Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nats 2021 Firesale


Well, hand it to Mike Rizzo; when he gets the go-ahead to dismantle … you don’t have to tell him twice.

The Nats GM traded almost every single player not nailed down on an expiring contract in the three days leading up to the 7/30/21 deadline, even moving guys who were ineffective, hurt, or with Covid.

Quick analysis/opinion: this was a required tear down, one that became painfully obvious with the sequence of events over the past two weeks (sweep in Baltimore, Strasburg TOS surgery, Covid breakdown, etc). So, kudos for the moves. Every player sent out was no surprise to get traded … with the exceptions of Scherzer and Turner. So lets give a couple moments on that trade.

Scherzer could not have a QO applied to him, so he was set to leave w/o compensation after 2021 anyway. Could he re-sign with us? Sure. But man he really wanted to be on the West Coast, as he made abundantly clear during the trade negotiations. I’m not sure why: he listed his McLean house for sale in 2020 and bought in Jupiter, Fla, both he and his wife are from Missouri, and I see no obvious ties to California. Nonetheless, I suppose he could re-up with the Nats but it seems more likely he’d sign with a competitive team in 2022 since the Nats will be rebuilding.

What do I think of Turner moving? I’m ok with it. We’ve heard a couple rumblings in the past about his rebuffing extension offers, and at this point he’s gotta be valued on a par with Francisco Lindor. Lindor got north of $300M from the Mets. Could Turner command that? I’m not sure, but would the Nats commit $300M to a 30-yr old SS whose primary skills are defensive and speed, two skills that quickly erode in your early 30s? Probably not; I think the Nats made this move when they were presented with the prospect package knowing they’d be saying good bye to him anyway at the trade deadline next year, so why not get what turned out to be a pretty darn good prospect haul.

Here’s a quick list of the players sent out:

  • Brad Hand lhp 7/29/21: traded to Toronto for Riley Adams
  • Kyle Schwarber LF 7/29/21: Traded to Boston for Aldo Ramirez
  • Daniel Hudson rhp 7/29/21: Traded to San Diego for Mason Thompson, Jordy Barley
  • Max Scherzer rhp 7/29/21: Traded to Los Angeles Dodgers for Gray, Carrillo, Ruiz, Casey
  • Trea Turner ss 7/29/21: Traded to Los Angeles Dodgers for Gray, Carrillo, Ruiz, Casey
  • Yan Gomes C 7/30/21: Traded to Oakland for Millas/Shuman/Guasch
  • Josh Harrison Utl 7/30/21: Traded to Oakland for Millas/Shuman/Guasch
  • Jon Lester LHP 7/30/21: Traded to St. Louis for Lane Thomas

And here’s the players acquired with their likely initial assignment:

  • Riley Adams C 7/29/21: acquired from Toronto for Hand: AAA
  • Aldo Ramirez RHP 7/29/21: acquired from Boston for Schwarber. FCL assignment but was in Low-A
  • Mason Thompson RHP 7/29/21: acquired from San Diego for Hudson. AAA
  • Jordy Barley SS 7/29/21: acquired from San Diego for Hudson. Low-A
  • Josiah Gray rhp 7/29/21: acquired from Los Angeles Dodgers for Scherzer/Turner MLB/AAA maybe
  • Gerardo Carrillo rhp 7/29/21: acquired from Los Angeles Dodgers for Scherzer/Turner. AA
  • Keibert Ruiz C 7/29/21: acquired from Los Angeles Dodgers for Scherzer/Turner. AAA
  • Donovan Casey OF 7/29/21: acquired from Los Angeles Dodgers for Scherzer/Turner. AA
  • Drew Millas C 7/30/21: acquired from Oakland for Gomes/Harrison. High-A
  • Seth Shuman RHP 7/30/21: acquired from Oakland for Gomes/Harrison High-A
  • Richard Guasch RHP 7/30/21: acquired from Oakland for Gomes/Harrison. High-A
  • Lane Thomas OF 7/30/21: acquired from St. Louis for Lester. AAA

Who on an expiring was NOT moved? Well, the list is small.

  • Alex Avila; injured and Covid-infected backup catcher who is hitting a stout .167 this year. Probably not surprising.
  • Joe Ross, who has actually been halfway effective this season and is owed around $5 the rest of the way. Surprising he didn’t go somewhere for a low-A prospect.
  • Alcedis Escobar: i’m assuming he’s a MLFA/regular FA at the end of the season. Perhaps teams think his production is a mirage.
  • Jordy Mercer: the currently injured aging 2B/utility guy, probably not a lot of takers.
  • Gerardo Parra: can’t get rid of the Shark!
  • Ryan Zimmerman: well, he wasn’t going to go anywhere regardless.
  • Rene Rivera; well, somebody’s gotta catch tonight.
  • Luis Avilan: not a big market for mid-30s relievers recovering from Tommy John surgery

Man, we still had some moves in us! Just kidding.

Ok. So, like a kid on Christmas morning, lets take a look at what we got back in return. By quick analysis of dynamic Fangraphs and MLBpipeline prospect lists, these trades netted the team the following:

  • its new #1 and #2 prospects in Josiah Grey and Keibert Ruiz. A starter who is MLB ready and a C who is probably also MLB ready right now. Grey should slot right into the Nats rotation, Ruiz probably as well. Both are already on the 40-man.
  • Two other top-10 prospects in Gerardo Carrillo and Aldo Ramirez. Carrillo is a big-arm, young (22), already at AA, lots of Ks per 9, could probably race to the majors as a 100-mph reliever. Ramirez is in Low-A, is also a starter and has immaculate numbers so far for his minor league career.
  • Four more mid-teens prospects in Riley Adams, Mason Thompson, Drew Millas, and Jordy Barley. Adams is a AAA-capable Catcher, one of three we acquired this week, two of which could go straight to the majors and end the MLFA parade going on there. Thompson is a AAA setup guy who could be useful going forward. Millas is a lower-level catching prospect, a High-A guy who will cover for the lack of progress out of Pineda. Lastly Barley is a very young SS IFA prospect who should slot in at LowA.
  • Three non-top30 prospects who give us some depth in Donovan Casey, Seth Shuman, and Richard Guasch. Casey is a AA OF prospect we got from LAD, while Shuman+Guasch were 2/5ths of Oakland’s High-A rotation. Wilmington now has 9-10 starter arms for just 5 spots.
  • The last deal of the day didn’t give us a prospect but a 4th OF type in Lane Thomas, who may go straight to DC or may go to AAA.

I mean, you can’t help but like the fact that we just augmented 7 guys into our farm that rank in teh top 30, pushing out the bottom 7 guys on that ranking previously. Both the two major prospects from the Dodgers are consensus top-50 guys in the industry, certainly better than our top 2 before (Cavalli and Rutledge).

So mission accomplished; we got a lot of prospects for a lost season.

Coincidentally, i’ve got up-to-date all my artifacts:

  • Big Board: . By my count we’re down to 37/40 with all these moves on the 40-man but will certainly need 26-man reinforcements stat.
  • Big Board’s 2021 releases populated and all acquisitions put into their approximate places/assignments. May have to edit as they actually get assigned, since the Nats have a habit of taking a guy who was in AA, acquire him, then stick him in High-A.
  • My private roster machinations file and Trade history files.
  • My private Natioanls Prospect XLS, which takes the most time since it was updated with both MLBpipeline and Fangraphs dynamic additions of new prospects. I need to put this artifact online.
  • Oh btw finished off the 2021 draft class data at the Draft Tracker too: . Busy day.

Still need to clean up options tab; there’s been so many moves since I last updated it in mar 2021.

Written by Todd Boss

July 30th, 2021 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Nats in General

30 Responses to 'Nats 2021 Firesale'

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  1. Curious first post-trade observation: why in heck is Garcia playing 2B tonight instead of SS? I mean, he’s the “shortstop of the future,” right? Play Garcia (at SS), Kieboom (3B), and Ruiz (C), and get Gray in the rotation. They pretty much have to have him in the rotation.

    If Kieboom doesn’t show a lot of power, they have the option of moving him to 2B, which isn’t as much of a power position, and signing a bit bat at 3B.

    They really need Kieboom to “make it.” They need Robles to truly “make it,” which he hasn’t yet. Those two delayed progressions have really hamstrug the overall roster development.


    30 Jul 21 at 6:57 pm

  2. Thanks Todd! You sure have been busy.

    Re: Turner. I’d love to hear what the Nats offered him.
    Lindor was signed for 10 years at $34 million per. That’s already an albatross for the Mets as his OPS is .702 and that is probably not far off from what he’ll produce from now on.
    Unlike Soto and Schwarber, Turner never put fannies in the seats.

    KW, the ship has sailed on Robles. His baseball IQ is very low and he’s a below average player at this point.

    Give Rizzo credit, he did what needed to be done.

    Mark L

    31 Jul 21 at 8:47 am

  3. Time will tell, of course, but I really think Rizzo did pretty well. I would have liked a little more robust return for Hudson, maybe a more credible throw-in than Barley, and I wish we could have bargained Carrillo up to Clayton Beeter or Ryan Pepiot, but that’s really quibbling.

    Thompson is already up, although I guess either he arrived too late last night or Davey Martinez just reeeeeally wanted to see lots of Jefry Rodríguez. Maybe he pitches in the rubber game. Gray is likely to start Monday. So that’s pretty cool.


    1 Aug 21 at 3:27 am

  4. I find it all pretty breathtaking. I can see that others — particularly the Cubs — followed suit to the spirit of what the Nats did, but I don;t think I ever recall a team doing this since the A’s did their Charlie Finley firesale.

    And having lived through seemingly endless and predictable losses of Expos through free agency for nothing, which gutted the soul of the franchise, I’m happy to see the Nationals return promising pieces.

    A few other notes: Looks like the Nationals targeted a couple of players in particular: Kelbert Ruiz for one. So it was not only teams targeting the Nationals’ attractive targets, but the Nationals targeting them. So one can imagine that the discussion with the Giants centered around Joey Bart. One can appreciate that the overall package from the Dodgers, including Gray, enabled the Nationals to get a starting pitcher they could assess as a high ceiling starter who would not be so expendable in another organization as he was in the Dodgers organization.

    I am still on board with believing the Nationals can and should contend in 2022. Don;t soon forget that the team underwent significant turnover from 2020-2021, with a lot of free agent signings and trade additions. I expect the same this winter, especially with the potentials of the non-tender market, with a big difference:

    For the rest of this year, the Nationals will have an organizational-wide audition of talent, and two months of assessment of what long-term prospects players have on a rebuilt championship roster. That’s great, and it informs free agency planning (already underway). There may, additionally, be players who impress other teams enough to be flipped this winter.

    A player like Ross, whom I agree I expected to be dealt, may be more valuable this winter in trade discussions, as may be Fedde. Why sell low?

    Keep the faith.


    1 Aug 21 at 6:17 am

  5. I was thinking that Ross was about to be a free agent, but he’s actually got one more year of team control. But goodness, that’s a shaky rotation returning: Corbin, Fedde, Ross, and Gray. I’m sure they hope to see Stras at some point, but no guarantees. And if Cavelli keeps progressing, we could see him after the Super 2 time frame, so mid-season.

    They have no choice but to ride is out with Corbin and hope he can turn things around. They have no choice but to ride it out with Stras and hope he can get healthy. If he can, the one positive will be that he’s had virtually no mileage on his arm, and TJ elbow, for two seasons.

    I’ve been wanting Fedde traded for two years. He’s Rizzo’s insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The ERA is 5.05. Maybe he’s been a hair better this year (according to FIP), but he’s barely replacement-level. They can find someone better. Having Cavelli start in the majors from the beginning of the season might even be better.

    There’s not much help on the way otherwise. Cate has slammed into a wall at AA. I don’t think he’s going to end up as a starter. Injuries slowed Rutledge’s progress this year, and of course Denaburg hasn’t pitched in two years. Romero is crawling back up through the minors. I have no idea why they’re still trying to make him a starter. Henry spent most of this season injured as well.

    So . . . I anticipate them signing a couple of free agent starters. I wouldn’t rule out them at least having a conversation with Max about a reunion. Can’t see the Dodgers having much money to pay him, with Kershaw and Seager as free agents and Trea due a big arb check. I’m not sure how much sense a Max price would make for the Nats, though, unless they can make some other real return-to-contention moves.


    1 Aug 21 at 9:57 am

  6. Glad to see Garcia at SS on Saturday. I’m still not sure Kieboom will show enough power to stick at 3B.

    Also, 3B (or SS/3B) is where the top free agents will be: Corey Seager, Bryant, Correra, Story, Semien. Do the Nats go big on one (or two) of those guys? OF stars will probably be Castellanos and Schwarber (who will probably opt out and cash in on his power surge). I would be surprised if Freeman leaves the Braves (plus will be 32), and Anthony Rizzo at this point wouldn’t be an upgrade on Bell.

    So the FA upgrades would seem to be a 3B/SS and a corner OF. The starting pitching market is going to be interesting. There are several guys with good numbers. I seriously the doubt the Nats are going to want to give a big/long contract, though. Keep an eye on former Nat farmhand Robbie Ray as an affordable option.


    1 Aug 21 at 10:26 am

  7. Don’t forget Zack Greinke, Lance Lynn, and Marcus Stroman.


    1 Aug 21 at 10:38 am

  8. I would love to have any/all of those guys, but I think all three will be around the $20M AAV, and we have no idea whether the Nats are going to be in the mood to spend that much. I also think Stroman will be looking for a contract of four-plus years, and I assume the Mets will make a strong bid to keep him.

    Considering how much the Nats pride themselves on working with wounded pitchers, would they take a flyer on Syndergaard? I assume he’s going to have to take a make-good contract. He also seems like a bit of a nut, but if you actually got Thor and Stras healthy . . .


    1 Aug 21 at 12:49 pm

  9. Joe Ross has another year of control? I guess because he opted out of 2020? Well, I had that wrong, and so does Roster Resource.

    Todd Boss

    2 Aug 21 at 9:32 am

  10. Both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference have Ross not becoming a free agent until 2023. Those were my point of reference.

    Ross is a full run better than Fedde in ERA. Fedde has stretches where he looks better, like in the game yesterday, but he has trouble keeping the door closed the whole way. All and all, I think the Ross and Fedde numbers this season are pretty indicative of who they are, and who we can expect them to be in 2022.


    2 Aug 21 at 11:21 am

  11. There isn’t too much fun left for the rest of this season, but what there is of it starts tonight with Gray’s Nats debut. I have NO earthly idea why Ruiz has been sent to Rochester. He needs to be getting experience at the major-league level right now.


    2 Aug 21 at 12:21 pm

  12. KW, Ruiz’s defense is not major league ready yet. Give Barrera most of the reps now and then in September bring Ruiz up. Keith Law says his bat is ready now.

    Mark L

    2 Aug 21 at 1:48 pm

  13. As much as I want to believe in Barrera, he was hitting .224/.324/.345 this season. He hit .249/.323/.381 in AA in 2019. That’s who he is. Maybe he can become a competent MLB backup, but there’s no reason to expect more. I will give him credit for coming up and hitting, though. Raudy Read always seemed to get called up and look like a deer in the headlights in the batter’s box, despite considerably better batting stats than Barrera in the minors.

    The Nats have Randy Knorr as an MLB coach. Let Ruiz learn from him. Let him play, catch major-league pitchers. I have a HARD time believing that the development-poor Nats’ system can teach him anything better than the Dodgers’ system did.


    2 Aug 21 at 4:55 pm

  14. Draft news: someone on NatsTalk is saying that Marc Davis (11th round) ended up signing, although that isn’t showing on DraftTracker yet.

    The big news is that the Mets spit the bit on Rocker. That’s great news for the Nats that he won’t be in the division. And of course the Rocker family doesn’t need the money (his dad is a former NFL player and current NFL assistant coach). Jud Fabien, a hitter who interested me who fell to the second round, also didn’t sign.

    Of course last year we were lamenting that Pete Crow-Armstrong fell to the Mets, but they’ve now made the very questionable decision to trade him for two months of Baez and his .288 OBP. Good luck with that.

    So over the last three days, the Mets have lost Rocker and Crow-Armstrong, two of the highest-ceiling prospects from the last two drafts. Wow. We may grouse about some things that Rizzo does, but there’s never been anything close to that stupid.


    2 Aug 21 at 5:15 pm

  15. KW, time to readjust your glasses; Barrera’s OPS this year is .790. More than good enough to make most of the starts this year.

    I hope Marc Davis did sign, his not signing was a head scratcher. He turns 23 in a few months.

    Mark L

    3 Aug 21 at 7:58 am

  16. Nice beginning to his Nat career by Gray last night. He looked very comfortable on the mound, and the only run he surrendered was a golf shot from Herrera.

    Mark, my glasses see Barrera riding .349 BABIP luck. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it, and good for him for making the most of this opportunity. But his OPS at AAA this year is .668, and it was .704 in AA in 2019. Realmuto’s career OPS is .786, and there’s no reason to believe that Barrera is the next Realmuto. To me, all this story does is give hope that Barrera could be a competent MLB backup, and there’s value in that. The Nats have spent years and years trading for or signing backup catchers (and starting catchers). But their starting catching fortunes going forward will ride with Ruiz. Barrera, Adams, and Reetz (who is really struggling at AAA) give them good hope for finding a backup in-house.


    3 Aug 21 at 10:36 am

  17. Barrera has a career OPS in the minors around .730. If you add up his numbers in AAA and MLB this year his OPS is… around .730. It’s a big if, but IF he can do that consistently at the major league level, that’s about average or slightly below average for a starting catcher. It’s fine. I think the Nats would be happy with that for the rest of this season.

    In the (likely) event that he becomes Ruiz’s backup at some point down the road, I’ll note Barrera hits better against lefties and Ruiz hits better against righties. There’s some platoon split advantage there. Nats could be getting good production from the catcher’s spot for several years.

    Bland Moniker

    3 Aug 21 at 10:37 am

  18. My 2 cents on Barrera. he’s an org-guy prospect, a 4-A type catcher who can barely hit but who has good defense. I’m ok with him being a once-a-week backup/personal catcher, but that’s about it.

    I love the Ruiz signing, and would like to see Ruiz/Barrera as your catching tandem in the majors next year on 4/1.

    Todd Boss

    3 Aug 21 at 12:28 pm

  19. We’re burying the lede, folks. Last night saw the premiere of a guy who may be in the middle of the Nats’ rotation for the next six years or more. The Nats really need Gray to turn out to be that good, to be a building block for the next generation.

    Longenhagen is particularly bullish on Gray:


    3 Aug 21 at 1:28 pm

  20. But while we’re on the backup catcher kick, why in heck is Riley Adams being promoted over Ruiz? At some point you have to wonder whether they’re manipulating Ruiz’s service time.


    3 Aug 21 at 4:08 pm

  21. That FanGraghs article was good. The word on Ruiz has been that if he couldn’t figure out the defense part of catching his bat would play well at other positions.

    Longenhagen made me laugh when he said Ruiz might be too fat to play any position other than catcher.

    Mark L

    3 Aug 21 at 4:33 pm

  22. re: Ruiz, I’m sure it’s aaaaaall muscle. But yeah, he might be a *spits* DH.

    Ruiz doesn’t have much time logged at Triple-A and Adams is a couple years older, so I don’t mind giving Adams the call first and letting Ruiz play every day as a Red Wing. Interested to see what Adams can do — his K rate is a little scary, but he finds ways to get on base and he has some legit pop. Supposedly a pretty solid defensive catcher as well, although his caught-stealing rate dipped this season at Buffalo.


    3 Aug 21 at 6:45 pm

  23. From Longenhagen: “Overall, Ruiz is a good defensive catcher, ball-blocking aside. He has baby-soft hands, is a good receiver at the bottom of the zone, and has a very accurate arm.” I don’t see anything there about a bad body or DH concerns. And he homered in his Red Wing debut. He has an elite hit tool, and power has shown up this season (admittedly much of it in the PCL). He’s certainly farther along in development than the guy the Nats currently have playing third base.

    Ruiz is the future for the Nats behind the plate. I’m not sure why there’s any debate. It’s going to be his job next spring, or should be. The word is that he was sent to AAA so he could play every day, but I don’t see why he can’t be playing every day with the big club. Maybe he struggles, but let’s get the struggles out of the way now instead of later.


    4 Aug 21 at 2:21 pm

  24. He’s listed at 6’0, 225. I mean, that’s not svelte but that’s not overly fat. By way of comparison: Robles is listed at 6’0″ 205.

    So 20 pounds takes you from “elite defensive center fielder” to “fat slob who has to catch becuase he’s a tub of lard that you’d have to roll out to a position on the dirt otherwise.”

    Todd Boss

    4 Aug 21 at 2:58 pm

  25. Schwarber is listed as exactly the same as Ruiz: 6’0″, 225. He did get moved from behind the plate, but mainly because the Cubs already had Contreras.

    Riley Adams is 246 pounds on a 6’4″ frame . . . and starting tonight against the Phils.


    4 Aug 21 at 5:24 pm

  26. Kieboom had five hits in the three-game Phillie series, including two homers, significantly improving his stat line. He crushed the one on Wednesday night. Garcia hit two bombs, but his overall line still needs a lot of improvement. I also don’t understand why they keep flipping him from SS back to 2B. Escobar is NOT the future, and it would play with the kid’s head a lot less if they’d leave him at one position.

    Run production hasn’t been an issue in recent games, though. Pitching has. And frankly, it’s hard to see too much brightness in the Nat future in this area where they’ve invested so heavily, both on the major-league staff and in draft picks. The futures of Stras and Harris for next season are doubtful. Rainey and Suero have flat been sent to the minors, and Clay probably would be if they had another lefty available. Corbin is a shell of his former self. The top pick from 2017, Seth Romero, got shelled at AA last night and looks destined for the bullpen. The top pick from 2018, Mason Denaburg, has barely pitched as a pro, and not at all in more than two years. Rutledge (2019) had an injury setback and won’t make AA this year, although he’s looking good in rehab starts. Henry has been injured, and Adon hasn’t advanced (6.04 ERA at only A+ despite clogging a space on the 40-man).

    Finnegan is about the only consistently reasonably decent bullpen piece right now. Gray was a significant acquisition and one hopes can be a mid-rotation stalwart. Ross with a 4.00 ERA is adequate for the back of the rotation for another year (if in fact he isn’t a free agent). Fedde, despite flashes of improvement, overall still tips the scale as inadequate after a full-time look in the rotation. But the only starter on the horizon for 2022 is probably Cavalli, and very likely not until June/July at the earliest.

    It’s just maddening for the Nats to invest so much draft capital in pitching and have so little on the horizon to show for it, and to have to have a starting pitcher be one of the key returns in a major trade.


    5 Aug 21 at 11:46 am

  27. Imagine if you were the Dodgers; you started the year thinking your rotation would be Bauer, Buehler, Kershaw, Urias, Price with your top prospect May waiting in the wings. Thats three $30M/year guys plus another $8M for the two arb guys.

    Now Bauer is gone, Kershaw hurt, Price in the bullpen, May had TJ. Plus two other depth starters (Duffy and Gonsolin) are hurt too. So they dump the farm to acquire Scherzer, sign re-tread Hamels and they STILL don’t have a full rotation.

    Todd Boss

    5 Aug 21 at 3:45 pm

  28. Yes, but they’ve also developed Buehler (11-2) and Urias (13-3), which the Nats can’t seem to do. But it is sorta surprising that they would part with a top pitching prospect in the midst of a pitching crisis. (I wouldn’t have given 10 cents to Bauer. He was a disaster waiting to happen, and they deserve to lose every penny they spent on him.)

    The Dodgers are going to have a curious decision to make on Kershaw. It’s hard to see him going elsewhere, but they’re also not going to give him $30M+ a year for three or four years. Also, if you had to give one contract like that to an aging star, you’d give it to Max over Claw, right? Max has been incredibly durable (but is also three years older).

    The whole Cole Hamels thing smacks of desperation. The Braves kicked him to the curb quickly last year, and he hasn’t surfaced since.


    5 Aug 21 at 4:21 pm

  29. KW

    5 Aug 21 at 4:29 pm

  30. After last nites game I was reminded of the great philosopher who said…. ‘The Kids Are Alright’.

    Mark L

    8 Aug 21 at 2:36 am

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