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Final haul and previous asks for Realmuto show why Nationals were hesitant

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Final haul and previous asks for Realmuto show why Nationals were hesitant

Rumblings about J.T. Realmuto and the Washington Nationals first popped in the 2016 offseason. He was even more enticing then, on a cheap contract with extensive control and All-Star production.

The Nationals had a distinct need for Realmuto, too. Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and contorted Washington’s postseason hopes late that season. Ramos’ injury also developed a hole at catcher. The minors did not offer relief. Backup Jose Lobaton did not offer a full-time replacement. Something needed to be done.

So Washington’s hunt for a Realmuto deal began. Derek Jeter and Co. eventually took ownership of the team the next year, stripped its talented outfield, but kept a tight grip on Realmuto, who made a measly $562,500 in 2017. His price tag was palatable to even a non-competitive team in the middle of a selloff. Which prompted the Marlins to ask for the moon. And the sun.

They locked in on Juan Soto. And Victor Robles. Together. It was an astonishing ask, and one that would never move the deal forward. Soto and Robles weren’t going to be moved individually, let alone as a pair, which provides insight into why the deal never worked with the Nationals.

The Marlins didn’t only make a massive ask of the Nationals. According to a report from New York, the Marlins also targeted Gary Sanchez and AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar in exchange for Realmuto.

Finally, on Thursday, Miami found a deal it could work with. Philadelphia sent catcher Jorge Alfaro, right-hander Sixto Sanchez, left-hander Will Stewart and $250,000 in international bonus slot money to the Marlins for Realmuto.

Sanchez was considered the Phillies’ top prospect and rated the 27th-best prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. Alfaro has several raw tools and a dash of major-league experience. Stewart was effective (2.06 ERA) at Single-A Lakewood last season.

None of those players rival Robles or Soto in stature. The Marlins’ over-the-top insistence -- even last summer -- for both young outfielders drove the Nationals to an offseason solution of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki.

Individually, neither of the new catchers rival Realmuto, who is 28, expected to post better offensive numbers by playing in Philadelphia and will be there for two years before he can become a free agent. He’s arguably the best catcher in baseball. Though as a combination, they produce a more-than-viable option to fill a positional abyss from last season and a reasonable answer for the team that did not land Realmuto.

Realmuto has improved each year. His 4.3 WAR last season well outpaced his previous high of 3.6 the year before.

Suzuki delivered 2.1 WAR as Atlanta’s full-time catcher; Gomes 2.6 as Cleveland’s full-time catcher. Expect Gomes to play every day in Washington, as much as that applies to starting catchers now. Probably 120 games or so. He left Cleveland’s Progressive Field for a slightly more hitter friendly stadium in Nationals Park. Gomes’ offense should stay about the same. A ding in average would make sense, his power remaining about 12-14 homers would also make sense.

Suzuki, by sheer playing time, will take a step back in WAR. So, let’s estimate the Nationals have a 2.5 WAR player via their catcher platoon. Last season, Matt Wieters provided 0.6 WAR. Pedro Severino -1.1. Spencer Kieboom 0.4. The position was a mess.

But not enough of one for Rizzo to move Robles or Soto, and certainly not both, for Realmuto. The Nationals don’t enter 2019 with a comparable player. However, they don’t start the season with a hole there, either. And expect Juan Soto and Victor Robles to be the Opening Day starters in the outfield. Is that a better haul than Realmuto by himself following a gargantuan ask? The Nationals thought so.

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Nationals, Sánchez blasted by Orioles in another mediocre performance

Nationals, Sánchez blasted by Orioles in another mediocre performance

WASHINGTON --  The Nationals are 4-6 following a Friday night drubbing by the Baltimore Orioles, a team not expected to be remotely good in 2020.

The season’s fluctuations are under way. The Nationals went 1-4, looked listless and were charged with not having fun. They won three in a row to complete the push for an even record. They lost Max Scherzer and two games since. Friday night was particularly abhorrent. They were smacked 11-0 by an Orioles team which had 19 hits. It could have been worse.

“This is just one of those games where you’ve got to put it behind you as quick as you can and come back tomorrow and regroup and go get ‘em tomorrow,” Davey Martinez said. “This game was about as lopsided as I’ve seen in a long time.”

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Aníbal Sánchez has problems. His ERA is 7.84. It, like the Friday night score, could be worse.

He shrugged off his poor start to open the season. Sánchez was more irritated Friday -- back on the mound 12 days after the first time. When he walked Renato Núñez on a 3-2 pitch which wasn’t close to a strike, he yelled, then left the mound to pace. Pitching coach Paul Menhart came to visit.

Recall last year. Sánchez opened with a 5.91 ERA across April and May. He was much better in the following two months, righting his season and helping the Nationals from their malaise. But time for a course correction this season is limited.

“I think the situation that happened last year was [me] out of routine,” Sánchez said. “This is only something you have to handle no matter what. … This is going to happen this year early in the season. I think when you’re out of routine, it’s really hard to see what’s going on. Right now I can see the difference between the games with fans and no fans and all the kinds of things. A little bit something in your mind. At the end, I think I need to figure out how to control my game in all those situations.”

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Sánchez has made 16.7 percent of his starts (and the team is through the same amount of its season). Only nine remain. Reacting to two starts in normal times is not recommended. However, these are not normal times. Much like the offense -- which failed to score for the first time this season -- Sánchez needs to quickly gather himself. However, Trea Turner doesn’t feel the squeeze is on them yet.

“If we do, it’s just going to snowball on us,” Turner said. “There’s no point to. I think it’s more perspective -- more teams are in the playoffs this year, so you’ve got more room for error. More opportunities to make up ground. That being said, it is a shorter season. We need to take advantage of every game because we’re playing some good ball clubs. They kicked our butts [Friday]. Got to be ready each and every day.”

The Nationals play two more games during the weekend against Baltimore. Austin Voth starts Saturday, Stephen Strasburg returns Sunday. Friday opened a 13-games in 13 days stretch after the jumbled beginning of days off and postponements. Martinez said they were happy to finally be starting what a season traditionally feels like. Day after day, game after game. Time and geography lost to the rhythm of playing.

But, the Nationals entered the game 29th in Major League Baseball in runs, then failed to score. The only team to score fewer is the coronavirus-riddled St. Louis Cardinals who have played five games this season. Their starting staff is yet to anchor them. The bullpen has an injury to its most important offseason signing and Sean Doolittle is ineffective. Fixable problems, but problems to be sure.

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Phillie Phanatic returns favor to Bryce Harper with custom jacket

Phillie Phanatic returns favor to Bryce Harper with custom jacket

Despite only being in year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, Bryce Harper's love for the Phillie Phanatic is well-known.  

On Friday, the team mascot returned the favor by showing some love to Bryce Harper with his new custom suit jacket.

Let’s all take a walk down memory lane since it is #FlashbackFriday and relive the moment when Bryce Harper took his love for Phanatic to the next level on Opening Day with this look: a custom olive-colored suit with pictures of team mascot Phanatic scattered throughout the inside. 

This is just a reminder to find someone who loves you as much as the Phanatic loves Bryce. Or vice versa. A bromance like no other.

Now if the Phillies are smart, they’ll make these suits available for the fans. If they do, there'll be no competition for the best-dressed fan base in the future.

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