On Wednesday afternoon, the Washington Nationals announced two major roster moves after their exciting walk-off win against the Brewers. The Nationals have requested an unconditional release waiver on veteran outfielder Corey Dickerson and have optioned infielder Luis García to Triple-A Rochester in a move that shocked many in the baseball world. The truth is, since June 22, Garcia is only hitting .210 with a .250 OBP and a powerless .269 slug for just a .519 OPS, and when you couple that with some uninspiring second base defense that has been negative at a -3.0 OAA, you can see why general manager Mike Rizzo made the move. In the corresponding moves, a source told Talk Nats that Washington will call up outfielder Blake Rutherford. Subsequently, Jesse Dougherty gave the fourth move in the complicated puzzle that the team would also promote Jeter Downs.
In late news, CF Derek Hill was scratched from the Rochester Triple-A lineup which could be related to another roster move, a possible roster move, or just unrelated to the big league roster. The Nats have a day-off tomorrow, and Downs and Rutherford will join the team in Cincinnati for the weekend series against the Reds.
Dickerson, 34, signed with the Nationals on a team-friendly one-year, $2.25 million deal before the season started. The 2017 All-Star and 2018 Gold Glove winner slashed .250/.283/.354 with two home runs in 151 plate appearances, spanning over 50 games. As Talk Nats mentioned earlier in the week, the Nationals were unsuccessful in dealing with Dickerson by the deadline and, therefore, are releasing him now. An interesting note from Talk Nats is that Rizzo had hoped to trade Dickerson before the August 1 trade deadline, but there were no takers, leading Rizzo to release the outfielder today.
García, 23, as mentioned, has struggled in recent weeks in the field and at the plate, where he excelled at the beginning of the season. In 377 at-bats this season, García has recorded 98 hits and 42 RBIs, while slashing .260/.294/.363. The infielder has played in 99 games this season, a career high in a season for Garcia. You have to think that Downs taking Garcia’s roster spot sends a signal that Nationals management wants an attitude and focus change.
Garcia shouldn’t have a problem in Rochester as he’s hit .306/.368/.554 in his career with the Nationals Triple-A affiliate. He just needs to get his bat going again and work on his defensive range.
With Rutherford taking Corey Dickerson‘s roster spot on both the active roster and the 40-man roster, this is a big opportunity for him. The New York Yankees selected Rutherford with the 18th overall pick in the first round in the 2016 MLB draft. Rutherford began the following season in Class A with the Yankees; however, he wasn’t there long as he was traded to the White Sox. The outfielder would join Class A in the White Sox organization and finished his 2017 campaign with a combined .260 batting average and 35 RBIs in 101 games.
Following the 2019 season, Rutherford was added to the White Sox 40-man roster but did not play a game in 2020 because of the cancellation of minor league baseball. He then was DFA’d on March 29th, 2022, and cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A, where he played 116 games, slashing .271/.311/.428 with 13 home runs. Before the 2023 season got underway, Rutherford signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals. Rutherford has no accumulated MLB service time, and can be kept under team control for at least six seasons.
Downs, 24, was first called up to the Nationals in April when Ildemaro Vargas was put on the IL. The infielder is a former top-100 prospect and was regarded as one of the top players in the Boston Red Sox farm system. Downs suffered an undisclosed injury in mid-May but was cleared to head back to Class-AAA Rochester in late June. However, it’s safe to say Downs has struggled at the plate in Rochester this year as he’s compiled a .175/.302/.333 slash line over 136 plate appearances.