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Former All-Star Gio Gonzalez traded to Brewers in latest Nationals August sell-off

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Former All-Star Gio Gonzalez traded to Brewers in latest Nationals August sell-off

If you didn’t think the Nationals were waving the white flag before, trading one of their players to a team ahead of them in the NL Wild Card race ought to be considered the proverbial nail in the coffin. 

July 31st is often referred to as the “trade deadline” in Major League Baseball, but as Nats fans have experienced firsthand this summer, it’s a bit of a misnomer.

The end of July really marks the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, whereas August 31st is the actual waiver deadline. During the entire month of August teams can place any player on revocable waivers, and if he is claimed, have a small window to work out a trade with the team that claimed him. Waiver order runs in inverse order from the standings, starting in the same league of the team placing the player on waivers (so Nats players, for example, began in the National League).

It’s essentially a formality to place every player on waivers since they can be pulled back at no cost to the team. It doesn’t hurt to see if a player slides through, and if he passes all 29 teams, then he is free to be traded in the same manner as he would prior to the July 31st deadline.

For fans in the nation’s capital, this is probably old news. Earlier in the month, the Nationals jettisoned Matt Adams and Daniel Murphy, and today, they were back at it.

They kicked things off by sending reliever Ryan Madson to the Dodgers, further confirming the team’s decision to “give up” on the remainder of the 2018 season.

Much more notably, however, they also traded away one of the most consistent faces of the rotation this decade in southpaw Gio Gonzalez.

It’s currently unclear what sort of return fans should be expecting for their former All-Star, but it will likely be small. August trades rarely move the needle much in either direction, and this will almost certainly end up having more of an impact on the Brewers’ playoff hopes and the Nats’ financial situation than it will on Washington’s farm system.

Still, it’s hard to look at these August moves, culminating in today’s trades, and not feel a touch of nostalgia.

The band breaking up is a good way to put it. There has been a core group of players bringing energy, excitement, and a whole lot of wins to D.C. over the last half-decade, and every move, while reasonable in the moment, just reinforces that times are changing.

They also remind fans of the group’s failures, such as not winning a playoff series, and not reading the tea leaves earlier this year and getting more bang for their collective bucks. According to some MLB experts, their lack of success in the postseason has actually been historic.

That’s a discussion for another day, though again, it’s hard to see this season through any prism other than the postseason disappointment of seasons past.

Ultimately, Gio brought D.C. countless fun nights at Nationals Park, and he’ll be remembered fondly, despite his rough 4.57 ERA in his final season here. The minor leaguers he brings back probably won’t end up a part of the next successful Nationals roster, but that’s okay.

The front office’s poor decision-making at this year’s non-waiver deadline, and the team’s struggles in past Octobers, don’t change the fact that in a vacuum, it’s the right decision to move on from paying Gonzalez what he’s owed in the season’s final month, while furthering cementing this team’s position as noncompetitive for the first time in many years. It’s an unfamiliar feeling for Nats fans, and they certainly hope it’s not one they grow accustomed to.


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Will the 2019 and 2020 free-agent classes stir things up the way this one hasn’t?

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Will the 2019 and 2020 free-agent classes stir things up the way this one hasn’t?

There’s an old Magnum, P.I. episode called “Home at Sea”. Magnum has been knocked off his surf ski after a too-close speedboat zips by, leaving him alone to survive in the water. His mind wanders. Flashbacks from childhood, the war, and his family, fill his head. He’s treading water and waiting.

Things are not life-and-death severe during this offseason as the baseball world wades through what has become the sigh-inducing drudgery of free agency. But, big names remain unsigned, reduced to sending out social media pings via a hat (Manny Machado seen in the background of a video in a White Sox lid) or tweet (Bryce Harper having fun with everyone’s emotions by making weather jokes or referencing Tony Romo’s prognostication abilities).

What we don’t have — yet — are results. Everyone is just treading water. Which leads to thoughts beyond today. In particular, the coming free agents in 2019 and 2020.

This class was supposed to be epic. Harper, Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson. Cy Young and MVP winners along with young, generational talents. A mix rarely, if ever, seen before.

(Jose Fernandez, the talented young pitcher in Miami, was also expected to play a major role in this free agency class before he tragically died in 2016 at the age of 24.)

Instead, ongoing shrugs and muted exuberance have met this market, which gives next year a chance to deliver comparative heat. Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rendon, J.D. Martinez, Marcell Ozuna, Gerritt Cole, Chris Sale, Kenley Jansen, Justin Verlander and Madison Bumgarner could all be available. Even Stephen Strasburg could join them in the unlikely situation he exercises his first opt-out.

That grouping would be more well-rounded than the current top-heavy one. It also could suffer from the same lack of investment occurring now, which has already begun underground rumblings about the pending fight between players and owners once the collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season.

Several things need to align in order for the 2019-20 free agency crowd to be awash in such prominent names. Martinez, Jansen and Strasburg would have to opt-out. Rendon would need to make it through the season without signing a contract extension in Washington, something both sides are working on and open to.

Though, if everyone hits, around-the-diamond needs will be filled.

Need a third baseman? The best and arguably second-best are available.

Need a top-of-the-rotation starter? Sale, Bumgarner, Verlander and Cole are there. 

Need a reliever? Jansen or Dellin Betances would be there.

The class also has interesting middle depth: Yasiel Puig, Khris Davis, Michael Wacha, Miles Mikolas, Brett Gardner, Matt Kemp, Scooter Gennett, Jose Abreu, Ryan Zimmerman (if the Nationals do not pick up his $18 million option). 

Another monster class hits the following year. Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Jacob deGrom can become free agents after the 2020 season. George Springer, Robbie Ray, James Paxton and J.T. Realmuto are also in the mix. Even Giancarlo Stanton could hop in by opting out, though who would want to leave that contract?

Languishing negotiations from Harper and Machado have led us here, treading water and wondering what’s to come. It at least sounds interesting. We’ll see if it turns out to be so.


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Baseball Hall of Fame Results 2019: Rivera makes history with first ever unanimous induction

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Baseball Hall of Fame Results 2019: Rivera makes history with first ever unanimous induction

The question coming in was this: three or four?

Two locks were set to be voted into the Hall of Fame on Tuesday: Legendary New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who became the first player to be named on 100 percent of the ballots cast, and starting pitcher Roy Halladay, both first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Seattle’s Edgar Martinez was expected to finally make it. He did with 85.4 percent of the vote.

That left Mike Mussina, 49 votes short last year, to hold his breath this time. He made it, narrowly, with 76.7 percent.

Mussina spent spent 10 years in Baltimore chasing 20 wins and providing annual durability before joining the New York Yankees for eight more seasons. Longevity and consistency keyed his entrance into the Hall of Fame. Mussina made 30 or more starts 12 times on his way to a career 123 ERA-plus. Only three times across almost two decades was Mussina’s ERA-plus below league average. All that work allowed him to compile 3,562 ⅔ innings pitched, 2,813 strikeouts and a 1.192 WHIP.

Rivera dominated the league with a single signature pitch, his cutter, for 19 years. His preferred music of “Enter Sandman” ran counter to Rivera’s pleasant and forthcoming demeanor off the field. He viewed the accidental discovery of his cutter as a gift from God, which made him willing to share information about the pitch with whomever asked. The slim right-hander anchored one of baseball’s great winning runs while with the Yankees. Rivera is a 13-time All-Star who owns five World Series rings. His 205 career ERA-plus is an all-time record as is his 652 saves, which is more than 50 ahead of second place and a record unlikely to be broken.

The wait, and push, for Martinez was extensive. Martinez find himself at the core of an ongoing debate about Hall of Fame candidacy for designated hitters. He didn’t become a full-time player in the major leagues until age 27. He was perpetually on base from there until his age-41 season, delivering a career OPS of .933 and on-base percentage of .418. Martinez walked more than he struck out 10 times in his 18-year career, finishing with more bases on balls than whiffs. Seattle denizens long pushed for his conclusion. It took the maximum 10 years, but Martinez is finally in.

Halladay’s inclusion is a bittersweet moment. The right-hander died Nov. 7, 2017, when a small plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He previously told reporters his possible Hall of Fame induction would be a “tremendous honor.” Halladay twice won the Cy Young award — once in each league — made eight All-Star teams, and finished with a 3.38 ERA. He also threw a perfect game and in 2010 became the second pitcher in history to throw a postseason no-hitter.

The central characters from baseball’s so-called “steroid era” remain on the outside. Roger Clemens (59.5 percent) in his seventh ballot and Barry Bonds (59.1 percent) remain well below the 75 percent threshold for enshrinement following slight increases from 2018 voting. Curt Schilling (60.9 percent) and Larry Walker (54.6 percent) also moved up significantly in year-over-year voting. Fred McGriff moved up in his final year on the ballot, however remained well short. He should get in when considered by the Today’s Game Era Committee based on their recent selection of Harold Baines.