Fact: The rebuild isn’t even 3 years old!

Supposedly there was talk on the radio from a fool who said that the Washington Nationals are five years into a rebuild. Let’s speak to this for the 100th time. The Nats won the World Series fewer than five years ago so how could the rebuild be five years in length? Impossible and pure stupidity. Four years ago was the wasted COVID season — a complete write-off. So we should go through some facts of when the rebuild really started on July 30, 2021 as the official date.

How can we so succinctly pinpoint the date to July 30, 2021? That was the date the team tore it down and traded Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers. Rewind 30-days to June 30, 2021 and the Nationals were just 2½ games from first place! That’s a fact. What happened going forward was the beginning of the end. The team lost Kyle Schwarber to a hamstring tear, Stephen Strasburg was injured, and Patrick Corbin had an ERA that gets many pitchers DFA’d. From June 30 to the end of July 2021, the team plummeted to an 8-18 record and it was over. Just that quick — from contention to depletion.

Maybe general manager Mike Rizzo knew that Strasburg’s career was over then. Corbin looked broken, Erick Fedde was doing nothing about self-improvement, and the Nats run of greatness was over. After trading Scherzer, the pitching staff was decimated. Sure, they got Josiah Gray in the trade, but he had some noticeable flaws in that 2.4 HR/9 and high BB rate of 4.2. Many, and I mean many Nats fans felt that Rizzo was swindled in that trade with the Dodgers in which Scherzer and Turner were traded for Gray, Keibert Ruiz, and two other players off the Nats’ roster.

So yes, the rebuild has not even reached two years and 11 months chronologically. The reason it bottomed so quickly is because the farm system was practically barren, and the team was besieged by the Strasburg and Joe Ross injuries. The starting rotation just cratered. This was a team built on epic starting rotations. The future looking forward from August of 2021 might not have included any of those pitchers for the future or at least uncertainty on Strasburg, Corbin, and Gray. It was gray indeed.

Rizzo has rebuilt the starting rotation from trades and the minor leagues to include Jake Irvin and Mitchell Parker, and a great start to the year from Trevor Williams plus MacKenzie Gore who was acquired in the 2022 trade of Juan Soto has very much helped to infuse the team with a new energy as the star of the team is CJ Abrams. The shortstop was also part of the Soto trade, and he leads the team in WAR value.

What we don’t know yet is when the rebuild officially ends. If the Nats are buyers at this upcoming trade deadline, then we can declare the rebuild as, over. Right now, we don’t know for certain if this is a transitional time and place like 2011. The Nats were over .500 on Thursday for the majority of the day. They were a hit away from a walk-off in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh innings on Thursday from being two games over .500. On Sunday, the Nats had sole possession of the third Wild Card spot. That doesn’t sound like a team still in a rebuild — but small pieces of time don’t usually count. We need to see sustained success to declare the Nats are removed from the rebuild.

Yes, this current success was maybe not what some envisioned and certainly not the people that model projections at Baseball Prospectus who had this team as a bottom feeder set to lose well over 100-games. Some were at 67-95, a small step back from the actual 71 wins in the 2023 season. But don’t forget that farm system pieces like Jacob Young and Trey Lipscomb, and free agents Jesse Winker and the development of Luis Garcia Jr. has added some much needed value to this roster. Manager Dave Martinez saw it, but most weren’t paying attention.

“… we have a chance to win here, and get back to where we need to be, and that’s to be in the playoffs.”

” … tack on some more wins and get to those playoffs. …”

” … and be ready to go with [the goal to] try to get back into playoff contention.”

— quotes from Martinez just before the 2023 season ended

Look, nobody in their right mind is acting like the Nats just won the World Series in beating the Orioles on Tuesday in a shutout with their best pitcher, Corbin Burnes, on the mound. But why can’t fans enjoy the here and now of a little success? Let Davey talk about the playoffs. That should be the goal, obviously not a given. It seems the Orioles are destined for the playoffs. They are a very good team that the Nats were one clutch hit from sweeping on Wednesday. A 50/50 split is fine for the Nats — not for the Orioles. Let that be their problem. For Washington fans, smile, because you never know in sports how long it will stay that way.

Baseball is a cruel and cyclical game. Few things are a given — until it is actually done. The best teams in the regular season rarely win the World Series. That has been a fact since the competitive tax threshold was imposed. The postseason is a crapshoot. Texas and Arizona in last year’s World Series was not supposed to happen, yet it did. Two Wild Card teams. One with 90 wins and the other with just 84 in the regular season. The team with 104 wins lost to a Wild Card team in the NLDS, and the team with the best record in the AL got swept in the ALDS by a Wild Card team. Baseball is unpredictable too.

Anyways, the person who said on the radio that the rebuild is five years was just wrong. That we know, and if that person cared about facts at all, he would admit he was wrong. The Nats have to win tonight to stay above .500. Enjoy the ride, because bumpy roads lead to beautiful places — a wise man once said.

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