Washington’s Nationals know what’s coming. They’re performing about as expected a year into a full-on reboot of the organization, 24 games under .500 and 22.0 games out in the NL East. They are likely to move all players on expiring contracts again this year, as they did at last season’s trade deadline. So there are going to be major changes coming again, like last July 30th, though the trade deadline is August 2nd this year.
So how is the club handling the stress of knowing what lies ahead? And what are their plans a month out?
“I would assume that if we’re playing at the rate we’re playing, we’ll probably be careful sellers, and make sure that we maximize the players at least with expiring contracts, and I don’t think that would come as a shock to anybody,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies early last month.
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez talked after the fourth straight loss to Miami on Monday, and the fifth straight loss overall for his club, about how his team is handling it all, knowing more changes are likely coming and the clubhouse is going to look different a month from now.
“For me, it’s just being where my feet are,” Martinez explained, “... making sure these guys understand — a lot goes through a player at this time of the year, what may transpire, but I talk to these guys every day about, ‘Hey, you can’t control the business-side of this game, all you can control is what you can do,’ and that’s whether it’s — whatever you play for, just continue to play hard, and understand that one day you hear rumors about something, the next day you’re going to hear rumors about something else, nothing happens until it actually happens, so just go out there and play and have fun, and these guys have been good about just going out there and playing.”
The Nationals have not enjoyed much success on the field this season, however, adding to the stress of potential moves, and there will be more changes with the organization in flux, with ongoing talks about a potential sale, and all of the drama over Juan Soto’s future, with the 23-year-old slugger under team control for two more seasons after this and reportedly looking for a record-setting deal, whether it’s an extension with the club which signed and developed him or from another club through free agency.
Through 80 games and 344 plate appearances, Soto has a .226/.384/.449 line, 16 doubles, 15 home runs, an MLB-best 68 walks, and 52 Ks on the year. How is he handling the chatter, the reboot, and everything he’s dealing with this season? He’s also dealing with a calf issue right now.
“You know what, he’s been good, and you saw him today, even he came out, pinch hit, the last inning he’s up there screaming for his teammates,” Martinez said.
“When [Ehire] Adrianza gets a hit, and the first voice I hear is him, ‘Let’s go, we got this.’ And that’s awesome.
“Look, Juan is a National, right? And I always feel like he’s going to be a National.
“So, for him it’s — I know he’s trying to do a lot to help this team. I really do. I think that’s part of it. His frustration is because he wants to — every time he goes up there, he wants to do something special, and I told him, I said, ‘You got to understand that you’ve got to accept what the pitchers are giving you, take your walks, and just be ready to hit, and play good defense, and run the bases hard, that’s all I can ask from you, so things will turn around. I saw your struggles last year, and before you know it, you were right where you needed to be at the end of year, so I know you’re going to hit, and I know you can hit, so just keep playing baseball hard.’”
Soto isn’t the only one frustrated with how things are going for the club.
“Look, as we all know, I’m about as frustrated as anybody, because a lot of these games, we should win, and we’re not,” Martinez continued, “... but those guys are frustrated too, and they’re playing hard, and they’re not giving up, as you can see. Some of these guys get an opportunity to play, and they’re playing really hard, and that’s all I can ask of them, but we got to continue to do that, like I said, and try to come up with some wins on the other side of this — what we’re going through right now, and win some games, and things will turn around, but I can’t think about deadlines, I got to sit at home tonight and figure out who’s going to play right field tomorrow if Soto can’t play, and the bullpen, and things of that nature, so, but we got to keep going, and I can’t say enough about my coaching staff, who — every day they stay positive with these guys, and we’re all here for them and we’re trying to help them. Especially the young guys we got, try to help them succeed and have some fun.”
Martinez said last weekend he’s asked his coaching staff to have patience with the players, as they grow in the majors, and teach them as well, providing guidance where they can as the entire organization tries to get back to the winnings ways from 2012-2019.
“Yeah, honestly, and I always said this, but we got to be patient, we really do,” Martinez said.
“We got to understand, and I don’t mean this in a — but when I talk to our coaches, I always tell them, for me, we’ve got to treat these guys like they’re from Mars, and they don’t know anything, and stay on them every day, and you sound like a broken record, but that’s our job, right? These guys got to understand, till one day they’re repeating it to you, and when you start doing that you realize that, ‘Hey, they’re really starting to get it, and we’re starting to see that, but it’s every day.
“I go through I almost say the same things every single day to them, but they’re starting to get it. And you start seeing signs of that.”