It’s the closing minutes of the last selloff of the 2018 season, as teams that have fallen out of contention scramble to offload players before the clock rings midnight. Starting tomorrow, any player not already in a playoff team’s organization will be barred from suiting up in October.
And so the Washington Nationals bid adieu to two key members of their pitching staff. Ryan Madson was with the Nats for just 13 months, coming over in the trade with Oakland that also netted Washington closer Sean Doolittle (and handed the upstart A’s a reliever who has turned out to be a pretty good closer in his own right, Blake Treinen). Gio Gonzalez also originally came to D.C. from Oakland, but he has been a National since 2012, and while his Nats tenure has certainly had its ups and downs — and those ups and downs have also had their ups and downs — for many, it is hard to say goodbye to the third-longest-tenured member of the ballclub.
Madson will join the troubled bullpen of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are trying to scrap their way into the playoffs in a very tough National League West Division. But Gonzalez will actually stay in town for a couple more days, as he made his first appearance after today’s 4-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers wearing the visiting team’s cap and sweatshirt.
— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) September 1, 2018
The Nats will get more than salary relief by giving up their final month of team control over Madson and Gonzalez. The Dodgers sent over undersized but intriguing 25-year-old reliever Andrew Istler, who has enjoyed a great minor league season in predominantly hitters’ leagues and could be a candidate for a role in the major league bullpen as soon as next month, while the Brewers gave up two once-touted infield prospects in 22-year-old KJ Harrison (who also catches some) and 20-year-old Gilbert Lara, both of whom have slid down the prospect rankings as they’ve struggled to make contact as professional ballplayers.
It’s a new era in D.C. as the 2018 selloff now appears complete, barring a surprise trade that could send another soon-to-be-free agent like Matt Wieters to another team before midnight. The Nats traded away A.J. Cole, Brian Goodwin, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams, Madson, and Gonzalez during this season. All of those players except Adams appeared with the Nats in 2016, and in Gio Gonzalez’s case, he was a Nat for a very long time. But no longer.
As for the game: Washington got on the board early on an Anthony Rendon RBI groundout, but the Brewers had already taken the lead on a two-run home run in the top of the first inning, and while the visitors tacked on two more, the Nats were all done scoring. They left twelve runners on base and went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. In the vernacular, those numbers are real bad.
All evening, it seemed like the Brewers defense was positioned perfectly when it needed to be. Well-struck balls belted to right-center field by Matt Wieters and then Adam Eaton were gobbled up on or just shy of the warning track as the late-August breeze kept them in play. (Speaking of Wieters, he was later ejected from the top step of the dugout after complaining about home plate umpire Chad Whitson’s strikezone. Manager Dave Martinez came out to argue briefly but ultimately failed to double the number of times he’s been ejected in his managerial career.)
On the bright side, the bullpen pitched well, with rookie Jimmy Cordero notching a 1-2-3 inning on three pitches in the eighth; Trea Turner went 3-for-4 with a walk and Juan Soto went 2-for-3 with a walk; and Anthony Rendon extended his active hitting streak to ten games.
The Nats will send their big righty Stephen Strasburg to the hill tomorrow and hope he pitches more like he did at the end of his most recent start than he did at its beginning, as Strasburg continues to build strength and velocity following a stint on the disabled list. The Brewers are set to counter with right-hander Chase Anderson, whom most of the Nats haven’t seen yet. No word yet as to whether the newest member of Milwaukee’s pitching staff will be available as a reserve.