The Washington Nationals are in the place most of the media members expected them to be. The team has a National League worst 30-48 record. Only the Kansas City Royals and, of course, the Oakland Athletics, have a worse balance in all of baseball than the nation's capital franchise.
With five weeks remaining until the MLB Trade Deadline, rumors have flourished about some popular Nationals players that might be interesting for contending teams, possibly none more than third baseman Jeimer Candelario.
Jeimer Candelario is having, without any doubt, his best season ever. He is leading all third basemen in the National League in fWAR, not just thanks to his bat but also his defense has been elite. Only Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ryan McMahon (9) has added more outs above average than Candelario (8) in the hot corner.
Candelario was signed thru 2023 on a one year, $3 million deal. His 2.3 fWAR represents $18.5 millions in a WAR converted to dollars scale. That is the deal the Yankees made for Anthony Rizzo.
Ranking among NL 3B
His value is the kind of asset that would take a competing team to the next level. There are three teams that are fighting for a playoff spots, the New York Yankees, the Miami Marlins and the Philladelphia Phillies, that are ranked 26th, 28th and 29th in wins above replacement in the third base by Fangraphs numbers. Each one of these teams makes sense in a potential deal, although the Yankees probably most likely since they are out of the NL East.
Some might say the right thing would be to trade him and get a younger asset with more years of control and who could possibly contribute as early as 2024. It makes sense, and I can buy that argument. The thing is...
Is this going to be a team just collecting a bunch of young players without a clear destination?
Would it be better to, for the third season in a row, to get rid of your best player in order to get some new guys you don't know how they will develop and/or perform on your system?
How does it look like to the fans, especially the season ticket holders that have been waiting for four years, who are craving some improvement in the win column?
The Nationals farm system was ranked as the 7th best system by Baseball America and #10 by MLB. The organization has five players in the top 100 prospect list by MLB Pipeline.
I think the M.O. by the Nationals should be different this time. It's been two years since the Nationals traded Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. The Nationals should be wiser this time, considering 2024 is a crucial season for kids like García and Abrams in terms of development, progress and consolidation.
Having Jeimer Candelario around, who is the kind of role model those players need, will help you to teach them the right way. Not to mention the fact that Jeimer's production would be really hard to replace for a team that won't be spending that much in the offseason but could work out an extension with their current third baseman. Brady House's MLB ETA is 2025, however, the kid has been playing A+ ball for less than ten days. So that 2025 MLB ETA is not necessarily accurate, at least thinking in House beginning that season with the Nats. In the meantime, Candelario fills a need and wouldn't be blocking anyone.
Instead, Ildemaro Vargas looks like the kind of position player the Nationals should be trading. Of course, the return won't be the same, but the team won't lose his best player so far.