything that wasn't nailed to the floor. Even as buyers, the Nationals never made the overly big splash to propel them over the top at the deadline. That isn't to say that every deadline was a bad one, but a lot of them have been underwhelming and this one is no different. The unfortunate part of it all is that this year seems to have been at least in part due to user error and valuing certain players higher than what they were worth on the trade market, failing to capitalize on their value.

Alex - I’m somewhat disappointed. I was hoping to see at least one more move or a Candelario + Finnegan deal to net a larger return. I guess it’s smart not to push something for a nothingburger, but I also think Rizzo might have been valuing Finnegan and Thomas too high. I hope to see more young guys getting time regardless of the quiet deadline. Ex: DFA Dickerson for Rutherford, try Adams at first, etc. 

Arving - While I was surprised the Cubs was the destination for Candelario, the return was according to what I expected. I think Rizzo could get a bullpen MiLB arm for Edwards Jr. Smith and Meneses.

Zac - I'm satisfied. It doesn't seem prudent to force deals if there aren't any good offers. The players we kept will make Nationals baseball slightly less painful until they are eventually traded in the future.

Michael - I’m disappointed. I was looking to see more exciting players acquired, but we didn’t sell as much as we did in the previous two seasons. It seems like a waste to be relatively inactive when the minor leagues lack depth.

Ryan - Pretty disappointed. It was one of the best sellers markets we have seen in a while and only one trade is interesting. Relievers were going for big hauls and not being able to move Kyle Finnegan is a big letdown

Andrew - I wish Rizzo was more active. Given the seller’s market, I feel like there should’ve been more than one trade involving us. Then again, I always root for maximum chaos every trade deadline/free agency, so maybe I just wish we were more involved.

Reese - Not surprised by the single trade. When it was reported that Lane Thomas wasn’t viewed as a starting outfielder by other teams, I figured that Mike Rizzo would hold onto him. I’m shocked Kyle Finnegan or Carl Edwards Jr. are still on the team. 

Sam - Not surprised but still disappointed. Only making one trade was definitely a bit of a letdown. Not surprised Rizzo didn’t trade others like Thomas, Finnegan, Carl Edwards Jr., etc., but I was hoping he would. 

How would you grade the Jeimer Candelario trade?

Nick - A solid B. I didn't love the return, mainly because I was really hyping myself up over a high regarded prospect coming back to the Nats but instead the Nats went with a quantity over quality strategy. Herz has upside, although I think it will be as a reliever. Made is a defense-first shortstop, which is not the worst thing in the world, but his offense will need lots of work if he's ever going to see the majors.

Alex - B+. Herz is almost guaranteed to end up as a crafty bullpen arm with high strikeout numbers which is valuable in itself. Made will stay at shortstop in the future which is huge for this system due to the lack of depth at the position. If he can churn out a .700+ OPS with his defense at short, he’ll be a steal. People wanted more, but Candelario is a rental and not necessarily an elite bat, so this was a realistic return in my opinion. 

Arving - My grade is B. Two prospects to strengthen the depth in the farm, with the chance that one of them could be helping the team in 2024.

Zac - I'll give it a B. Hard to evaluate it without knowing what kind of offers were out there, but we now have two new top 30 prospects to root for. They may not be franchise-altering, but they made the system better.

Michael - A solid B. Getting two decent prospects with some solid tools is the right idea for trading a rental player. The process is spot-on, but it’s impossible to know what other packages may have been and how good the package will perform in the future.

Ryan - I’m going B+. I do not care about Made but I am pretty high on Herz, I think he’s a good pitcher to take a shot on. His stuff is great, if he can get the command down he’s going to be great in the back end of the bullpen.

Andrew - My grade is an B+. Getting two top-20 prospects for a one year rental is more than good enough for me. Getting two flier prospects in exchange for someone who wasn’t going be a Nat next year? Works for me!

Reese - B. If the Cubs offer was the strongest Rizzo could get, then I am satisfied. Herz has lots of upside with his strikeout numbers and Made could be a solid bench player in the big leagues. 

Sam - B. The Candelario signing turned out exactly how the Nats were hoping it would. Getting any prospects was good, so let’s see how they develop and if the Nats can unlock something in both of them.

Do you think the Nationals should have traded Lane Thomas and/or Kyle Finnegan?

Nick - Absolutely. The discourse over Lane Thomas being part of the future is laughable to me. He is a solid 4th outfielder who kills lefties but gets killed by righties, which is what MLB teams face 65% of the time. He's having a great season and likely won't be able to sustain it (like we saw in July) and it was smarter to flip him while he had value. And Finnegan absolutely should have been dealt with the crazy returns we've been seeing for relievers with years of control remaining. Seems like a huge missed opportunity.

Alex - I think they should’ve dealt Finnegan, whether it was with Candelario or alone. Relievers are volatile (go check Jorge Lopez’s numbers), as a rebuilding team you have to trade them. Especially in this year’s crazy market. 

Arving - No. Thomas is the kind of player you keep around. He could be a late bloomer and if you want to trade him next summer, his reliability as an everyday player will be higher with a bigger sample size. Finnegan seems fixable.

Zac - No way, not if there weren't any great offers. It's a shame teams didn't want to pay up what Lane Thomas is worth, but he's still an asset we can hope to trade in the future. Finnegan, though, may not be much of an asset at all compared to other available pitchers.

Michael - Absolutely, especially Finnegan. It seems that Rizzo and the front office think the team has a chance at competing in ‘25, or maybe even ‘24, because holding onto Thomas and Finnegan makes little sense otherwise. I don’t expect an extension for either and both are likely to be traded later on, so it would have been best to capitalize on their value while they’re healthy and performing.

Ryan - Yes. Not doing so is almost malpractice. Seeing all of the quotes from this front office they didn’t want to move either and vastly overvalued them when both could have gotten solid returns. Holding onto two players who don’t matter to your future is a choice.

Andrew - Really depends on the offers that were on the table. Those two guys, especially Lane Thomas, have certainly been key contributors this year and I wouldn’t want them sold off for nothing. I think Lane Thomas specifically can continue to improve and might get us more of a return in a trade down the road then he might have now.

Reese - Absolutely. I would like to see Stone Garrett and Riley Adams get more at-bats to see what they have to offer. But, I understand holding onto Lane Thomas. On the other hand, holding onto Finnegan makes no sense to me. Releivers are the most volatile types of pitchers. 

Sam - 110%. Relievers were highly valued in this market, as shown in the Paul Sewald trade, and Finnegan is having a really solid year with team control for the future. Same thing with Thomas. Neither of them have long term futures with the organization, so I’d rather the Nats get some value out of the two of them to continue to add to a top-heavy farm system.

Do you think Mike Rizzo has done a good job since 2020?

Nick - I think he's fine. The Soto trade was not an easy decision, but the return (so far) seems very good. He undersold big time on Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, but thankfully Josiah Gray seems like a bonafide big-leauger and Keibert Ruiz has shown signs of promise, which lessens the blow. Candelario and Schwarber were good signings, but he has many more bad signings that did nothing more than take up roster space. I think he has had his work cut out for him with the ownership situation and doesn't deserve all the blame, but definitely some blame. The player development still stinks and that alone might be enough reason for a change.

Alex - I guess so? His drafting has supposedly been better, but he’s also getting higher picks every year. Without the Soto trade I think a lot of people would say no to this question, but since it did happen and he had that asset to move I say I guess so. 

Arving - I mean, yes. He’s just doing what the ownership wants to be done. 

Zac - Definitely. We'll have a better idea when the rebuild is over, but trades like the Soto deal will keep paying dividends as time goes on. The Turner/Scherzer deal was also well executed. Rizzo didn't overspend like the Mets did this year, he made prudent signings that will set the team up for success.

Ryan - lol 

Michael - Rizzo always performs well in trade negotiations, and has selected decent free agent acquisitions since 2020. The front office as a whole, especially the team’s player development, has lagged behind the league in a significant way in recent years. I would support a holistic leadership change like other teams have done recently to catch up to trends, even if Rizzo has been good in some ways.

Andrew - Seeing as he turned three players with likely no long term future with the Nats into the foundation to our future going forward, I think he’s certainly done well enough. He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s done the one thing needed for a successful rebuild: he’s brought hope instead of what could’ve been a dire situation.

Reese - Yes. Our farm system is revamped and has some of the top prospects in all of baseball. I would like to see a new front office in place with a modern approach to drafting and scouting. 

Sam - He’s been serviceable. It’s hard to know how much of the past few years is his fault rather than ownership checking out and not giving him much of an allowance to work with, but regardless it hasn’t been the best. Candelario and Schwarber have been the only free agent acquisitions that played well, and while he has helped replenish the farm system, just how well those prospects turn out will be seen over time.

Who is one player you’d like to see get more of a shot the rest of the season?

Nick - Stone Garrett and Riley Adams.

Alex - Stone Garrett

Arving - José A. Ferrer.

Zac - Jose A. Ferrer

Ryan - Blake Rutherford and Stone Garrett. 

Michael - Drew Millas

Andrew - Stone Garrett and Jake Alu

Reese - Jake Alu and Jose A. Ferrer

Sam - Stone Garrett

What is your prediction for the Nationals W-L record?

Nick - 63-99

Alex - 60-102

Arving - 68-94

Zac - 65-97

Ryan - 62-100

Michael - 70-92

Andrew - 67-95

Reese - 66-96

Sam - 65-97