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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Josh Bell; trades not made + more

Highlights from the Nationals’ media availability on Wednesday...

What About Josh!!!!:

Josh Bell was hitting .301 on the year, with a .384 OBP, a .493 SLG, 24 doubles, and 14 home runs in 103 games and 437 plate appearances on the year before he was dealt to San Diego in the trade with Juan Soto which netted five high-end prospects and a major league bat for Washington’s Nationals before the trade deadline passed on Tuesday afternoon.

Of course, Soto’s name was the big one in the headlines after the trade, but as Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after the deal went down, Bell was a big part of the club in D.C., and he will be missed on and off the field in the nation’s capital.

“What an unbelievable human being,” Martinez said of the 29-year-old, switch-hitting first baseman who put up a combined .278/.363/.483 line in a season and a half-plus with the Nationals.

“I mean, really, I mean, his presence in the clubhouse, I call him the big teddy bear. He was unbelievable on and off the field, so he’s going to be missed. He gets an opportunity to go somewhere else and help them win, and try to get them to the playoffs, and what we all dream about is to win a World Series. He didn’t experience that here with us, but he’s got an opportunity to do that now, so I wish him all the best as well.”

MLB: San Diego Padres-Press Conference Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

While GM Mike Rizzo was focused on Soto, how the trade happened, and what the Nationals got in return in the deal when he spoke with reporters on Tuesday, he talked with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning about what Bell brought to the team in his time with Washington following a Christmas Eve 2020 trade from Pittsburgh’s Pirates.

“He’s had two terrific seasons for us, and one of the great make-up guys that we’ve ever brought in here,” Rizzo said, “and I remember when we traded for him a couple years ago, the class and presence that he brought the clubhouse, and he worked extremely hard and made himself a really good defensive first baseman, which was a weakness of his and a hats off to [Bench and infield coach] Tim Bogar at the big league level for just working him into a position where he’s played really well for us defensively at first, and he’s a guy that we felt for two months of his career remaining here before he’s a free agent that we thought that we should package him with Juan, they were very aggressive with that, and it got us the extra player that we coveted from the Padres’ system, so we were pleased with the return for him.”

The “extra player” Rizzo referenced, was 19-year-old flamethrower Jarlin Susana, a 6’6’’ right-hander who was, “... the consensus No. 1 ranked pitcher in the 2022 international signing class,” as the Nationals wrote in their press release on the trade.

“He’s got a good, clean delivery, he throws the ball hard, he’s 98, we saw him twice in the last two weeks, he’s up to 102 MPH with a breaking pitch and a good feel for a changeup,” Rizzo told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

“He’s a guy who is high school age and we believe if he was in this 2022 Draft, he’d have been a high-to-mid first round pick, and that was a player that we really coveted.”

“Josh was — obviously in these things we have several scenarios and several ways we can do a trade,” Rizzo said of how Bell ended up going to San Diego. “So, Josh was in a couple of them with a couple of teams. It started as a one-player [trade] with the Padres, and ended up for us to extract the extra player that we really coveted, we made the decision to put Josh in to get that player.”

Expiring Deals Not Dealt?:

One of the big questions coming out of the deadline, after the Nationals traded Ehire Adrianza to Atlanta and Soto and Bell to San Diego, was why Washington didn’t trade Nelson Cruz, Steve Cishek, César Hernández, Kyle Finnegan, or Carl Edwards, Jr.? Did anyone inquire about their availability? Mike Rizzo was asked that question when the General Manager in D.C. visited 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday.

“That’s a fine line,” Rizzo began. “Nelly Cruz is such a mentor and such a presence in the clubhouse, especially with our younger Latin players that I wasn’t just gonna give him away for nothing just to move on. He likes it here. He wanted to be here. He’s a terrific teammate and leader in the clubhouse. So we didn’t get the level of prospect that we wanted for him, so we kept him.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“That was the case for several of the guys. We’re just not gonna give away our talented players. [Carl Edwards Jr.], we have control of him beyond this year, and [Kyle] Finnegan. There was a lot of interest in them but not to the point where you give away a good late-inning guy like Finnegan if you don’t like the prospect return, and you can control him for multiple years. So that’s always the decision process that you make.”

“I love the fact that these guys are still here, selfishly, right?” Davey Martinez told reporters in advance of yesterday’s series finale with the New York Mets. “They’ve been really, really doing well. I know that we were looking at lot of different options. If we were to move them it was because we had a piece that we thought could help us down the road, the fact that we didn’t want to move them — we controlled these guys, like Finnegan, for three more years, so that had a lot do with — we feel that he can really help us here in the next couple years, especially what he’s been doing and how he’s grown over the last couple years. I mean, he’s become kind of a beast out of that bullpen the way he’s throwing. So, I love him.”

“There [were] people on a lot of our guys, there really [were], so I’m glad that we were able to keep them together.”

Still Calling It A Reboot:

While all the young prospects the Nationals added in the trade with the Padres instantly improved Washington’s system, and they’re expected to be part of the next competitive team in the nation’s capital, did the addition of at least two more players who have some big league experience (Abrams & Gore) change the timeline of the organizational reboot which the club kicked off with their sell-off of expiring deals at the deadline in 2021?

“I don’t have a timeline,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies yesterday.

“Development goes at its own pace, but if history is any precursor, you’ve got the history of what these rebuilds look like, and when you’re rebuilding back in 2009 and you go from 2012-2019 as a championship-caliber club, I think you see the plan and the success, and we feel that this is more of a reboot than a rebuild, because we have had pieces there prior to last year’s start of the reboot at the last year’s trade deadline, so we feel that there is precedent here, there’s history here, there’s a blueprint and a roadmap to get back to superiority and being a championship-caliber club, and I think that that’s a good precursor on how we’re going to do it again, and the timeline, and the success that we will have once we get there.”

So if they are there, in like, say, a year or two, and Juan Soto does go to the free agency as the Nationals think he and his agent Scott Boras plan to, would the Nats, you know, like, uh, maybe consider, you know, like, uh, signing him as a free agent to boost the club they are building or whatever?

“Juan Soto’s near and dear to my heart,” Rizzo told the Junkies.

“He’s one of the great players in the game. And he’s with another team, so I can’t talk about him, but I know him probably as well as anybody in baseball, so...”