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How the Washington Nationals' 2019 National League Championship roster formed

How the Washington Nationals' 2019 National League Championship roster formed

The Washington Nationals made history on Tuesday when they swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win the Nationals League Championship Series. 

But, how did this Nationals team, which was 19-31 by May 23 and by May 25 had only a 0.1% change of winning the National League pennant, come to be? How long has this historic postseason run been in the works? 

Here's the breakdown of how, and when, each player joined the Nationals' roster. 

Free-Agent

Max Scherzer, RHP

Scherzer signed with the Nationals as a free agent on Jan. 21, 2015, after seven years in the majors split between the Tigers and Diamondbacks. In Washington he developed into the Nationals' ace, known for his consistency on the mound and his fiery spirit. Despite back injuries from mid-July through late-August, Scherzer notched his seventh consecutive season with over 200 strikeouts, after he finished the 2019 regular season with 243 Ks. 

Kurt Suzuki, C

A name not unfamiliar to local fans, Suzuki signed with the Nationals on Nov. 20, 2018, just over six years after his last stint in Washington from August 2012-August 2013. Back with the Nationals, Suzuki made 85 appearances behind the plate and racked up a .324 on-base percentage. His veteran mitt helped the Nationals' young and oft-changing pitching staff. 

Patrick Corbin, LHP

Corbin signed with the Nationals as a free agent on Dec. 7, 2018. Before then he spent six years with the Diamondbacks, who acquired him in a trade from the Angels on July 25, 2010. In Washington, Corbin emerged as a vital component of the starting rotation, with 202 innings pitched over 33 starts and a 14-7 record to finish the regular season. Plus, the left-hander tallied over 200 strikeouts and helped the Nationals' pitching staff make history

Matt Adams, 1B/UT

Adams signed with the Nationals as a free agent on Dec. 18, 2018. He had spent most of the 2018 season in Washington before he was picked up off waivers by St. Louis on August 21. A utility player, Adams mainly played first base for the Nationals in 2019, as Ryan Zimmerman struggled with a foot injury. With 20 home runs and 14 doubles, Adams ended the season slugging .465, though his batting average was .226.  

Aníbal Sánchez, RHP

Another free agent, Sánchez signed with Washington on December 27, 2018, after short periods with the Braves, Twins and Tigers. He also had stints in Miami and Boston, after he was signed as an amateur free agent in 2001 by the Red Sox. Sánchez tossed 166 innings over his 30 starts with Washington this season, including 134 strikeouts. 

Brian Dozier, INF

Dozier signed with the Nationals as a free agent on Jan. 13, 2019, after almost 10 years in the Twins' organization, and half-a-season with the Dodgers. Aside from his stellar dancing skills, Dozier provided another veteran presence in the locker room, and 20 home runs.

Gerardo Parra, OF

Like Sánchez, Parra signed with Washington in early May, before the turnaround started. Though he didn't see much playing time -- making appearances in only 89 games, many credit Parra's energetic presence in the dugout (and "Baby Shark") with enabling Washington's eventual postseason run. Oh, and he had two grand slams, one on May 11, and one on September 28

Javy Guerra, RHP

The Nationals selected Guerra off waivers from the Blue Jays on May 20, and the right-hander joined the team shortly before the team turned its season around. Once in Washington, Guerra threw 53 2/3 innings in relief, securing one save and striking out 42. 

Fernando Rodney,

Washington signed Rodney as a free agent on June 4, 2019, after he was released by Oakland at the end of May. Rodney first entered the league in 2002 with the Tigers, after they signed him as an amateur free agent in 1997. Since then he's played for nine teams, excluding the Nationals. Rodney notched two saves in his 38 relief appearances with Washington this season, though there were some not-so-great moments (like when Charlie Culberson was hit in September). 

Asdrúbal Cabrera, INF

After the Texas Rangers released Cabrera in early August 2019, the infielder signed with the Nationals and came to Washington for the second time since he was traded to the Nationals in 2014. The late-season addition played only 38 games, but racked up 40 RBIs and hits, plus a .323 average to help propel the Nationals to their fifth postseason berth. 
 

Traded

Joe Ross, RHP

The Padres traded Ross to the Nationals on Dec. 19, 2014. The following year, Ross made his major-league debut in Washington on June 6, and has since been up and down between the majors and minors. A usual starter, Ross took on a role in the bullpen following a rough start to 2019, but was able to lower his ERA to 5.48 by the end of the season and tossed 64 innings for the Nationals, including 57 strikeouts. 

Trea Turner, SS

Turner began his time with Washington as a "player to be named later," in the December 2014 trade that brought Joe Ross to D. C. But, since he was officially traded to the Nationals on June 14, 2015, the shortstop has proven his worth, and in 2018 he led the National League in stolen bases (43). This season, Turner's bat proved effective, hitting .298 and slugging .497, his 19 home runs and 57 RBIs in 122 games helped push the Nationals into the postseason. 

Adam Eaton, OF

Eaton first joined the Nationals on Dec. 7, 2016, when he was traded from the White Sox (the infamous Lucas Giolito trade). But the outfielder, know as "Spanky" and "Mighty Mouse" put together a solid performance in 2019, with 49 RBIs, 15 home runs, seven triples and 158 hits in 151 games. Oh, and remember when both Eaton and Davey Martinez were ejected in the first inning against the Dodgers back in July? Eaton definitely brings another interesting personality to the team. 

Sean Doolittle, RHP

The Nationals' go-to closer, Doolittle was traded with Ryan Madson from Oakland to Washington on July 16, 2017, in exchange for Blake Treinen and two other players. Doolittle was drafted by the Athletics in the first round (41st overall) of the 2007 draft out of the University of Virginia, where he and Ryan Zimmerman were teammates. With Washington, Doolittle notched 29 saves this season in his 60 innings pitched, including a league-leading 55 games finished. He also punched out 66 batters, his fourth consecutive season with at least 60 strikeouts.

Howie Kendrick, 1B/UT

Kendrick was originally traded to Washington from Philadelphia on July 28, 2017, though he then signed with the Nationals again in January 2018 after he was granted free agency. Kendrick played all around the infield this season, anything to get his bat in the lineup, as he finished hitting .344 with 62 RBIs and a .572 slugging. Another veteran on the Nationals' roster, Kendrick's power at the plate continued in the postseason as he was named NLCS MVP

Yan Gomes, C

On Nov. 30, 2018, the Cleveland Indians traded Gomes to Washington. The Nationals, who had just signed Suzuki, needed additional depth behind the plate. And Gomes brought that depth. In his 97 games this season Gomes boasted a 31% caught-stealing percentage and a 1.000 fielding percentage. Plus, Gomes produced 43 RBIs and 12 homers for Washington. 

Tanner Rainey

Rainey was traded to the Nationals by the Reds on Dec. 12, 2018, in exchange for Tanner Roark. Only his second season in the major leagues, Rainey made 52 bullpen appearances and struck out 74 batters in 48 1/3 innings. 

Hunter Strickland, RHP

A trade deadline acquisition, Strickland and fellow reliever Roenis Elias came to Washington from Seattle on July 31. Known at first to DC fans for his feud with Bryce Harper, Strickland became one of the Nationals' go-to late-inning relievers, finishing the season with 15 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched and two wins. 

Roenis Elias, LHP

Elias was one of the late additions to the Nationals' roster, after he and Strickland were traded to Washington from Seattle at the July 31 trade deadline. Since joining the roster, Elias made only four appearances for 3 innings pitched.

 Daniel Hudson, RHP

Also traded to the Nationals on the July 31 trade deadline, Hudson came to Washington from Toronto. The veteran reliever tossed a 1.44 ERA in his 25 innings this season, including six saves and 23 strikeouts, cementing a role for himself heading into the postseason. 

Drafted

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B

One of the Nationals' franchise players in D.C., Zimmerman was the first player drafted after the team moved to Washington, chosen with the fourth overall pick on June 7, 2005. He made his major-league debut mere months later, on September 1. This season, Zimmerman struggled with plantar fasciitis in his right foot and only played in 52 games, batting .257 and tallying 27 RBIs. 

Stephen Strasburg, RHP

One of the Nationals' franchise players, Strasburg was drafted with the first overall pick of the 2009 draft by Washington. He made his MLB debut a year, on June 8, 2010, when he put up 14 strikeouts in 7 innings pitched and picked up the win. This season Strasburg continued his domination on the mound, with a league-leading 18 wins and 209 innings pitched. He struck out 251 in those 33 starts. 

Michael A Taylor, OF

Washington also drafted Taylor in 2009, in the sixth round. Five years later, the outfielder made his debut on Aug. 12, 2014. Taylor spent the summer in the minors this year, and played only 53 games with Washington, finishing with a .250 batting average.  

Aaron Barrett, RHP

The ultimate comeback story, Barrett returned to the Nationals this season for the first time since 2015. Drafted in the ninth round on June 8, 2010, Barrett made his MLB debut on March 31, 2014. But, embattled with injuries, Barrett remained in the minors until his late-season return to Washington on Sept. 4, 2019. The reliever made only three appearances over 2 1/3 innings, but the return marked the start of the rest of his career. 

Anthony Rendon, 3B

Another homegrown National, Rendon was drafted on June 6, 2011, with the sixth overall pick out of Baylor University. Two years later he made his major-league debut on April 21, and has since developed into Washington's star third baseman. In 2019, amidst contract negotiations, Rendon led the league in doubles for the second consecutive year (44) and in RBIs (126). He finished the season batting .319 and slugging .589. 

Austin Voth, RHP

Voth was drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 draft. After spending just over five years working through the minor-league system, he made his debut in the big leagues on July 14, 2018, though he only played four games with the Nationals that season. This year, Voth made eight starts and one relief appearance, tallying 44 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. 
 

International

Wander Suero, RHP

Washington initially signed Suero as an amateur free agent on Feb. 2, 2010. Just over eight years later, the reliever made his debut on May 1, 2018. He threw 47 2/3 innings of relief that season, then returned in 2019 to cement a more steady role in the bullpen. Though he lacked consistency at times, he finished with 81 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings and a 6-9 record, plus one save.

Victor Robles, OF

Robles signed with the Nationals as an amateur free agent in July 2013 and made his MLB debut four years later on Sept. 7, 2017. After 52 games with Washington that season, he spent the beginning of 2018 in the minors working back from injury, before rejoining the majors. Robles played in 155 games this season, however, with 17 home runs and 28 stolen bases. The outfielder also recorded some impressive catches, like the one that helped clinch the Nationals' Wild Card berth.

Juan Soto, OF

The Nationals' rookie phenom, Soto signed as an amateur free agent on July 2, 2015. Almost three years later he made his major-league debut on May 20, 2018. His performance in 2018 was enough to be named runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year contest. This season, Soto continued his success, batting .282 with 34 home runs, 110 RBIs and a .401 on-base percentage. 

 

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Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

While Nationals fans are understandably disappointed Anthony Rendon is no longer a member of the Nationals, they can rest easy knowing he didn't see himself signing the the NL rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers never made an offer to Rendon, per The Athletic, after "sensing that he didn’t want to play in Los Angeles." He instead signed with the Los Angeles Angels, inking a seven-year, $245 million deal to play for the California team that receives considerably less media attention than its in-state rival.

Now entrenched in the AL on the other side of the country, Rendon won't face the Nationals very often nor will his team's play have any effect on Washington's playoff chances from year to year. It was a best-case scenario for fans after it became likely he wouldn't be returning to Washington.

After being spurned by Rendon and losing out on top free-agent pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the Dodgers are still looking to make their first big move of the offseason.

There's still plenty of time for them to make a move, but Los Angeles can expect little sympathy from Nationals fans that Rendon won't be suiting up in Dodger blue for the next seven years.

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Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Here’s the list of players on the Nationals’ active roster who could play third base: Wilmer Difo, Jake Noll, Adrián Sánchez, Howie Kendrick, Carter Kieboom. Career major-league starts at the position: Difo, 29; Noll, one; Sánchez, nine; Kendrick, 25; Kieboom, zero. 

Such is the state of third base for the defending World Series champions. Not good. 

Which makes Josh Donaldson’s agent smile and any semi-skilled third baseman with a pulse a possible target. Possible trades? Count the Nationals in. On most. Not on Nolan Arenado. That’s a non-starter because Washington is not going to send assets (prospects) for a contract it was unwilling to give Anthony Rendon in the first place. Zero chance. Zilch.

However, Kris Bryant is more intriguing depending on the years and ask -- as always with trades. Beyond him and Kyle Seager, is there another third baseman the Nationals could pursue in a trade? The question takes on weight because of the aforementioned toothless list of in-house candidates and shallow free-agent talent pool beyond Donaldson.

Any trade consideration needs to begin with an understanding of the parameters Washington is working from. Last season, Rendon’s one-year deal to avoid arbitration earned him $18.8 million. When Washington looks at the cost for its next third baseman, the number will be similar to last season’s cost for Rendon. A bump in the competitive balance tax threshold, plus savings at first base and catcher, provide the Nationals wiggle room for increases in spots. So, $18-25 million annually for a third baseman is in play.

Second, the Nationals’ farm system needs to be taken into account. Their 2018 first-round pick, Mason Denaburg, had shoulder problems last year. Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings that Denaburg is healthy and progressing. But, the early shoulder irritation for a high school pitcher who also had problems his senior year with biceps tendinitis provides his stock pause. He’s a would-be trade chip. So is Kieboom.

But, what is Kieboom’s value? What damage did it receive during his rocky, and brief, appearance in the majors last season? Did his potent hitting in the Pacific Coast League after being sent back mitigate his big-league struggles? 

Beyond Kieboom, the farm system’s next tier is manned by Luis Garcia, 2019 first-round pick Jackson Rutledge, Wil Crowe and Tim Cate, among others. Only Garcia is part of MLB.com’s top-100 prospects list (which is more of a guide than an industry standard).

So, when Bryant or Seager -- or anyone not named Arenado -- are mentioned, know where the Nationals are coming from. If they are positioned to take on money, they don’t want to use assets to do it (this is the Donaldson Scenario). If they can save money, find a solid player and retain the few high-end assets, then a trade could be in play (this would be the Seager Scenario, if Seattle pays some of the contract). 

The Bryant Scenario is the most appealing and challenging. He’s the best player of the group. However, acquiring him would be high-cost and short-term. Bryant has two years remaining before he can become a free agent -- with an outside shot at becoming a free agent after next season because of a grievance he filed against the Cubs for service-time manipulation. Obtaining him would likely focus on multiple pitching prospects.

There is no Arenado Scenario. Just a reminder.

Piled together, Washington is in a tough spot. What it has is not enough. What it needs will be costly.

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