It’s May 28th and life is good again for Washington Nationals fans. Just 9 days after the disaster of a doubleheader loss to the Dodgers which also claimed Howie Kendrick for the season, the Nats are right on the heels of the front-running Braves separated by only a ½ game in the standings. What’s more is the sweet fact that hitting machine Daniel Murphy and super sub Brian Goodwin are a mere days away from joining the race and Ryan Madson and Matt Grace are right there behind them.
Conventional wisdom indicates that when Murphy and Goodwin return Adrian Sanchez and Andrew Stevenson will go down (Stevo has shown some promise and needs to play every day). When Madson and Grace return it’s reasonable to conclude that Wander Suero and Trevor Gott get on a plane to Syracuse, furthermore when Ryan Zimmerman comes back there is good reason to expect one more reliever to go down from the 8-man bullpen. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on a DFA of Shawn Kelley who is still owed north of $2.5 mil but is not really contributing that much. I guess it could also be Tim Collins or Justin Miller if they stumble.
The real interesting situation arises when Adam Eaton returns and is ready to reclaim his spot in the outfield and in the batting order; conventional wisdom says that this will signal the return of Juan Soto to the minors and it likely will but here are some things to consider:
1) Juan Soto is not over-matched at the major league level.
2) Juan Soto looks like a very productive offensive player and a competent defender even now. His knowledge of the strike zone is astounding for a 19 year old.
Now; I have no doubt that Soto will have some rough patches. Some pitchers like Tyson Ross the other day will make him look bad but the truth is Ross made everyone look bad and Soto shows a great ability to learn, to adapt and to bounce back strong. The real refreshing part of Soto’s game has been the ability to hit doubles and singles along with home runs and the walks are there too.
Where I am going with this is that Mike Rizzo has to at least consider the crazy idea of trading Bryce Harper. It’s not an easy decision and it’s not an easy task.
1) You don’t want to trade Harper to an NL team. He is sure to bite you in the rear end if you do.
2) Very few teams can consider adding so much salary mid season.
3) As a rental this only makes sense for teams heading to the playoffs or have a great chance to get there.
4) The Nats won’t get a prospect haul for Harper because he’s a rental and because he has been imitating Adam Dunn all year.
5) The main benefit would be a windfall of $10 mil which might put the Nats under the luxury tax threshold and would allow them to add salary trying to resolve their catching situation.
It would be a real unusual move for a World Series contender to trade the face of it’s franchise, and the person most consider their best player — but it might just be a brilliant stroke by Rizzo, a move that would extend his flexibility for this year and beyond. Just food for thought.