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Revisiting five trades that shaped the Nationals

Revisiting five trades that shaped the Nationals

Asked a few weeks back if the end of spring training caused the end of trade discussions, Mike Rizzo said that was the case.

The Nationals, like every other team, were trying to figure out what’s next instead of hunting for trade solutions in early spring. Nothing about business was usual.

Though this stall does provide time for reflection. We’ll do some of that today, in the coming days via Nationals Talk Supreme Court on the podcast, and until baseball resumes.

For now, let’s look back on five trades which shaped the Nationals. Most good, one still up for debate and one you might recall with Jonathan Papelbon.

Dec. 19, 2014
In:
Trea Turner and Joe Ross
Out: Steven Souza
Also involved: Wil Myers to San Diego
Overview: It’s hard to now fathom the Nationals without Turner. He’s been in the major leagues for five years -- three of them full seasons outside of injured list time from being hit by pitches. He’s a quality defensive shortstop, multi-faceted top-of-the-order bat, and growing among the faces of the franchise. Turner can’t become a free agent until 2023, right around the time prospect Luis Garcia should be ready to come to the major leagues.

Historically, Turner will be labeled the “player to be named later” in this trade, making him one of the best PTBNLs in baseball history (David Ortiz may be No. 1 there).

Ross’ future will determine what level of swindle this ultimately is. Turner is a 14.1 bWAR player to this point despite losing almost a full season because he was hit by pitches in separate years. Souza has been a 5.9 bWAR player since 2015. Myers has 8.5 bWAR since arriving in San Diego (where he also had injury problems). So, Turner’s performance is on par with what Souza and Myers have combined to do.

Which leaves Ross. The Nationals are wondering if he is heading toward a post-Tommy John breakthrough. The fifth starter spot was going to him or Austin Voth when spring training stopped. Anything he adds makes the trade all the more lucrative.

Dec. 23, 2011
In:
Gio Gonzalez, Robert Gilliam
Out: Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, Derek Norris, Tommy Milone
Overview: Gonzalez was a needed arm in the Nationals’ rotation and became one of the young franchises important pieces -- until the end.

He racked up 21.6 bWAR before being traded to Milwaukee after his starts became laborious and ineffective. Gonzalez was one of the more affable players in the Nationals’ clubhouse while in Washington. He’s addicted to Jordan brand anything, once brought a giant boom box to his locker and surprisingly befriended Jonathan Papelbon when the enigmatic closer worked in Washington.

Gonzalez was also one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball while part of the Nationals’ push toward relevancy.

Norris is out of Major League Baseball. Cole is a non-roster invitee with the Blue Jays. Milone is a non-roster invitee with the Orioles and has not pitched well since 2014. Peacock has bounced between the bullpen and starting since the trade, amassing just 4.6 WAR after joining Houston following another trade in 2012.

July 16, 2017
In:
Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler
Out: Blake Treinen, Jesus Luzardo, Sheldon Neuse
Overview: You may have heard: The Nationals had a bad bullpen in 2017. And the next year. And last year.

To fix this, Rizzo brought in three veteran relievers. Doolittle, who is now one of the team’s main voices and its closer, can be a free agent at the end of the year. Madson and Kintzler both pitched well when first arriving.

Treinen dominated for a year in Oakland before falling flat last season. Luzardo’s future will ultimately decide how this trade is viewed. He’s still just 22 years old and appears ready to be a lethal threat in Oakland’s rotation for years to come. He’s precisely the kind of prospect the Nationals’ current farm system lacks. But, as Rizzo would argue, you have to give to get. And the Nationals were desperate at the time to fix the bullpen. Treinen was not pitching well, either.

Rizzo sent a chunk of the future for a patch since Madson and Kintzler were gone the following season. Doolittle may not be far behind them.

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Dec. 8, 2016
In:
Adam Eaton
Out: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, Dane Dunning
Overview: How much does winning the World Series change the perception of this trade?

Hard-liners could argue acquiring Eaton -- even under the assumption Bryce Harper was leaving -- can never be worth trading three starting pitcher prospects. His 2017 knee injury doesn’t help his defense, but there’s also no way for an organization to predict an acute injury like that.

The assessment revolves around Giolito, who became an all-star last season, and Eaton’s 2019 World Series performance. His .993 OPS produced an argument for his series MVP consideration. Giolito was also one of baseball’s worst pitchers in 2018, when he led the American League in earned runs allowed and walks.

So, Giolito still has work to do to prove he’s an elite pitcher. López has fluctuated between solid and putrid. Dunning is coming off Tommy John surgery (but was pitching well prior).

Eaton has never performed as expected outside of the World Series. Is that enough to declare this a Washington win? It may be.

July 28, 2015
In:
Jonathan Papelbon
Out: Nick Pivetta
Overview: We can’t talk about recent trades and not mention this one.

Papelbon’s arrival was a jolt. He instantly became a clubhouse influence -- in both directions. His pitching in 2015 was so-so, but, again, the Nationals needed bullpen help. Which made Papelbon the new closer and lead participant in one of the strangest acts in franchise history.

Papelbon choked Bryce Harper on the dugout steps when the two got into a late-game fight. Manager Matt Williams claimed not to see the fight and sent Papelbon back to the mound to pitch the ninth inning. The fight also coincided with the “Jersey off their backs” giveaway and yoga in the outfield. While reporters typed away their stories covering the in-fighting, a yoga instructor was talking about peace and breathing over the stadium’s PA system with dozens of people stretching across mats in the outfield.

As if that mix wasn’t odd enough, Papelbon returned the next season. He held one press conference in spring training to discuss the situation, saying he would answer anything asked at the time, but wouldn’t talk about it again. He was released Aug. 13, 2016. He hasn’t pitched since.

Pivetta has been a subpar pitcher since arriving in Philadelphia.

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Social distancing guidelines would make Nationals’ celebrations look very different in 2020

Social distancing guidelines would make Nationals’ celebrations look very different in 2020

High fives? Nope. Dugout dance parties? Not happening. Group hugs? No chance.

If the 2020 MLB season is played this summer, there are going to be extensive protocols in place that could reportedly limit everything from chewing sunflower seeds to showering after games. The game would look a lot different, and perhaps nothing would change more than how players will celebrate together on the field.

NBC Sports Bay Area talked with Oakland A’s outfielder Robbie Grossman last week about how his team might adapt to the health protocols.

“It’s going to be very hard not to celebrate, shake hands, hug each other, and do all the stuff we’re accustomed to doing,” Grossman said. “But it’s just something that we’re going to have to make an adjustment to. This is the new normal. We’ll get creative and come up with something.”

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The Nationals in particular were a team that relied on a tight-knit clubhouse and prided themselves on staying relaxed and having fun even when their backs were against the wall. Even with the departure of the fun-loving Gerardo Parra last offseason, Washington was expected to employ that same approach during its quest to repeat in 2020.

Instead, the Nationals will have to find other ways strengthen their relationships over the course of the season. With players such as Eric Thames, Aníbal Sánchez, Juan Soto and Victor Robles on the roster, creativity is to be expected.

There are still many hurdles baseball officials must clear before a season can be played. But if the Nationals do return to field, there’s little doubt they would find a way to celebrate together.

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Trea Turner ribs Juan Soto for not hitting a home run as far as him in 2019

Trea Turner ribs Juan Soto for not hitting a home run as far as him in 2019

Juan Soto is just 21 years old and already has his name scattered across the record books.

He’s drawn the most walks ever by a player before turning 21 with 187. He’s the youngest player to put up a .400 on-base percentage in each of his first two seasons. He’s the fourth-youngest to hit a home run in the World Series.

Have we mentioned he’s still only 21?

The hype is only just beginning for the Dominican outfielder, especially since he had the chance to showcase his talents on the national stage last October. So of course, it’s only natural that teammate Trea Turner do what he can to keep his teammate humble.

Even though Soto is considered an up-and-coming slugger and Turner is more known for his speed, the Nationals shortstop has one thing going for him that Soto does not: hitting the Nationals’ longest home run of 2019.

On July 5, Turner hit a 453-foot bomb off Kansas City Royals starter Brad Keller. That just barely beats Soto for his career best, the 449-foot blast he hit off Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Soto may beat out Turner eventually, but for now the shortstop holds bragging rights over the longest home run hit between the two.

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