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Analysis: Washington Nationals, sellers at the trade deadline, can further the rebuild

Chris Graham
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An 11-4 stretch in mid-June had the Washington Nationals very much in the National League wild-card race, but 13 losses in the past 17 games have the Nats on the verge of being sellers at the July 30 trade deadline.

This isn’t bad news, just being realistic about where things are.

The Nationals, remember, are still just in Year 4 of the rebuild from the teardown of the roster that won the 2019 World Series, and GM Mike Rizzo has done a good job getting young talent back for the older guys (Max Scherzer) and younger guys like Juan Soto and Trea Turner who had made it clear that they weren’t going to re-sign once they hit free agency.

Two of the guys picked up in the Soto trade, CJ Abrams (.274/.349/.491, 14 HRs, 46 RBIs, 14 SBs), a 2024 All-Star at shortstop, and James Wood, MiLB’s #1 prospect, who has looked good in his first two weeks in the bigs after slashing .353/.463/.595 in 52 games at Triple-A Rochester earlier this year, are building blocks going forward.

Second baseman Luis Garcia Jr. (.277/.310/.436, 10 HRs, 44 RBIs, 12 SBs) is a keeper.

Catcher Keibert Ruiz (.224/.261/.336, 6 HRs, 27 RBIs) is in the second year of an eight-year, $50 million contract extension signed before the 2023 season that isn’t looking like a good deal for the Nats right now – with his offense regressing, and his defense basically replacement-level.

There are two top prospects in Triple-A – outfielder Dylan Crews (.268 BA/.771 OPS, 8 HRs at two levels in 2024) and third baseman Brady House (.234 BA/.727 OPS, 13 HRs at two levels in 2024) – projected to make their MLB debuts either later this year or next spring.

The pitching rotation also seems to have potential, with rookies Jake Irvin (7-7, 3.13 ERA, 1.05 WHIP), Mitchell Parker (5-5, 3.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) and DJ Herz (1-3, 5.17 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 11.8Ks/9) emerging this season, around third-year MLB starter MacKenzie Gore (6-7, 3.83 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 10.7 Ks/9) and 2023 All-Star Josiah Gray, who has been on the IL with right-elbow issues since April after making two starts this season.

Rizzo, in essence, has his starting rotation, his catcher, middle infield, third base and his corner outfielders.

The needs: first base, centerfield, a #2 catcher (who can push for the starting job) and overall depth.


The trade pieces

  • Kyle Finnegan (2-4, 2.17 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 9.4Ks/9): I’ll hate seeing him go, but Finnegan, 32, is at his peak trade value now, and with contenders constantly on the prowl for help at the back end of the bullpen, he could fetch a good return, maybe a high-level prospect and a throw-in second-tier guy.
  • Lane Thomas (.243/.306/.400, 8 HRs, 37 RBIs, 22 SBs): Thomas had 28 homers and 20 steals with a .783 OPS last year. With one more year of team control, and Crews knocking on the door at Triple-A, it’s time to flip him, and I’m thinking he gets a good return, along the lines of what Finnegan should get.
  • Jesse Winker (.264/.379/.430, 10 HRs, 41 RBIs, 12 SBs): Winker, 30, on a one-year deal, is a rental for whoever gets him, but as a plug-and-play corner outfielder, maybe Rizzo can squeeze a contender for a decent prospect.
  • Dylan Floro (3-2, 2.01 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 7.3 Ks/9): Floro, 33, doesn’t have the K numbers to close or set up, but he has value to a contender as a seventh-inning guy, and Rizzo should be able to flip him for a second-tier prospect.
  • Hunter Harvey (2-4, 4.40 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 9.6 Ks/9): Harvey is 29, and his stuff suggests that, with a tweak or two, he could be a legit closer down the road. In the here and now, though, he’s inconsistent, so maybe he draws a second-tier prospect. Keep him, and he’s the heir apparent to Finnegan, with another year of team control. (Basically, he could be a trade piece at the 2025 deadline.)
  • Trevor Williams (5-0, 2.22 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.5 Ks/9): The limitation here is that Williams is on the IL with a flexor issue, on top of him being 32. I’m not seeing anything about him getting back in position to even make a rehab start anytime soon, which would make it hard for rival GMs to get a feel for how he might be able to help them down the stretch.

Video

Chris Graham analyzes what the Washington Nationals should be able to do at the 2024 MLB trade deadline (link).

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].