Apparently, landing an all-star closer at a relatively inexpensive price can draw criticism.
At least, that’s the case in the eyes of ESPN's Buster Olney, who chided the Nationals' cost-conscious approach near baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. Washington was able to acquire Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mark Melancon to replace the struggling Jonathan Papelbon without surrendering any of the organization’s prized prospects such as Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner or Reynaldo Lopez.
But the deal for Melancon, Olney argued, didn’t stack up with the moves the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians made to nab each of the New York Yankees’ elite bullpen pair of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. While the Nats were reportedly interested in both relievers — and were in desperate need to find a new ninth-inning option — GM Mike Rizzo still refused to acquiesce to the Yankees’ requests for players he deemed to be untouchable.
"They’re gonna wish that they had paid the extra that the Cubs paid and that the Indians paid to get either Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller,” Olney said to fellow insiders on Monday’s edition of Baseball Tonight. “The price on Andrew Miller was extraordinary, but they could have gotten Aroldis Chapman. They were in a much better position than the Cubs were because they had pitching prospects, the Yankees are starved for pitching prospects. If they had put in one of those guys, the Nationals could have had Aroldis Chapman.
“They held back their ammunition, the Cubs jumped in. I thought the Nationals did a terrible job."
The analyst in the exchange that came to the Rizzo’s defense, ironically, was former Nats GM Jim Bowden, who countered Olney by explaining why the team was unwilling to part with Giolito in particular.
“It’s not just about 2016,” Bowden said. “I think as a GM or an owner — and the Nationals are built for the long term, not any singular season — they look to Giolito and they said ‘we may have [Max] Scherzer, who’s already a [No.1 starter], [Stephen] Strasburg, who’s become a one, and a future one in Giolito, we wanna keep that together.’ That’s what they’re thinking. I know it’s a tough balance, but that’s how I view it.”
Of course, the next few months will determine if Melancon can help the Nats the way many believe Chapman will boost the Cubs. The former Pirates closer may not hit triple digits on the radar gun or possess the kind of “swing and miss” stuff that Chapman does, but the 31-year-old reliever has converted 114-of-123 save opportunities since 2014. Clearly, something's working for him.
Aside from the Melancon trade, the Nats were quiet as the deadline came and went Monday afternoon. There was some thought that perhaps they could acquire another bat or relief arm, but no such deal materialized.
So, waiver trades not withstanding, it appears the Nats will roll with the roster they have for the season’s stretch run. Will it be enough to contend with the National League’s elite? Those at the worldwide leader don’t believe so.
"Nationals get one guy. Did they do enough?” asked Jayson Stark.
“I don’t think so at all,” Olney replied.