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.
Madson is going to dodgers. Nats get a prospect. @Ken_Rosenthal 1st— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 31, 2018
Andrew Istler, a rhp who opened some eyes in spring of 2017 and has a 2.37 era in minors this year, including 5 2/3 scoreless at okc, goes to nats in deal. Duke product. @Joelsherman1 1st on AI— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 31, 2018
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.
#Brewers get Gio Gonzalez, sources tell The Athletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 31, 2018
Brewers get their starter, Gio Gonzalez. Trade done.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 31, 2018
Nats have traded Gio Gonzalez to the Brewers for two Minor Leaguers, a source confirms @Ken_Rosenthal's report.— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) August 31, 2018
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.
You knew this because @Ken_Rosenthal isn't wrong, but do have confirmation now that Nats sent Gio Gonzalez to the Brewers. He's been a staple. This is the move that really drives home the point: This band is breaking up.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) August 31, 2018
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.
The 2012-18 #Nationals (the Strasburg/Harper Nationals, if you will) are the best team in MLB history to never play in an LCS or WS.— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) August 29, 2018
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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