WASHINGTON – Dave Martinez was very used to getting traded during the middle of the season – he was dealt by the Chicago Cubs to Montreal in July 1988 then was traded three times during the 2000 season.
So the Nationals’ manager understands that making moves near the trade deadline can be tricky: especially this year.
“It is August – and not July – with one month left. We will see how it fares,” Martinez said.
“We will see what happens during the deadline.”
And that timing is especially important in this 60-game season with about one week left in the trade deadline for general manager Mike Rizzo and his staff.
“They are watching TV, watching videos. Rizz is talking to his scouts religiously this time of year,” Martinez said before Tuesday’s game with the Phillies. “I know they are on it. I will talk to Rizz on occasion about what is going on, what he is thinking. My job is to handle the 28 guys we have here now, in the clubhouse. I know they are working diligently to make us better every day. Mike does a great job with that.”
One big challenge this season is that scouts are not able to travel and see games in person. That means clubs are relying even more on video.
“It hurts us immensely. The teams that rely heavily on scouts in the stands are at a great disadvantage, I feel,” Rizzo told reporters back on August 9th. “Our scouts are seeing games on television and video and writing their reports, we’re going to rely on their experiences with these players in the past. It’s good to have a good database in your mind, about what kind of players they are.”
Martinez was traded by Tampa Bay, the Cubs, and Texas within a span of fewer than three months 20 years ago this summer.
He realizes the importance of seeing players in person as a scout.
“I will speak specifically for myself,” said Martinez, 55, a first baseman/outfielder who played in the majors from 1986 to 2001. “When I watch a video, I am specifically watching one thing I want to see. When I am watching on TV, it is hard for me to see what is going on on a broader spectrum. When I am managing, I get to see so many different things. For me, every day I am scouting. I am looking at different things, watching different players. We are also looking for character and how they fit in and chemistry. We look for all these things – who fits in. That is a big part of it. Sometimes we sit on a player for a week or 10 days to see how they react.”
The Nationals, under Rizzo, are usually aggressive at the trade deadline. And with expanded playoffs this season, few teams will throw in the towel unless they are undergoing a major rebuild.
With the injury to Stephen Strasburg, the team could possibly look for a veteran starting pitcher.
“We’re going to give it some time, and our guys are watching things and evaluating, and we’re talking constantly about what our thoughts are and what our plans are,” Rizzo said.
“The scouting aspect will affect us a little bit. We lean heavily on our scouts at the trade deadline, but we will not take this any less aggressively if that’s your question on how we go about the trade deadline.”
“We’re here to win the World Series this year, and that never changes in my mind or in Davey’s mind or in the owner’s mind,” Rizzo added on August 23rd.
“We’re here to win, and we’re very, very competitive, and if we see a place to improve ourselves and a deal that makes sense for us, we’re never afraid to pull the trigger.”
What would it be like to make a trade for a player the Nationals have not seen in person?
“We’ve been scouting via video and television,” Rizzo said. “But it’s — obviously it’s much more difficult to make an assessment and evaluation with those means of viewing a player. We have to really trust our scouts. We have to trust the backgrounds that we’ve had on players. Hopefully, you have a history on the player you’re acquiring, not only the last couple of weeks of this season, but in the past.”
“So we always like to make our judgments based on the gut feel of the scout, the evaluation of the scout, but also the history and the past performances of players to make any type of evaluation. I don’t think that will change, but there will be an added layer of non-information that we’ll have to deal with,” he added.