In July of 2021 the Washington Nationals entered the first stage of their current” rebuild”/ retool by trading away future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer along with speedy shortstop Trea Turner to the Dodgers in exchange for two Top 100 prospects. Those two prospects turned out to be Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz. Josiah Gray, a righty pitcher from New York cruised through the minors with a 2.41 ERA across 198 innings. He’s had some ups and downs since joining the Nationals, probably a few more downs than ups but has the stuff to be a great second or third option in the Nationals rotation for the future.
Keibert Ruiz, the other top 100 prospect received in that trade, is a switch hitting catcher from Venezuela. While Ruiz didn’t have jaw dropping numbers in the minors, he still produced above average hitting numbers as a switch hitter at a highly coveted position. Since joining the Nationals Major League squad in late August of 2021, Keibert has smoothly fit into the Nationals organization and has become one of the main leaders of this Nationals team while producing solid offensive numbers and great defensive plays. He really showed off his arm and ability to pick runners off this past season and if the bat continues to come along as people expect then Ruiz will become a sure fire All Star and top catcher in baseball.
Along with these two premier prospects, the Nationals also received two mid-tier level prospects in outfielder Donovan Casey and right handed pitcher Gerardo Carrillo. These two haven’t really done too much in the minors for the Nats, and with Donovan Casey struggling in a system with loaded outfielding prospects, it’s not likely that Casey becomes a everyday outfielder for the Nats without some major turnaround in his performance. There’s slightly more hope for Carrillo to make an impact at the big league level as a potential reliever down the line for the big league club that always covets a strong and consistent bullpen.
This trade was certainly not the only notable trade made at the 2021 deadline for DC. Mike Rizzo also pulled off a steal of a trade by sending an aging Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Lane Thomas. Ever since coming over in that trade Thomas has been one of the more consistent players for the Nationals and even won Player of the Year for the team last year, which isn’t saying a lot. But for a player received in exchange for a washed Jon Lester, you can’t ask for much better results on the field. He batted .241 along with 17 home runs (leading the team) and 52 RBIs across 146 games.
Another notable deal that was made was with a familiar face in the San Diego Padres. The deal sent Nats closer and World Series savior Daniel Hudson to Southern California in exchange for prospect pitcher Mason Thompson. Thompson hasn’t really gotten the keys handed to him as the closer for the Nationals as he’s bounced back and forth between the Majors and minors, but when he has been on the mound he’s looked very sharp and polished, posting a 2.92 ERA across 24.2 innings. While these numbers don’t jump off the page, you can certainly tell there’s something there if you’ve watched him on the mound for the Nationals. The hope with Thompson is that the Nats give him more opportunities as their closer of the future and he takes over that mantle.
The last two trades that were made during this 2021 season involved the red hot Kyle Schwarber going to the Boston Red Sox while fan favorites Yan Gomes and Josh Harrison went to the Oakland Athletics. In exchange for Schwarber, the Nationals received 20-year-old right handing pitching prospect Aldo Ramirez. Since coming over in that deal Aldo has not pitched a single inning for the Nats while dealing with an injury. He is still very young at just 22-years-old. In the trade with Oakland for Gomes and Harrison the Nats received catching prospect Drew Millas and two other low end pitching prospects.
The Nationals had a lot of difficult decisions to make during the 2021 season. With an aging Max Scherzer not coming to an agreement on an extension and Stephen Strasburg suffering injury after injury, the future was looking bleak. There was lots of speculation that Scherzer might be dealt at that deadline, but the inclusion of Trea Turner unquestionably surprised all Nats fans. It was hard to come to terms with why the Nationals, after coming off a World Series championship two years prior, would ever consider trading away an emerging superstar at a premier position. But these moves were the first steps to this new era of Nationals baseball, one filled with youth and hope, and one that would ultimately result in Juan Soto being traded just a year later. Fans should be enthralled with all the different talent they received during this rough two year patch that saw their favorite players depart for new teams. It should give fans new levels of excitement being able to watch these youngsters grow up in front of their very eyes and hopefully one day in the near future capture another World Series title.