With the necessary caveat that this is all hypothetical, just one man’s opinion, not based in reality, etc., MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince did offer up some interesting ideas in an article this weekend in which he proposed potential trades that could solve some teams’ perceived needs this winter.
Like, for example, the Washington Nationals, who are once again in the market for a late-inning reliever/closer after trading for Mark Melancon to fill that need this past summer.
Melancon is a free agent, so the Nationals, who have expressed interest in bringing the veteran back, are weighing their options.
Will Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office finally sign hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman, a target for the GM over the years when he’s been available?
Will they make a play for right-hander Kenley Jansen? Will the Nationals be willing to pay for the high-end relievers on the market this winter?
“They need to fill the ninth,” Castrovince suggests, “and they don't seem particularly likely to spend the money it would take to bring back Mark Melancon or sign Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen.”
[ed. note - “Rizzo, in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies this summer, in discussing the fact that he knew Melancon was likely to become a free agent after they acquired him, told the show’s hosts, ‘We’ve paid for closers in the past. We’ve paid a lot of money for closers in the past and we’ll take a look at the landscape and where we can implement our dollars in the best way and the way to allocate our dollars in the best way and we’ll see where it goes.’”]
Instead of signing one of the big-name free agents, the MLB.com writer suggests a trade with the Kansas City Royals for 31-year-old right-hander Wade Davis.
The return? In the hypothetical deal, the Royals would receive right-handers Reynaldo Lopez and Austin Voth and outfielder Andrew Stevenson in return for Davis.
Lopez, 22, who made his MLB debut this season, is currently ranked No. 3 on MLB’s list of the Nationals’ Top 30 prospects.
Voth, 24, pitched at Triple-A in the organization in 2016, is ranked No. 9 on the list, and would appear to be one of the top options to fill in as a starter should the need arise in 2017, assuming he doesn’t make the rotation out of Spring Training.
Stevenson, 22, and a 2nd Round pick in 2015, is the second-highest ranked outfielder on MLB’s list of the Nationals’ top prospects, (at No. 8), behind only Victor Robles.
[ed. note - “YahooSports.com’s Jeff Passan wrote this summer that in an ‘internal conversation’ about potentially trading Davis, ‘... the Royals bandied about a potential target, according to sources: Lucas Giolito.’”]
“The Royals can deal Davis and improve their competitive chances,” Castrovince writes, “and the way to do that is by acquiring Major League-ready or near-ready pieces.”
“For the Nationals,” he adds, “the incentive here is obvious.” They get their ninth-inning arm without spending big money on a closer and deal from their prospect depth to fill a need at the major league level.
Davis, who missed time with a flexor strain in his right elbow that led to two DL stints last July, returned to action in September and finished the season with 27 saves, a 1.87 ERA, a 2.29 FIP, 16 walks (3.32 BB/9), 47 Ks (9.76 K/9) and a .210/.295/.242 line against in 43 1⁄3 IP.
Davis is under contract for $10M after the Royals picked up his option for 2017 earlier this month, so he’s a rental, but as Castrovince writes, “he's the kind of rental who can change the fortunes of a club that has struggled to advance in October.”
Is a package of Lopez, Voth and Stevenson a reasonable price to pay for one year of Davis? Would you be comfortable giving up prospects like that for a veteran reliever who dealt with elbow issues last season?
Should the Nationals spend big on someone like Chapman, Jansen or Melancon and lock up a ninth inning option for a longer period?
Notes: One of the other hypothetical trades Castrovince proposes involves the Atlanta Braves acquiring Chris Sale (a rumored target for the Nationals) from the Chicago White Sox in return for a prospect package that includes middle infielder Ozzie Albies, left-hander Sean Newcomb, third baseman Austin Riley and right-handers Matt Wisler and Lucas Sims. If that’s the sort of package it would take, what’s the equivalent from the Nationals’ organization?