The Nats went into the trade deadline with a ton of ammunition. Although many of their free agent signings didn’t turn out as planned (Nelson Cruz, Caesar Hernandez), they still went into the deadline expecting to bring in a bunch of new faces. Let’s take a quick look at the whopping two deals that Mike Rizzo made and give out some grades:
Nats trade Ehire Adrianza to Braves for Trey Harris
This deal happened on Monday and quite frankly it was kind of shocking. Adrianza had an OPS+ of 35 through 31 games with the Nats this season. If there were two expiring contracts I thought they wouldn’t be able to move, they would’ve been Adrianza and Alcides Escobar. The Braves wanted him back though and gave up Trey Harris to get him. Harris is a 26 year old OF in AA. He’ll likely amount to nothing, and that’s ok. Truthfully, anything with a pulse is more than I thought Rizzo would’ve been able to get for Adrianza.
Nats trade Juan Soto and Josh Bell to Padres for C.J. Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, Robert Hassell III, James Wood, Jarlin Susana and Luke Voit
This one stung. Most of us were prepared for it, but that didn’t really help. Nats fans have seen Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner and now Juan Soto leave. One after the other. It’s not completely uncommon in baseball for stars to change teams. It is however uncommon to see generational talents like Harper and Soto change teams, unless they were brought up by a small market team, like Miguel Cabrera with the Marlins. The Nats have let two future Hall of Famers leave DC in a span of four years. The first one left for nothing. At least with Soto, the club was able to get a haul for him. In fact, many scouts around baseball considered this a historic haul. But that doesn’t really change anything because a player of Soto’s caliber can’t be replaced. No matter what, whoever ended up with Soto was going to end up with the better end of this deal. That’s how good he is and that’s what my grade reflects. This didn’t need to happen. But when you have an ownership group who is dedicated to not paying its own star players (this isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact), this was the only result that would leave the team in good shape moving forward. After Bryce left, fans said “well now we have money for Rendon”. After Rendon left, fans said “well now we have money for Trea”. After Trea was traded it became “well now we have money for Juan”. And now? I guess we’re saving up for Elijah Green before he hits free agency in 2032.
As for what the Nats got back for Soto, they did pretty well. Including Josh Bell was a bit of a head scratcher to me though. Rizzo indicated that he included Bell so the Nats could get Susana, who he said they were really high on. Maybe that was going to be the best return the Nats could get for Bell. We’ll never know now. Getting a package of Abrams, Gore, Hassell and Wood is fantastic though. Each of those guys are very high ceiling guys, and only Wood has a low floor. A potential outfield of Hassell, Wood and Green in 3-4 years with Cristhian Vaquero not far behind is mouthwatering. But these guys have to develop, and that’s where the Nats have struggled. It’s worrisome to say the least. But at least Abrams and Gore are major league ready and Voit is already in the Majors with 2 ½ years of control left. At worst, the Nats will walk away from this deal with 3 major league regulars. At best, they could walk away from it with a couple of perennial all-stars. Again, none of these guys will be the next Juan Soto, but it was still a nice haul nonetheless. Now the rest falls on the Nats player development staff, which is scary.
Up until this point, Rizzo had done a really good job considering the cards he had been dealt. I’m still of the belief that trading Soto was a Lerner demand, not necessarily a choice that Rizzo had. But that’s neither here nor there. What came next was head scratching. After dealing Adrianza, Soto and Bell, Rizzo did nothing. He mentioned that the returns on controllable relievers such as Kyle Finnegan and Carl Edwards Jr. wasn’t enough to make him consider a deal, and that’s fine. Rizzo said the return on Nelson Cruz wasn’t as valuable as the veteran leadership and knowledge he’ll bring to the younger players. He has a .658 OPS, but ok. He also serves as the hitting coach and pitching coach after helping both Josh Bell and Erick Fedde, something that Darnell Coles and Jim Hickey were apparently unable to do. So maybe there is some extra value there. The club also holds a mutual option on Cruz for next year for $13 million, which given Cruz’s numbers, they’re all but certain to decline. But they also have a logjam at 1B/DH now with Voit on the way and Joey Menenses, who deserves a chance after homering in his first game and putting up good numbers in AAA this season. And what about Steve Cishek, Erasmo Ramirez and Caesar Hernandez? You could trade Adrianza but none of those three? Highly unlikely. All three are free agents come October. Instead of holding a press conference 2 hours before the deadline, how about you deal them for anything you can get? The fact that he signed three players over the offseason (Cruz, Hernandez and Cishek) thinking they’d be good trade candidates to flip at the deadline and then traded none of them is an objective failure. You take whatever you can get for those guys and move on. Rizzo did well to get the players he did for Soto, but the rest of his deadline left a lot to be desired.
Overall grade: C-