A day after it looked like the Nationals had missed their chance at making a blockbuster trade with the White Sox, the Nationals ended up making a blockbuster trade with the White Sox. Outfielder Adam Eaton, and not pitcher Chris Sale, is now a National while DC waves goodbye to a trio of promising pitching prospects: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning.
Time is a flat circle, so it’s only fitting that Derek Norris is returning to DC. After the Nationals shipped him to Oakland as part of the deal that brought Gio Gonzalez to DC, Norris has been dealt back to the team that originally drafted him. In a deal announced Friday, the Nationals found a potential Wilson Ramos replacement in the former Padre Norris in exchange for Single-A pitcher Pedro Avila.
It’s never been a better time to be a relief pitcher. Thanks to the success of the Royals, Cubs and Indians and their respective bullpens, relief pitching is the new “fetch”. If you are lucky enough to be able to throw a baseball at least 95 MPH, you can pitch a couple innings a week, hang out in the bullpen the rest of the year, and watch the cash flow in. Look no further than the University of Maryland’s own Brett Cecil, who just signed a four year deal worth over $30 million after throwing only 36 innings of 3.93 ERA baseball last season.
With the conclusion of the World Series, the offseason is officially here. Although 2016 ended in disappointment for the Nationals, the team doesn’t lose a lot heading into 2017 and figures to once again be in the mix for the 2017 World Series. Like most teams, the Nationals have some work to do around the edges, like solidifying a bullpen that loses a few arms and replacing some of the bench players. But the big moves for the Nationals will be dictated by their answer to the following four crucial questions.
As I watched Wilson Ramos land awkwardly and crumple to the ground pointing at his knee Monday night, a lot was going through my mind. I was mad that the Nationals had to play in the sloppy conditions in DC that night. I was frustrated with Dusty Baker for not giving Ramos more time off. I cursed the baseball gods who clearly had a hand in sending first Stephen Strasburg then Daniel Murphy then Bryce Harper and now Ramos to the bench with injuries. I wondered how many people weren’t watching the game because they were doing something much more important like watching the presidential debate. I hated the Diamondbacks and their stupid jerseys. I missed Jose Fernandez, because anything related to baseball makes me miss Jose Fernandez this week. But most of all, in the midst of all that emotion, I feared what this injury might do to ruin what has been an amazing season of baseball in DC.
The Nationals have a problem, they have a black hole at first base. I mean that figuratively of course; the Nationals have gotten the least offensive production out of first base in all of baseball. There may be a hole in the space time continuum at first, though, because Ryan Zimmerman has gone missing this season. Zimmerman’s .213/.269/.365 batting is far from acceptable from a first baseman. In fact, it makes him the worst offensive first baseman in all of baseball. He might as well have been pulled into The Upside Down.
With a playoff berth looking surer by the day, the Washington Nationals must look to October. The franchise’s playoff history is far from sterling, but what about this year’s team? Could they be the ones to break through and bring DC its first baseball title since 1924? One easy way to figure it out is by looking at how the past few champions have made their way to destiny.
No jinx, but the Nationals are inching closer to officially locking up a playoff spot. The sizable lead the team owns in the NL East allows the Nationals to be smart about playing time down the stretch. Joe Ross needs time to build up arm strength? Let him get as many rehab starts as possible. Stephen Strasburg isn’t 100%? Skip one more start just to be safe. The relief pitchers, though, still have something to play for: a spot on the playoff roster.
Trea Turner has taken the big leagues by storm. Coming into Tuesday night’s game against the Phillies, Turner was hitting .341/.361/.538 with 17 stolen bases before tacking on two more hits and a stolen base. Over those 42 games, he’s already accumulated 2.1 WAR, according to Fangraphs. It’s obviously early in Turner’s career, but those early returns suggest that Turner is set for a long career in the big leagues.
In a move to bolster the bullpen and fry spell checks across the DC Metro area, the Nationals traded for the Athletics’ Marc “Scrabble” Rzepczynski. (Control-C, Control-V.) Rzepczynski gives Dusty Baker another left-handed reliever in the pen, something the team was hurting for with Sammy Solis on the DL and Oliver Perez battling nagging injuries and a bout of ineffectiveness. To acquire Rzepczynski, Mike Rizzo had to trade away prospect Max Schrock and send Reynaldo Lopez back to the minors to make room.