It has been a while since we have done a fan Q&A and now seems like as good of a time as any to revisit this team we call our own. A lot has happened since the season started, and a lot of it hasn't exactly gone the way we quite expected (although some of the results are as expected).
We're taking a look and answering all of your questions about the Nats!
A: I think you absolutely have to trade Lane Thomas this summer. He is enjoying a true breakout campaign and while that may be a bright spot in a dark place for Nationals fans, his timeline does not really fit the Nationals' timeline. Yes he still has two additional years of control beyond this year, but so did Juan Soto at the time he was trade. The Nationals opted to trade Soto when they did in order to maximize the return they got for him. They should do the same with Thomas, although he obviously won't garner the same package that Soto did.
As far as the specific return, it varies a bit. With the expanded playoffs, more teams are in the hunt, which subsequently means there are less teams selling and it creates a sellers market. This is really good for the Nats as there will be plenty of teams inquiring on their players. The Nats could opt for a player close to MLB ready, or a couple of players that are in A ball that are still a few years away. I think grabbing a couple of young, high upside arms could be beneficial, or a strong 1B prospect since they don't currently have one in their system. Thomas doesn't have the track record to warrant a massive return, so I wouldn't necessarily expect a team's top 10 prospect coming back to the Nats, but I think a team's top 20 prospect or two is well within the range of return packages.
A: Well I'll give you a hint, it is going to be an external candidate. As mentioned earlier, the Nationals are weak at 1B in their Minor League System. They have a plethora of outfielders, so it is conceivable that they could move one to first base for the Major Leagues, but it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to move a young prospect with upside to a less premium position this early in their career. They need to know if those guys can play a major league outfield before they make a positional change, as its likely that not all of them will be major league caliber players regardless of our personal feelings on their upside. They did move TJ White to first base, but he has struggled offensively this season and is still several years away.
First base will likely be the position the Nats can "spend" on in free agency. Think Jayson Werth, but first base. A veteran guy that they will slightly overpay so he can come in and lead a young and up-and-coming team once some of their prospects graduate. No more Dom Smiths and Joey Meneses' please.
A: I really think so. I don't know when, but it seems to make too much sense. Leonsis owns NBC Sports Washington (now rebranded as the Monumental Sports Network) and would be able to stream Nationals games once the Nats get out of the MASN deal, which now seems closer than ever since the Orioles agreed to pay the Nationals the $100 Million they were owed from 2012 to 2016. There is still more to figure out in that regard, but significant progress has been made in the past couple weeks.
This helps clear the way for Leonsis or any prospective buyer to make an offer, with the idea that the TV Rights would be sorted out. But all things considered, I think Leonsis can offer the most as an owner trying to buy a team. He also sold a minority stock in Monumental to the Qatari Investment Authority, which adds more cash for a potential offer.
Regardless on how you feel about Leonsis, he has always cared about his franchises. The Capitals won a Stanley Cup in 2018 and have done well to retain all of their star players and while the Wizards have been perennially mediocre for decades, recently there has been a massive overhaul that seems to have put the franchise on its best path in quite some time.
A: At this point, I do not think so. I think the Nationals will draft whichever LSU player the Pirates do not. For sake of argument, I think Wyatt Langford and Max Clark are in consideration, more due to due diligence than anything, but it seems to be a two horse race at this point.
If the Pirates go underslot at 1, which they have in recent years, then it becomes an incredibly interesting decision between Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes. I think they SHOULD go Crews in that situation, but my money would be on Paul Skenes after his incredible season and CWS performance, and the idea that Mike Rizzo can add another electric arm to a rotation of the future that already features two staples in Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore and potentially Cade Cavalli.
If you're asking me what I would do, I think I would go Langford over Skenes if Crews goes first overall. Skenes has been great, but pitching is so volatile and Langford had almost as impressive of a season in the SEC as Crews did, despite missing a month due to a groin injury. Yes the Nationals have outfielders, but there is nothing wrong with having depth and being able to trade from a position of strength to supplement your roster. Skenes wasn't on anyone's draft board at the start of the year whereas Chase Dollander was, and is now looking at the late-teens in the draft after he struggled this year. I would love the Paul Skenes pick, but there is definitely risk there. If the Pirates go Skenes at 1, I would go Crews over Langford.
Ironically, you can watch Dylan Crews and the LSU Tigers take on Wyatt Langford and the Florida Gators in the College World Series Championship starting tonight at 7p on ESPN. It is a best of 3 series and while we won't see Paul Skenes pitch tonight, there is a possibility we see him in relief tomorrow or potentially start the decisive game 3 on Monday.
A: My guy Dan is fed up and I gotta say, I am right there with him. The answer to all three of his questions is coaching. The Nationals are a poorly coached team and they have been for quite some time. Yes the players and fans like Davey Martinez as a person, but in his 4.5 seasons outside of the 2019 campaign, the Nationals have been riddled with poor coaching that has led to severe underperformance. It is not as though the Nationals are completely without talent, although roster construction does play a factor in this team's struggles.
At some point the Nationals need to thank Davey Martinez for 2019 and move on to the next chapter. You saw the Philadelphia Eagles do that with Doug Pederson, who won them their first ever Super Bowl, just two years later and two years after that they were back in a Super Bowl. The Royals fired Mike Mathney prior to this season and Matheny had a better winning percentage than Davey has had since 2020.
The Nationals are a very young team for the first time in honestly over a decade. They do not have the veterans they once did they made this team one of the older teams in baseball. These young guys need to be coached and coached thoroughly and I do not believe Davey Martinez and the staff he has assembled are equipped to do that, especially Darnell Coles. Just because we are in a rebuild does not mean we should settle for less than we deserve.