Nationals

The Washington Nationals were expected to contend for a World Series in 2018, but this season has not gone as planned for the team.

The Nationals found themselves in a bit of a conundrum weeks before the trade deadline. A few weeks ago, at the deadline, most eyes turned to the nation’s capital to see what the team would do.

At the deadline, the Nats were 5.5 games back in the division, but Mike Rizzo decided to make a run because he believed the team’s talent would eventually come around. However, the team has gone 7-8 in 15 games since the deadline, and they have lost 3.5 games in the division. The Nationals now sit nine games behind in the division and 6.5 back of the wild-card with five teams ahead of them.

Last month, the Nats’ front office should have traded away some vets who were pending free agents, and they should have seriously considered moving Bryce Harper. The team has a lot of players who will come off the books during the next three summers. If Harper prices himself out for the franchise this winter, the Nats may not be able to afford everyone else.

The Nationals may not want to overpay for Harper and decide to go for everyone else. This means that the team would lose him for nothing, yet they would unnecessarily hold onto him for an extra three months.

Washington is going to lose some players unless the team wants to break the bank. The team is most likely not going to make the playoffs, so the Nats need to start trading players away. Specifically, the team needs to trade veterans who are set to be free agents. Some of the vets are going to be old and pricey.

Even if the Nationals can bring the vets back, the team will have no use for them in 2018. Essentially, the team can either get something in return for their assets and not re-sign, or get something in return and bring the vets back. The team should not stay stubborn and keep believing that they can make a run at the playoffs; they’re too far out.

The Nats have some assets who also happen to be in their contract year. The team should take advantage of the fact that contending teams can use and will want these assets.

Kelvin Herrera is currently on the DL with a shoulder problem. When he is healthy, however, he is an established relief ace. He posted a 2.53 ERA in 42.2 innings this year. Interestingly, he has a 4.76 ERA with the Nat which can debatably be pinned on his mental aspect. Herrera has a 1.66 ERA in save situations vs. 3.43 ERA in non-save situations.

There’s nothing special about a save situation except for the fact that many players approach the game from a different mental position. A team such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, who need someone to replace their sidelined closer Kenley Jansen, would be able to use Herrera if he is healthy.

Greg Holland is another reliever with the Nationals who teams may look at if he can re-establish his value. He struggled with the St. Louis Cardinals this season, but he was signed exceptionally late and did not get enough reps to build his arm up. He’s thrown four scoreless innings with the Nationals, and if he continues to look good in red, his value will shoot up.

Gio Gonzalez doesn’t have the best numbers, and he’s been incredibly inconsistent, but he can fill in a spot at the backend of a rotation. Jeremy Hellickson would be a better option to fill in a spot on the starting staff. Before he left his last start with a wrist injury, Hellickson was having a very solid year, with a 3.57 ERA and 120 ERA+ in 18 starts.

However, the Nats’ most valuable asset is no-doubt Daniel Murphy. The second baseman missed almost two and a half weeks at the beginning of the season due to an injury and started off slow when he returned.

However, the veteran has caught fire since June 30. He is hitting .360/.406/.568 with six home runs, a .409 wOBA, and 157 wRC+ in 38 games (138 PA). Murphy was one of the two or three best hitters in the National League from 2016-2017. The designated hitter would be the best position for Murphy so a team like the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, and Houston Astros can use another big bat.

The Nationals can use these players to help streamline their retooling efforts. If they are serious about bringing these players back, it should not matter whether they finish the season in red or not.

Featured Image via Flick/Keith Allison