Nationals Arm Race

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

Evaluating Nats Trade Candidates


Is he getting traded? Source NYPost

Now that we’re past the draft, the next big date on the MLB calendar is the Trade Deadline. August 2nd is only a week away, but we’ve heard almost no trade news so far thanks to teams wrapping up draft signings.

So, soon we’ll start to hear about trades. The Nats, of course, are now dead last in the majors, 3 games worse than the next worst team, projecting to a top lottery pick (now’s an excellent time to remind everyone that the lottery is open to every non-playoff team … and the top 6 picks are used, so there’s a significant chance the Nats could finish with the 30th worst record and pick 7th… anyway, not the point here).

Here’s a look at the roster, identifying who’s heading out the door and what they may fetch.

Incredibly Likely to be traded for decent value

  1. Josh Bell: FA to be, hitting the crap out of the ball this year, nearly a 3/4/5 slash line. He’s going to be popular as a rent-a-bat. Teams looking for offense are going to come calling. Likely return: Nats probably net a team’s top-10 prospect and a secondary lower level/younger prospect in the 10-15 range.
  2. Nelson Cruz: has a $3M buyout but is also a FA since he signed a 1 year deal with the express intent of being right where he is now; available as a rent-a-DH. Unfortunately he’s not really hit as well as expected, so his return will be limited. Likely Return: 15-20th ranked prospect.

We’ll Take what we can get:

  • Cesar Hernandez: FA to be, he’s really been weak at the plate but can play 2B and SS and could give some veteran utility cover. Likely Return: a 20+ ranked prospect from the low minors.
  • Steve Cishek, FA to be, has been healthy and relatively serviceable this year, with a 101 ERA+. But its not like he’s a lights-out 9th inning guy anymore; he’s a mid-level 36-yr old reliever. Likely Return: a 20+ prospect from the low minors.
  • Carl Edwards has actually been good: a 3.00 era, good K rates. Not bad for a MLFA signing. Still, he’s not going to fetch much more than Cishek would get. Likely Return: a non prospect.
  • Erasmo Ramirez: Basically the same story as Cishek and Edwards: mid30s RH reliever with decent numbers this year. I’m sure a team with some bullpen injuries or issues would give up a lower-level prospect for a guy like this. Likely Return: a non prospect.

Not Likely to be Traded despite being FAs to be:

  • Wil Harris, FA to be but currently on the 60-day DL with TOS-related scar tissue issues. No value here, and his 3yr/$24M contract works out to nearly $1M per INNING!
  • Joe Ross, FA to be and out with his second TJ.
  • Anibel Sanchez, who is back in the rotation after missing the first half, but hasn’t exactly shown that he’s of any value, getting more or less shelled in his first two starts. Can’t imagine getting anything of value for him.
  • Ehire Adrianza, who signed on as another backup utility guy, has a 43 OPS+ this year. No trade value.
  • Sean Doolittle: on 60-day DL with an elbow sprain and isn’t getting off that list anytime soon. No trade value.
  • Maikel Franco: taking a flier on the former top prospect has somewhat paid off, but he’s still only hitting .238 and never walks. Its hard to see anyone really giving up anything in return.
  • Alcides Escobar: how is it possible that we bought up so many veteran utility guys and none of them can hit? Oh yeah, because that’s why there’s so many of them on the FA market.
  • Tyler Clippard: finally got his shot, and he’s on the DL right at the trade deadline.

Pre-FA players thinking outside the box

  • Kyle Finnegan? With Rainey’s injury he’s the new closer, and if there’s one thing bad teams don’t need, its a closer. He’s one of the only viable arms in the bullpen and could be moved for prospects. Likely Return: a 10-15th ranked system prospect.

Juan Soto

And then we get to Soto. I’m not a national correspondent with industry sources out the wazoo, so I have no idea what teams are interested or who’s willing to give up what. Pundits are saying there’s 6 or 7 teams available. I’ve read “4-5 players” as an expected return. I really hope they don’t force teams to take Corbin‘s salary, b/c i’d rather have the prospects, but Bowden says that’s what the team is asking.. We’ll see what happens. Likely Return: 3 top 10 prospects plus two pre-arb Major Leaguers.

Total return if all this actually happens?

  • Two pre-arb Major leaguers
  • Four top10 prospects
  • Two 10-15th ranked prospects
  • A couple 20+ ranked prospects
  • a couple non-prospects

Thoughts? did I forget anyone?

Written by Todd Boss

July 25th, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Nats in General

23 Responses to 'Evaluating Nats Trade Candidates'

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  1. something tells me Soto will not be dealt before the deadline. in the off-season it’s still a good possibility if new ownership doesn’t impress him and/or meet his demands.

    while his value is greater now, two years of control is still of tremendous value.

    I’ve also determined I want him to stay for a few reasons, not the least of which is to stop the exodus of superstars.


    25 Jul 22 at 5:11 pm

  2. I don’t disagree Fred. I’m certainly not advocating to sell him. It certainly would be easier to trade him in the off-season, when teams could talk with him and discuss extension offers in conjunction with packages. Negotiating now would be helter skelter. BUT, that being said, they offered him a gazillion dollars and he said no, and the frenzy of trade deadline might be good. Teams are hurting for players now, maybe not as much in the off-season.

    Todd Boss

    25 Jul 22 at 9:07 pm

  3. First of all, can we pause for a moment of silence here? Even if they don’t trade Soto (which I think they will), we’re about to return to 2008-9 levels of suckage, if we’re not there already. It’s not going to be pretty. And even if they get the absolute best-case return on House and Green, they’re not going to be ready for three years.

    I would trade Fedde, too, if anyone would take him. He turns 30 in February and is about to be arb-eligible. Right now he’s fulfilling the role he’s been destined for: innings eater for a non-contender.

    I would at least listen on Finnegan. We know from being on the other side of this coin for years how desperate teams get for relief help. He turns 31 in September and may not have much tread left by the time the Nats get good again. I’d been looking for a prospect of a little higher caliber than Todd notes, though, maybe 7th-12th in a system. Since the Nats don’t have to deal him, they’ll have to be given a little extra incentive to do so.

    It strikes me that the return Todd is predicting for Bell is pretty much what the Nats gave up to get him. That’s one of the very few positive things that can be said about the last couple of seasons.

    I’d listen wider, too: Robles, Yadiel, Thomas, Barrera, Adams (but not both Barrera and Adams) — basically anyone other than Ruiz, Garcia, and Gray. I don’t think there would be much interest or much return for those guys, but you never know.

    Soto of course is a whole different category, and really the only chip who really matters. They may get one decent prospect in return for Bell, but other than that, the rest will be lottery tickets. They have no other way to reshape the franchise than to go all in by shoving the Soto pot into the middle of the table. I don’t think the question is so much whether he’s available as it is whether any team is going to meet Rizzo’s justifiably high asking price. I think some team will, particularly if there’s a bidding war.

    I’ve done a little looking at prospects of other teams, but I quickly tire of the exercise. Partly it’s depressing because they’re all still just prospects, and the hype sounds so much like the hype for Robles, and Kieboom, and so many others who have cratered. “Can’t miss” C. J. Abrams of the Padres is currently doing a good Robles impression. MacKenzie Gore has Fedde-like numbers.

    Make no mistake: if they do trade Soto, they CAN’T screw it up. They HAVE to get guys who will pan out (even though that’s virtually impossible to assure). If they trade the one big asset they have and end up with Robleses and Feddes in return, then they go from being screwed for two or three years to screwed for the rest of the decade.

    (Also, as I’ve said before, don’t diminish the return for Soto by dumping Corbin’s contract as part of the deal. They’ll have very little real salary left on the books, so they can manage to carry him for two more years.)


    25 Jul 22 at 9:21 pm

  4. On the flipside, if they don’t trade Soto, is there still a path to reclamation? I think it would have to start with a Rangers-like move of signing at least two of the big free agent hitters. (Ed. note: this hasn’t done much for the Rangers so far, despite the commitment of half a billion for two guys.) They’d also have to sign at least one of the top FA pitchers and hope Cavalli and Henry are ready.

    For a scenario like this to play out, the sale of the team would have to be completed, and new ownership would have to be committed to spending the “stupid money” that’s being spent in the NL East. I doubt that a sale will be finalized and approved at the league level by the time that free agency kicks into gear. Also, from where we sit right now, it seems somewhat like a fantasy that the Nats would truly be able to jump in with spending at that level. But you never know.

    For what it’s worth, the FA hitter crop seems better this coming offseason, with more pitching available the following year.

    This scenario certainly would be more fun than a complete tear-down. But it also seems more unlikely.


    25 Jul 22 at 9:40 pm

  5. I wonder if Harvey can parlay a good week to jump into the asset pool?


    26 Jul 22 at 7:58 am

  6. Good thought. I guess at some level, though — and this also applies to some guys Todd mentioned — would you rather have the #30 prospect from another team in return, or someone who might actually at least give you a chance to stay competitive in some games now? I guess the corollary question is whether some of the AAA and AA arms the Nats have are just about as competent as the MLB bullpen guys who might be traded. Probably not, but you never know.

    Plus Seth Romero will be over that calf strain any day now, right? Has anyone even heard a peep about him? What a waste. More recently drafted reliever Holden Powell (3d round 2020) hasn’t pitched all year, and barely pitched in 2021. He’s faced 21 batters as a pro.


    26 Jul 22 at 9:14 am

  7. FYI, is reporting a TON more signings.

    7th Rd. – Riley Cornelio – RHP – TCU
    11th Rd. – Luke Young – RHP – Midland College (TX)
    12th Rd. – Nick Peoples – OF – Northview HS (CA)
    13th Rd. – Marquis Grissom Jr. – RHP – Georgia Tech
    14th Rd. – Cortland Lawson – SS – Tennessee
    15th Rd. – Kyle Luckham – RHP – Arizona State
    16th Rd. – Everett Cooper – SS – Pro5 Baseball Academy (NC)
    17th Rd. – Blake Klassen – 1B – UC Santa Barbara
    18th Rd. – Brad Lord – RHP – South Florida
    19th Rd. – Johnathon Thomas – OF – Texas Southern

    So, that’s 19 out of 20! Only the 20th rounder prep player not in. I’m shocked they got the mid-teen prep kids.

    Todd Boss

    26 Jul 22 at 9:46 am

  8. KW to answer your above question; i could care less about the on-the-field performanc3e in 2022. They’re dead last WITH these guys, and they’re goign to be dead last without them. I’d rather see players come up and get a shot, rather than giving a bunch of ABs to a 30yr old one-year FA we signed last off season. Why do i care what Cesar Hernandez does? Why wouldn’t we want to instead see what Jake Alu can do there? Same with the arms, same with the bullpen.

    Todd Boss

    26 Jul 22 at 9:49 am

  9. One point about lottery tickets: they sometimes pay off. This doesn’t mean that anyone is able to predict *which* lottery ticket will actually pay off, but they do indeed pay off with some positive probability. Once upon a time, the expiring Cristian Guzman brought Tanner Roark back in return. And just last year, Jon Lester’s corpse returned Lane Thomas. So we should expect that collectively, one of the “we’ll take what we can get” guys should return a player who makes meaningful contributions to an MLB team. This is why I think all of those guys need to be traded – the point is to collect a bunch of lottery tickets and hope one hits.

    For me, the worst part of watching games this year has been wasting time on guys like Escobar/Franco/Hernandez. The rationale for giving them ABs is sound – you’re hoping they turn in a hot stretch that makes them attractive on the trade market. This hope was an absolute pipe dream for Escobar, but not unreasonable for the other two. But, as a fan, I have no rooting interest in Maikel Franco playing well. I hope next year those roster slots are filled by younger guys who might be part of the future, and who I might enjoy watching.


    26 Jul 22 at 10:07 am

  10. Derek: 100%.

    Right now, I’d rather see:
    – Joey Meneses playing 1B for Bell, to see if the 22 MLFA can translate his AAA power into MLB effectiveness.
    – Jake Noll getting another 40-man shot, playing 2B instead of Cesar Hernandez
    – Jake Alu and his 2022 .830 OPS figure playing 3B instead of Franco

    We have ready made 40-man OF options in case Soto is traded, namely Thomas, Palacio and/or Casey. I mean, we traded for these guys, and they’re riding the pine.

    if we somehow move Sanchez for a bag of balls, why not see what we have in Abbott? Couldn’t be worse than Adon right? Or, Rogers is back of teh DL and was effecftive last year, lets give him a 2-month run in the rotation.

    These are the kinds of edge players who might actually flourish if given a chance. Maybe we’ll see a ton of releases after the trade deadline to make room.

    Also, not for nothing, but the team just signed 19 draftees. That’s 19 players (8 of whom are starters) who will start flowing into the system. This will mean a natural rise of players from FCL to LowA to HighA, etc. I don’t think we’re going to immediately see 19 releases in the system tomorrow to make room.

    Todd Boss

    26 Jul 22 at 10:24 am

  11. Oh, I don’t mind moving the bullpen stiffs at all. I have no connection to them. I’d love to see Cronin, Troop, Andrew Lee, Brzykcy, guys like that get a look. J-Rod, Sharp, and Fuentes have proved that they shouldn’t be starting, so give them some looks in relief. Most of them probably won’t be good, but it’s time to find out if any of them are.

    Yes, I had the same thought about Thomas in return for absolute nothing in Lester. Of course Thomas is really up and down, but at least he’s a legit MLB/AAAA player, unlike some of the others. He would fall into the “failing prospect” category more so than lottery ticket.

    Speaking of failing prospects, I wonder if we could include Antuna in a deal . . . (probably not since he’d have to be added to a team’s 40-man).


    26 Jul 22 at 12:34 pm

  12. Great news on everyone but Ortiz signing. Get them to Florida and playing some games. Let’s find out what we’ve got. Send Lipscomb and Bennett straight to Fredericksburg.


    26 Jul 22 at 12:36 pm

  13. Oh, as for all the signees, Luke at Nats Prospect wrote something last week about there being a limit on the number of players who can be in an organization at one time. That’s 19 new draftees plus some FA signings, plus presumably multiple prospects returning for individual players in upcoming trades. So there’s going to be some real churn in the system soon.


    26 Jul 22 at 12:39 pm

  14. Baseball-Reference having a little fun at Robles expense with the current photo


    26 Jul 22 at 1:28 pm

  15. Player limits in the system: i get conflicting information. One link says 28 in AAA, but our Rochester clearly has more than that. So no idea. I’d like to be able to use the big board’s numbers to figure out how many we have now and predict how many are getting released, but its impossible.

    Todd Boss

    26 Jul 22 at 2:26 pm

  16. What happened with the Robles photo? That looks like a Wikipedia page that’s been hacked. (What’s just as frightening is that he’s 3d on the team in bWAR, and Espino is 4th.) (Espino, someone else we haven’t mentioned as a trade possibility.)

    Todd, I tried to look up the limit thing, and all I found was conversation about a 180-player system-wide cap during the CBA bargaining. I don’t know if that was the concluded number. And yes, I have seen 28 as a number for AAA and AA rosters, and 30 for A+ and A. But they have all these little restricted lists and things that they use to juggle the rosters.

    Someone at Nats Prospects within the last couple of days was listing several players who haven’t shown up on rosters at all this season, including a few semi-notable ones like Holden Powell, Tyler Dyson, and Alfonso Hernandez. Maybe they don’t have to be shown on a DL if they’re not on the 40-man and never assigned to a minor-league team? I have no idea. Of course the Nats’ 1st-round picks from 2016 and 2017 haven’t played at all this season, either.


    26 Jul 22 at 4:45 pm

  17. It may have to do with the player limit thing, but it seems surprising that the Nats have only signed five undrafted free agents thus far, while multiple other teams are showing as many as 13. This sure seems like a time when they should be casting the net widely. And considering the diminished state of the system, you would think they could convince kids that there are more opportunities here.


    26 Jul 22 at 4:51 pm

  18. On the big board are players who are still listed as active but who have not been assigned in 2022. 2019 catcher draftee pratt, 2022MLFA Smith, SP SToeckinger, a DSL 21 IFA named Ramirez, 2021 draftee Tolman, and a couple of older relievers Austen Williams and Ryan Tapani.

    Dyson: on the High-A 60day dl, Powell on the high-A 15day. same with AHernandez.

    180 players across an entire system is a lot of players. for context, that basically gives you 26 in majors, 28 in AAA and AA, 30 in high and low A, and 38 in FCL. That adds up to 180.

    Right now if the big board is accurate: MLB 26, AAA 33, AA 28, high-A 29, low-A 29, 33 in FCL, 9 in xst and now 19 new draftees. Even before the draftees that adds up to well more than 180 and it doesn’t count DL players. so i have no idea.

    Todd Boss

    26 Jul 22 at 5:57 pm

  19. Todd Boss

    27 Jul 22 at 10:47 am

  20. I am very happy to hear that from Rizzo – I’ll be even happier if it turns out to be true.


    27 Jul 22 at 12:01 pm

  21. Correct. That’s why I actually think it’s a good thing for the trade to happen now. Teams HAVE to put their best offers on the table, quickly, and be willing to accept Rizzo’s terms. Plus they know that Rizzo doesn’t have to make the deal now unless they give him reason to.


    27 Jul 22 at 12:04 pm

  22. Just reading our friend Sao’s deep dive into the Soto trade possibilities over at NatsTalk. Excellent job! And also somewhat depressing, as it does bring home how difficult it’s going to be to get a package that is truly exciting, and really potentially transformative.

    As Sao notes, having Cartaya be the biggest-value part of a deal with the Dodgers just doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve seen a lot of speculation that a Dodger deal would also include May. Lux would be a nice piece, but overall, I have a hard time seeing the Dodgers having the true high-value prospects to compete with what other teams can offer.

    But how trustworthy are prospects, even top ones? As I’ve noted about the Padres, I see Abrams’s stats and think Robles, and Gore’s and think Fedde.

    I would love for a team like the Guardians or the Rays to jump into this with their extensive prospect capital and really make a move to go for it over the next three years. I really could root for Soto on one of those underdog teams, too. With one of the great corporate entities, not so much.

    From what’s been put out there in all the speculation, and from what little I know about the prospects involved, the deal that interests me most right now would be with the Cards with Walker, Winn, and Liberatore at the core (although Sao notes rumors that the Nats are cool on Liberatore).

    Rarely mentioned by anyone, and even more difficult to predict, would be a three-team trade, maybe with someone like Cartaya being a key piece going to the third party. I would think the third-party team would have to be in the opposite league of the primary trader, as no NL team is going to want to abet the Dodgers, and no AL one would want to help the Yanks. The Nats do have a history of a very notable three-team trade involving the Padres and the Rays, and those certainly would be tango partners who could be in play here.

    Also not being discussed is the relative position in the standings among the supposed competing teams. The Dodgers and particularly the Yanks don’t really NEED Soto other than for a postseason turbocharge. The more desperate teams should be ones that are in dogfights to make the playoffs: Jays, M’s, Rays, Bosox, Pads, Cards, Giants. Soto most definitely could tip the balance of power for any of those teams. And the Nats have traded at least something with all of them within the last three seasons (can’t remember one with the Giants).


    27 Jul 22 at 1:36 pm

  23. Oops, I left the Guardians off the playoff-drive teams. Twins and Brewers could be on there as well, since their division leads are tenuous, but neither has been mentioned much in trade chatter that I’ve seen.

    I still think the Rangers are a sleeper, even though they’re a bit far out of contention. They have the prospect capital to be a player, starting with Leiter. And they didn’t spend big on Seager and Semien to contend “later.” (I don’t know whether Rocker could be traded as a PTBNL, or if that it now forbidden by the post-Trea rules.)


    27 Jul 22 at 2:47 pm

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