The Nationals lost three in a row to drop to 12-20 on Aug. 31 and clarify for Mike Rizzo what should be done at the wonky trade deadline: nothing.
The team was banged up, under-performing, and not one piece away from a resurrection. Rizzo was also skeptical of the information he received on potential prospects his scouts could not see in person.
“It was a strange deadline because we really had no current information on players, other than what you see on TV,” Rizzo said Sunday. “So that impacted our decision-making process. Throughout the years that we’ve been here, we’ve been aggressive at the trade deadline because we’ve played well leading up to the trade deadline. We felt to allocate financial assets and minor-league prospects to help us acquire somebody for about 30 days, we hadn’t played well enough to do that.
“But we did want to give this group a chance to finish the season out and see if we can get hot. So we didn’t sell-off either.
“So, the combination of where we were going into the trade deadline, performing on the field, and the fact I didn’t feel really comfortable about making trades kind of blind where you haven’t seen one of these prospects play in a year or so, impacted us in our decision-making.”
The Nationals could have traded several veterans who are unlikely to be back next year because their deals end this year or the organization holds an option. Asdrúbal Cabrera, Adam Eaton, Aníbal Sánchez, Kurt Suzuki, Sean Doolittle among them. The return, however, would be extremely limited. So it becomes a calculus of something versus nothing, though the “something” has a low chance to result in a major-league ready player.
Rizzo chose to stay with the current roster and play it out.
“In this season, you go out and have yourself a really good week or week-and-a-half, and you’re right back in the thick of it,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got to get a few guys healthy and play better baseball -- there’s no question about that, that’s a fact. But, we feel that we got a run in us. We’re going to take our chances, man. We’ve got a puncher’s chance. We put ourselves in a position again that we’ve got to do something extraordinary to get in the bubble, but we certainly haven’t given up any hopes that we can do it. Because we’ve been hot before, we’ve gone on streaks before. I think once we get in, there’s going to be teams nervous about playing us.”
The Nationals entered play 14-24 and 4 ½ games out of a postseason spot, though needing to leap five teams to get there.