When the Nationals decided to option Victor Robles to Triple-A, it was the culmination of nearly two seasons of underwhelming play from a former top prospect.
Once a coveted young outfielder who played a key role in a World Series run, Robles had fallen off (especially at the plate) to the point where he needed a change of scenery. Nationals manager Davey Martinez is a huge fan of Robles and was particularly hurt by a move that probably had to happen.
"This one hurt me a lot because I love Victor to death," Martinez said after Tuesday's loss to Philadelphia.
Robles had a .745 OPS in 2019 with 17 home runs, 65 RBI and 28 stolen bases to go along with stellar defense in center field. In 159 games since then across two seasons, he's slashed .209/.304/.302 with five home runs and 34 RBI while the defense has been up and down.
"We want Victor to be successful up here," Martinez said. "He's still young, he's 23 years old, he's got a bright future here with us. I don't want him to think about anything but going out there and playing. I want him to relax for a while. Go down to Rochester, play every day, continue to work on the things that he was working with [Kevin] Long and just go out and play baseball.
"I mean I know this is not the last we're going to see a Victor, but I just want him to just kind of take a load off his mind and not put so much pressure on himself. Just go down there and just get things right, get his swing right and hopefully it won't take him long to get back up here."
Lane Thomas' emergence has a part to play in the move as well. Since the Nats acquired him from the Cardinals in the Jon Lester trade, he's been incredibly productive at the plate in a small sample size. Through 14 games, Thomas has a .864 OPS with five of his 14 hits being doubles.
This means the Nats don't have to rush Robles back to the majors. They can simply let him go to Rochester and figure things out while they get a good, hard look at Thomas in the outfield.
"If it takes a month or two weeks, whatever, so be it. We want him to go down there and we want to see progress. We want to see him play the game that we know he can play. Defensively baserunning, the hitting portion, taking his walks, all that stuff. Rochester, they're going to compete for the playoffs and play in the playoffs, so he's playing for something which is good."
The Rochester Red Wings have a five-game series against the Worcester Red Sox beginning Wednesday, where Robles would presumably get some action as an everyday player.