With two sentences he sent to the Washington Post, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo took a lot of the drama out of the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline.
“Bryce is not going anywhere,” Rizzo said in a text message, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes. “I believe in this team.”
Bryce, for anyone who just came out of cryogenic sleep, is, of course, Bryce Harper, the 25-year-old, 2010 No. 1 overall pick, who was reportedly available as of last night, if another of the 29 teams in the majors made the right offer to Washington. They did not.
Rizzo ended that speculation hours before the non-waiver trade deadline arrived, which, it seems, pleased Harper, who told reporters, that he was happy to stay in the nation’s capital, and was told on Monday, before the rumors really started flying, that he was remaining with the Nationals.
“I think whenever you hear your name or see your name on stuff, you always wonder,” Harper told reporters before Tuesday night’s series opener with the New York Mets.
“But I think that’s the business side of the game, it’s part of the game, other teams are trying to get better, and it’s just something that came up. Rizzo reassured me earlier yesterday that I wasn’t going anywhere, so I was very happy about that and glad I’m still inside this clubhouse.”
Davey Martinez, the Nationals’ first-year skipper, was happy to learn that he’d still have Harper on his team.
“I’m very happy to write Bryce’s name in the lineup still,” he said, “... and looking forward to writing his name every day.”
He won’t have everyone in his bullpen that he had when the day started, however.
The Nationals did end up making one move before the non-waiver deadline.
Brandon Kintzler, 33, acquired from the Minnesota Twins at last summer’s deadline, and signed to a 2-year/$10M deal after he tested free agency this past winter, didn’t learn he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs until after he’d arrived in the clubhouse in Nationals Park.
“I thought they were joking,” Kintzler said of his reaction when he learned of the news.
“They just called me in and I said, ‘Am I traded,’ they said, ‘Yeah.’ I thought they were joking.
“So, I mean, it’s been a pretty [big] shock, but you get to go to a great situation right now, I’ve already talked to [the Cubs], they’re excited, it’s always nice — you want to feel wanted wherever you go. They’re in a great situation, great team, obviously we played against them last year and they’re tough, so get to go over there and help them out.”
Kintzler’s contract, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, was for $5M this season, with a $10M club option or $5M player option for 2019. Why trade Kintzler?
There was talk of the team trying to get under the luxury tax threshold by dealing some pending free agent arms, but this doesn’t seem to have accomplished that goal.
Rizzo addressed that topic when he spoke with reporters this afternoon, after the deadline passed with the deal that sent the reliever to the Cubs the only major move the Nats made, aside from acquiring Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals last month.
“The thought process that went into that is we’ve got ourselves a really strong back of the bullpen with [Sean] Doolittle, [Ryan] Madson, and Herrera,” Rizzo explained.
“We felt that [Wander] Suero has earned the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. He’s shown us flashes of brilliance up here. We think he’s a guy for us in the long-term for the future. With [Koda] Glover coming back, we’ve got great depth now with a lot of bullpen arms, it gives us financial flexibility this year and next year going forward, and we thought that was the prudent move, like all the moves that we make with 2018 and beyond in mind.”
“Honestly, I think — we’re getting Suero here,” Martinez added.
“We needed a guy in the bullpen that could give us a little length. I think Suero’s that guy, I really do.
“He’s done well up here. He’s been doing well. We’ve got some guys at the back end of the bullpen that [have] done really well, so adding Suero was going to help us, especially getting four or five outs, I think that’s what we were missing in the bullpen.”
“Look, Brandon was awesome,” the manager continued. “He got some big outs for us, he really did. Of course he’s going to be missed in the bullpen, but I think moving forward, having some length to go with [Matt Grace] is important, it really is.”
As for what the Nationals didn’t do before the deadline?
They didn’t add a catcher that could take over the No. 1 spot, or share duties with current No. 1 backstop Matt Wieters and provide some offense at a position that had a combined .185/.272/.266 line with 14 doubles and five home runs going into today’s game.
They didn’t add a high-end arm to the rotation that could slot in behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and potentially start Game 3 in the NLDS if the Nationals somehow do find themselves headed back to the postseason.
What they did do, at least according to Harper, is provide a confidence boost to a team that is in desperate need of some sort of spark, 5.5 games out in the NL East heading into their two-game set with the Mets.
“I think that just goes to show how good our management is, and how good people upstairs are and how much faith they have in this team and this clubhouse,” Harper said.
“And I think coming in every single day we’re trying to win and we’re trying to do the things we can to win on a daily basis, and it shows from higher up and all the way down to us they have got a lot of faith in us and that goes a long way.”
Will the Nationals go all the way... or at least back to the postseason and then the NLCS for the first time in franchise history (2005-present).
Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office bet on the roster they assembled in Spring Training getting healthy and getting them back there this afternoon.