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Washington Nationals news & notes: 2023 MLB Trade Deadline - Nats trade Jeimer Candelario to Cubs, what’s next?

Notes and quotes for the Nationals as the 2023 MLB Trade Deadline approaches...

Mike Rizzo and Co. in Washington’s front office were hard at work with 2023’s MLB Trade Deadline approaching, though the GM in D.C. said as of Sunday nothing was imminent on the trade front. He did say the Nationals were receiving calls about a number of their available assets.

“You’re busy as can be as can be no matter if you make a trade or make 10 trades,” Rizzo explained. “You put in the work like each trade is going to be your last, and that’s why you appreciate other General Managers who kind of cut to the point and don’t make you do a lot of work for a deal that’s never really going to come to fruition.”

“But we’re going to be busy, we’re going to be active as the market dictates,” the GM in D.C. added.

“We have several players that teams are interested in, and I think it’s going to be a trade deadline that’s going to be very interesting for us.”

Rizzo told Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on Sunday he was receiving calls on Jeimer Candelario. Lane Thomas, and his closer Kyle Finnegan, but in keeping with his stated preference for straightforward talk with rival GMs, he said he made clear he is not going to discuss any of the young, core players the rebooting Nats have so far assembled (unless someone blows him away with an offer at a position of need in the organization).

“We told teams that we’re not going to talk about our young, core group of guys,” Rizzo said. “[MacKenzie Gore], and [Josiah Gray] and [CJ] Abrams, and [Luis] García, and that group of guys. We think that they’re going to be factors on our next championship run.

“These are the players who we’re trying to acquire and kind of clump together and really be our next championship-caliber club.

“So we’ve kind of put those players off-limits. Now if someone is going to come in and really wants one of those players, I guess it would be a conversation I’d listen to, but they would have to be really aggressive on someone’s part, and they’d have to over-pay in our eyes, so nothing is ever — we never say no to listening, but we do give some parameters when we talk to these teams.”

As of Sunday afternoon, however, Rizzo said there were just talks, with no deals imminent, though he acknowledged that could change quickly if the right offer is made, because the club is tired of losing and thinks they are close to competing for regular postseason berths again.

“We’re kind of working on the margins right now,” Rizzo told the MLBNR hosts.

“We want to improve ourselves, but we want to stay good, and we want to improve ourselves, and we don’t want to take a step backwards, so we’re going to be careful with who we trade and who we move, and if a guy we think can help us in the near future, we’d have to get a good price to move him, so that is kind of our thought process. Ownership is tired of losing games, and we’re trying to really compete to finish this year off and go into next year with a team we think has a chance to be a very entertaining team to watch.”

Around 24 hours later, the club made their first deal of the deadline, sending Candelario to Chicago for two players ranked 14th and 16th in the Cubs’ system by MLB Pipeline’s scouts before the deal, 22-year-old left-hander DJ Herz (now ranked 17th in the Nats’ system), and 20-year-old shortstop Kevin Made, now ranked No. 16 for the Nationals.

As manager Davey Martinez told reporters after a 5-3 win over Milwaukee in D.C., the club will miss Candelario, who put up a .258/.342/.481 line, 30 doubles, and 16 home runs over 99 games and 419 plate appearances for Washington, after he signed a 1-year/$5M deal in late November of 2022.

“He was everything I expected and more,” Martinez told reporters, “and he did well for us, and we’ll miss him, but he’s going to go try to help the Cubs try to get to the playoffs and win the championship.”

“We’ll miss him, but like I said, he gets to move on, and that opens up an opportunity for somebody else, so we’ll start working with the next guy up here and try to get him playing time, and try to get him playing time and get him used to playing in the major leagues.”

Candelario, who started his career with the Cubs, signing out of the Dominican Republic in and debuted in the majors with the club back in 2010, returns to Chicago, and a club that’s 4.0 games back in the NL Central, and 3.5 back in the NL Wild Card race.

“He’s grown up. He’s grown up,” Martinez said of the changes he’s seen this year, after he’d first crossed paths with Candelario when both were in the Cubs’ organization.

“He established himself as a major league baseball player, but you can tell, from the first time I saw him, this young, skinny little kid, to now, he’s matured a lot, and he’s become that leader in the clubhouse. That’s what he did for us. He took a lot of our young guys underneath his wings, and tried to help them as much as possible. He’s always positive, he’s always yelling for his teammates in a positive way, so we’ll miss that.”

What’s next for the Nationals? We’ll see if anything else happens before 6:00 PM today, and if it does, we’ll post it here (and in the comments for this story). What’s next for Martinez?

“I’m going to breathe, I’m going to go back and drink a glass of wine, and I’m going to relax and we’ll see what transpires over the next few hours,” the manager said after last night’s W.