There is no indication whatsoever that the Washington Nationals are in “sell” mode even though many disenchanted fans are doing their best imitations of traders in the pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange yelling “Sell Sell Sell” and it is just too early to throw the towel in on the season when you are only 4-games back.
There are no illusions here on TalkNats as to how the Nationals are playing — it just is not good baseball in this 4-13 funk the team is in that started with the shutout the day after the Nationals Dream Gala. You take one game where you mail it in and sometimes that becomes an attitude and an attitude becomes a funk and all of a sudden you look back at 6 shutouts in that funk and wonder “how did we get to this point?” The poor baserunning, inconsistent pitching, inability to produce a productive out, etc. etc.
Last night was the perfect example of each one:
- Runners on 2nd and 1st base. Harper tags up from 2nd base and a bad throw goes into 3rd base and the trail runner (Rendon) doesn’t take 2nd base
- Madson faces two batters and gives up 2 runs. The 2-1 game turns into a 4-1 deficit
- Runners on 2nd and 1st and no outs; Soto pops up and runners can’t move up in a 2-1 game
We keep saying it, and manager Davey Martinez keeps saying it:
“It’s the little things that keep adding up in these losses,” Dave Martinez said.
So we know where this team is right now, and they need a shot of something. How much did this team miss Howie Kendrick and Matt Adams last night? Kendrick was batting .303 for the Nats and their best right-handed batter and Matt Adams has a .926 OPS and the Nationals are 26-12 when he starts this season. When Adam Eaton and Mark Reynolds entered last night’s game the Nationals had a chance to steal the game. Eaton swung in a 2-0 count on a pitch you shouldn’t swing at and then rolled into a weak groundout. Reynolds once again struck-out in a key spot, and you just knew how these missing players and injuries have decimated this team.
It is like playing a game on one leg which is how Daniel Murphy has been doing it. At some point, you have to hope that Murphy finds his secret formula and everything comes back together — but will it be too little too late for this team? Mike Rizzo in a radio interview yesterday spoke to that Murphy and Eaton are still in “spring training” mode. Murphy is batting .184 and Adam Eaton is batting .083 in the past week or should we say “weak.”
The holes in this lineup, bench and starting pitching rotation are evident, but yet the Nationals are only 4-games back and Stephen Strasburg is weeks away from returning and Matt Adams should be back sooner. Tomorrow marks the mathematical halfway point in the season.
There is plenty of time to make up the 4-game deficit but will ownership and Mike Rizzo wait on this team to stand firm if the Nationals are too far off the pace in 3 weeks? Where is that line in the sand. Where do you have to be in the standings to throw in the towel when you are only 2 games behind in the Wild Card? On the other hand, where do you need to be to be buyers and add more depth like a catching upgrade and a 3rd starter? Those are the questions that Mike Rizzo might not be able to answer right now.
The Nationals have several short-term players they could trade:
- Bryce Harper
- Sean Doolittle (2019 and 2020 team options)
- Matt Adams
- Daniel Murphy
- Gio Gonzalez
- Mark Reynolds
- Ryan Madson
- Kelvin Herrera
- Brandon Kintzler (2019 team/player option)
- Anthony Rendon (2019 team control)
- Jeremy Hellickson
- Ryan Zimmerman (2019 team control and 2020 team option)
- Matt Wieters
- Shawn Kelley
Those are all players with less than 2 years of team control remaining. Some have more value than others. Some players have no value right now like Wieters on the trade market. The names are there to illustrate that this team is going to turnover anyway either during this season or after the season. There are also going to be players on that list that the Nationals would be interested in retaining like Bryce Harper, Matt Adams, and some others.
The Nationals could also look to trade some short-term players for prospects and simultaneously try to package those prospects for some strategic long-term acquisitions. There will also be some pitchers available on salary dumps like Nathan Eovaldi, Lance Lynn, Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, Matt Harvey and Marco Estrada. Not all of those players will fit like Hamels who is still owed $10 million for this year a big buyout for next year. From that list Eovaldi would be a good fit and he is only due a little more than $1 million right now. The Nats need some starting pitching depth right now as they are only 4.0 games back. Gio could use some time on the 10-day DL to rest his arm.
Here’s the current picture:
The Nationals are a winning streak from putting all the negative talk away. It won’t be easy to start a winning streak now with 3 more games against the Phillies and then 3 games with the Boston Red Sox. After that, the Nationals play the Marlins, Pirates and Mets.
“You’re never as good as you think you are when you win; and you’re never as bad as you feel when you lose.”― former Coach of Penn State football
Patience is a virtue. Try to stay positive. Baseball is just a game.