The Washington Nationals addressed their beleaguered bullpen on Thursday once again, acquiring left-handed reliever Mark Rzepczynski from the Oakland A’s in exchange for minor league infielder Max Schrock.
Rzepczynski, 30 and a free agent at the end of the season, has held left-handed hitters to a .225/.295/.302 line across his career — exactly the type of arm the Nats need now, with Oliver Perez struggling mightily, Sammy Solis on the disabled list and Felipe Rivero plying his wares in Pittsburgh.
With the division lead as large as it is, it’ll take an historic collapse for the Nats to miss the playoffs, so this move was made with the postseason — and the Los Angeles Dodgers, specifically — in mind. They would like three lefties in the pen, but have to have two.
That the Nats felt compelled to trade an asset for another journeyman-type lefty specialist tells us a few things.
- Perez isn’t getting the job done, and the Nats know it;
- They are probably worried about Solis’ healthy return;
- They don’t really think Sean Burnett is a big league option at this point in his career;
- Trading Rivero really exposed the lack of depth at the position.
The move comes at a cost. Schrock, 21, was the Nats’ 13th round pick in the 2015 draft out of South Carolina. He’s hit .333/.378/.456 between Low- and High-A this season with nine homers, 68 RBIs and 22 of 27 steals.
Schrock is a little guy (listed at 5’8, 180) who always seems to get more out of his seemingly limited tools. He makes elite-level contact with adequate power, though he’s limited to a single position on the field due to lack of mobility and arm strength.
But Schrock gained notoriety from seamheads from a post on Fangraphs over the winter jokingly predicting an MVP award in his future. It’s a fun, interesting piece, but hardly the basis to resist a trade.
In another piece on Fangraphs today, Dave Cameron explains why he thinks the Nats lost the deal.
So, effectively, the Nationals just sold a decent prospect for some cash savings in order to bolster the least important part of their bullpen. I know the value of relievers is going up, but deals like this still seem silly to me.
I really respect Cameron, but I completely disagree with his conclusion. There’s no mention of Solis in his analysis, no mention that the Nats are down to one healthy lefty reliever at all. The Nats had to address a need that arose after the trade deadline, and this seems like the lowest impact move they could make for the long-term.
Schrock is exactly the type of player a contending team should trade for a useful, if uninspiring, asset. He’s a lottery ticket, an unknown. He makes the most out of a limited skill set, much like AAA pitcher Austin Voth. These are guys that local prospect hounds love, but rarely have a lasting impact in the majors.
Ever heard of a guy named Steve Lombardozzi?
Anyway, as with the deal that sent Rivero to Pittsburgh for the desperately needed Mark Melancon, you’ve gotta give to get. The Nats gave up a lottery ticket with especially stacked odds against for a month and a half of a useful LOOGY.
This move gives the Nats a better chance to be successful down the stretch and into the playoffs this year. It’s completely worth it.