Sometimes you pivot and do a 180°. That is what Mike Rizzo and team ownership did, but in a very small way as they just traded Matt Adams and Daniel Murphy after declaring three weeks ago that the team is going for it. These were not even salary dumps as the Nationals will be paying part of Murphy’s $4 million remaining salary as they shipped him to the Cubs. The player the Nationals got back for Murphy is a low level prospect infielder named Andruw Monasterio who was rated 31st in the Cubs system.
As for Bryce Harper, he was claimed and not traded, and he will most likely move to free agency after the season unless his contract is extended which is highly unlikely.
Adams had lost his spot in the line-up to Ryan Zimmerman, and was mired in a slump that has extended over 2 1/2 weeks without a hit. Murphy who has been hitting well lost his power and his defense has been a liability.
It was three weeks ago when principal owner Mark Lerner sent an impassioned letter to Nationals fans about the team’s commitment to winning after the non-waiver trade deadline.
“In spite of a player payroll that exceeds $200 million — the second highest in baseball — and exceeding the luxury tax threshold, so far this season has not lived up to everyone’s expectations,” Lerner wrote. “The trade deadline forced us to take a hard look at the roster and contemplate whether to keep the team we have for the remainder of the season or make significant changes. At the end of the day, my family and [General Manager] Mike Rizzo decided that we just couldn’t give up on this team. We couldn’t look ourselves in the mirror knowing that we had simply thrown in the towel on a team full of talent and heart.”
Doing the one-eighty does not make Lerner and Rizzo into liars, but what was the motivation to save a few dollars and trade two players when you got essentially nothing back in return and did not get under the salary cap?
None of this will stop the drama like Jeff Passan who wrote a sourced piece that the “Nationals clubhouse is a mess” from writing it’s a “fire sale” which it is not.
If this was a fire sale, Bryce Harper would be gone. Passan has not been following too closely as to Adams playing time or lack thereof and Daniel Murphy’s defense.