Should the Nationals Trade Lane Thomas?

Any baseball fan would tell you they were surprised by how many games the Nationals won last season. Lane Thomas had a lot to do with Washington’s success, especially early on in the season. With James Wood and Dylan Crews expected to make their major league debuts within the next year or two, does it make more sense to keep Lane Thomas around? Should he be traded for prospects to speed up the rebuild? 
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

Lane Thomas had one of the best first-halves of the season of any outfielder in the National League last season. With a batting average of .302, a career-high 14 home runs and nearly 50 RBIs, many believed the “Lane Train” was one of the biggest All-Star snubs in the MLB. 

Life was good for Lane Thomas before the 2023 All-Star break. Unfortunately for the 28 year-old outfielder, the second half of the season wasn’t as nice to him. Thomas regressed immensely down the stretch, with a batting average below .225 in the latter-half of the season. Was his insanely-productive first-half a just an anomoly?

Look, the Nationals acquired Lane Thomas for Jon Lester, who was at the tail-end of his career. Washington made out like bandits in that trade, and Thomas is still under contract for the next two seasons on an extremely reasonable contract ($5.45 million/year). Unless Mike Rizzo can get his money’s worth, I have no issues keeping him around. 

Rizzo tried shopping around for potential trades involving Thomas last season, but was unfortunately met with some backlash. He heard the same story from every GM he called: Lane Thomas is a LHP-facing specialist who would be nothing more than a platoon bat for a contender. Unless a team pushing for the playoffs needs a LHP-facing specialist down the stretch in 2024; I don’t see the offers getting much better.

On the other hand, once James Wood and Dylan Crews make their MLB debuts, it does not make much sense having a 28 year-old with one year remaining on his contract while the team is in the middle of a rebuild. If there is a team desperate enough for a bat that finished with a .331 batting average against LHP last season, I’d say we flip him for some prospects. I just don’t know if any teams out there will take the bait.

I’ve really enjoyed watching Lane Thomas play for the Nationals since coming over from St. Louis. He has been one of the few bright spots on this team in recent history. In my core, I know that we probably won’t see the same Lane Thomas we did in the first half of last season. He became wildly inconsistent at the plate down the stretch; it seemed like he lost some of the confidence he finally gained at the beginning of the season. 

Does it make sense to keep the Lane Train on this rebuilding roster? No, a smart GM would do anything and everything they can to move him after an over-performing season. Will I be upset if Rizzo and the Nats end up keeping Lane for the next two seasons, letting his extremely reasonable contract play out? Considering he’s been one of the few bright spots on the team in recent history, I would not mind getting to watch him at the top of the order for another season or two. Let’s just see what Rizzo can get for him in the market this year.