This is general manager Mike Rizzo’s time to shine for his Washington Nationals team. For the first time ever, he has a chance to “retool” and trade some key players like Max Scherzer, closer Brad Hand, and set-up man Daniel Hudson for some key prospects that could shape the Nats’ rosters for years to come.
In fact, Rizzo could trade that trio together in one-trade to give one team a package deal that would give them a turn-key top of the rotation star pitcher, and a ready-made back of the bullpen pieces. The Dodgers and Yankees both need that. Really any team in the hunt could use those players. All-in-all, Rizzo must score two legitimate top prospects in trade deadline deals. Once upon a time, the Nats traded closer Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos in the team’s best deadline trade. They really need to beat that deal now.
The Nats could also try to trade Trea Turner for a big haul if they believe they can’t extend him. He fits this team so well but with all of the free agent shortstops available after the season, could Rizzo then jump into free agency? Normally you are safer with the bird-in-the-hand instead of two in the bush. But if Rizzo is blown away with a Turner trade he could look to Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Brandon Crawford, or Javier Baez in free agency.
“We know how to retool on the fly,” Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan radio. “We always want to be competitive. … Our goal is to win now. It always has been and always will be, but also with an eye to the future to build a sustainable winner.”
By getting some top prospects in trades, the Nats have the ability to lower their future payrolls if they can “hit” on a few players much like the team looked in 2013 when they had Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon as a core that produced well above their team controlled salaries at the time. Harper and Rendon at that time were minimum salary players.
We don’t know what the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and the associated competitive balance tax (CBT) will be set at, or whether there will be a new system. But let’s say the MLBPA pushes for higher salary formations and teams can spend to $225 million next year which seems reasonable, especially if a salary floor is set.
With cash comes the ability to add key parts to a roster. The Nats will be in need of a No. 1 starting pitcher, and they don’t come cheap. In addition the team will need a closer, a set-up man, a No. 1 catcher, a starting third baseman, a starting leftfielder, and they could use a centerfielder. Those are all wish-list items. Some of the names might be with the team now. They could look to re-sign Max Scherzer and Kyle Schwarber in the off-season.
Of course this team is only going to go as far as the starting pitching takes them and there is much uncertainty about Stephen Strasburg‘s health as he recovers from thoracic outlet surgery, and the ongoing struggles of Patrick Corbin. The team has nearly $60 million tied up in those two players. Of course, 2022 could make for a time to do a mid-season callup for top prospect Cade Cavalli.
In addition, if Rizzo can find a plug-n-play prospect now who could fit into the plans for next season, that could save cash especially for the infield and/or catcher.