The Washington Nationals entered Monday’s 2020 MLB Trade Deadline in a peculiar spot with an underwhelming 12-19 record, but just three games out of a Wild Card spot.
That left plenty of uncertainty about what they should look to do as the 4pm deadline approached.
In the end, the Nats decided that no move was the best move, not making any last-minute deals.
Talking with the media over the last few weeks, General Manager Mike Rizzo had generally been pretty confident in the players currently on the roster turning things around.
“We feel good about the roster we have and the talent that we have amassed not only in the minor league level,” Rizzo told reporters last Sunday.
That doesn’t mean that they didn’t try to make deals, though it seemed like if they were going to do something, it was going to be bringing someone in rather than selling off pieces.
Despite the team’s lowly record and poor play on the field, selling never really seemed on the table for Rizzo. On a team that was expected to compete and without too many compelling trade pieces for other teams that could’ve netted significant returns, there wasn’t that much motivation to start shipping players out with the playoffs still in reach.
That remained the case up right until the deadline with Jayson Stark of The Athletic reporting that teams talking to the Nationals were saying that “they’re looking to buy today.”
Despite the late push, they stayed where they were, with manager Dave Martinez confirming to the media after the deadline that they didn’t feel there was the right deal for the team.
“Mike was out there, I know he was looking diligently,” Martinez said.
“We don’t want to give up some of our younger prospects. We believe that these guys are a big part of our future here. We’ve got some pretty good ones.
“We’re excited about that, we just wanted to make sure that if there was something out there that we could’ve gotten, they would have gotten it to help us.
“Right now we feel good about what we’ve got, and we’re going to stay put and hopefully come back today, go 1-0, and go from there.”
Perhaps another reason for the eerily quiet deadline was the fact that with no minor league season this year, they weren’t easily able to get eyes on many, if any, of their trade targets.
“We’ve been scouting via video and television but it’s obviously it’s much more difficult to make an assessment and evaluation with those means of viewing a player,” Rizzo explained.
“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’ve acquiring, not only the last couple of weeks of this season, but in the past.
“So we always like to make our judgements 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.”
So instead of risking acquiring a player that they hadn’t had eyes on this season and giving up prospects, they elected to hold course with the current roster and hope for another 19-31-esque turnaround that could sneak them into the postseason.
Even if the turnaround doesn’t come, standing pat means more rope for some of the younger players on the team to get their feet wet at the big league level and work out some kinks.
Luis García and Carter Kieboom will benefit immensely from more playing time, even if the latter is currently in Fredericksburg. The likes of Erick Fedde, Ben Braymer, and Wil Crowe could get extended looks in the rotation to earn a spot there next year. The same goes for some of the inexperienced bullpen arms who are trying to impress in big spots.
“They’re going to get an opportunity to play and play here and help us win games,” Martinez said. “You’ve seen what Bacus has done, he’s pitched well for us. Luis García, who’s played second base, has done relatively well for us, all these guys.
“Braymer getting a chance to come up here and pitch and he got some outs for us as well. These guys are going to get opportunities.
“We get to see them play, we get to see how our future is going to be laid out, and like I said, our future looks bright, and we’ve still got tons of young players down there that are coming, and I’m excited about that.”
“I think that’s one of the reasons why we didn’t want to part ways with any of these guys when things were coming up. We want to keep them around because they’re going to be good and they’re going to be impact players some of them here, so we wanted to give them a shot.”
This strange year, at the very least, has become a good chance to get a glimpse of the next generation of Nationals as they get bedded into the major leagues without the same pressure as a normal season, which could benefit the team in the long-term.
That leaves it up to the current crop of players to justify the front office’s decision by performing to their capabilities as they try to sneak into the postseason...