As the trade deadline looms, the Washington Nationals’ fanbase holds its collective breath. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson are going to be vital pieces in the mid-to-late innings, but they’re not the shut-down closer that this bullpen needs to go deep in October. The Nats were able to hold onto all their top prospects in that deal with Oakland, leaving them plenty of room to make some noise in the closer market.
Washington has a top-heavy farm system, boasting several promising stars within their organization’s top five — but not much else. If they’re going to compete in a closer market full of several playoff contenders, then Mike Rizzo must be willing to part ways with some of his top developing talent.
He absolutely shouldn’t include Victor Robles in any of those conversations.
Asked a question to a person who scouts games if they thought Victor Robles would be traded... Their response: pic.twitter.com/GBLm9k5UdP— JW Gravley (@jwgravley) July 19, 2017
Erick Fedde is on the brink of making it to the majors. Juan Soto’s bat is quickly becoming one of the best in the minors. Brian Goodwin is finally establishing himself at the MLB level. Both Carter Kieboom and Andrew Stevenson have seen their prospect stocks skyrocket this season. None of them should be as valuable to the Nationals as Robles.
As the team’s consensus No. 1 prospect at just 20 years old, Robles is a rare five-tool player who can play all three outfield positions. His speed is among the best in the minor leagues. He’s shown flashes of power that’s expected to develop as his body does. Last season, he made the MLB Pipeline All-Defense Team by riding the talents of both his arm and glove.
Woah. Just got this on Victor Robles bunt single. Three other scouts had same range. Lots of shaking heads here. #Nationals pic.twitter.com/mTWcirvUGA— Brent Hershey (@BrentHQ) July 19, 2017
Acquiring a ninth inning reliever is the most vital move the Nationals must make if they plan on winning a World Series this season. If Rizzo walks away from this trade deadline empty-handed the fanbase will be calling for his job and the players will be left wondering whether he’s committed to helping them win a championship.
To address the elephant in the room, Bryce Harper very well could leave in free agency after next season. The Nationals must start going deeper into the playoffs if they’re going to want to convince the 2015 NL MVP to stay in D.C. With the core of All-Stars this team has, they look to be a closer away from World Series favorites.
That being said, Rizzo must be prepared in case Harper does decide to leave. Prospects are never a sure bet, but Robles has done nothing but impress anyone who watches him. Mike Rizzo indicated as much in a Sirius/XM Fantasy interview with Craig Mish and Jim Bowden last February.
“He’s a five-tool player. We’ve got high expectations for him. We think he’s a quick mover and a guy that has all the skills and the temperament and the make-up to impact us in the big leagues in the near future."
Holding onto Robles might take someone like Raisel Iglesias off the table, but so be it. There are plenty of other teams looking to sell on relief arms, and the Nationals should be able to find their match. They simply don’t have another prospect like Robles. There might not be another one in the entire minor leagues.
With this team looking like the best one in the Harper/Strasburg era, picking up another reliever is a must. Just don’t let Robles out of your sight.