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What happened when everything stopped for the Nationals?

What happened when everything stopped for the Nationals?

WASHINGTON -- February 18 was the first full squad workout in West Palm Beach, Fla., eight months ago to the day of Friday’s on-field workout during the long break before the World Series. 

Since the entire team officially showed up at the spring training complex, 242 days have passed. That’s 35 weeks. The team has taken 34 days off during that span. 

Day after day. Flight after flight. A white greaseboard in front of the clubhouse informed observers what time certain groups needed to be on the field. Flat screens rotated through slides with departing bus times. Get up, go to the park, follow the schedule, play, repeat. Increase the intensity tenfold in the playoffs. Keep going. And going. Then sweep. And stop. 

What happens then? The next day, when everything stalls with the swiftness of a punch to the face? The season is not over, but the manic run is taking a break. It’s time to go home, if ever so briefly. For the Nationals, this was Wednesday, the first day after the clinch and the opener of a six-day layoff from games. It’s the day which is unlike the others. They didn’t have to come to the park. No workout, no in-stadium maintenance, no anything, really, for almost everyone.

“NOTHING,” Sean Doolittle said of what he did. “Nothing. I woke up at like 11. I took the dogs for a walk and grabbed some bagels from Bethesda bagels. Then realized I didn’t have anything to do, so I went back to bed and slept until 5:30. And then, my wife and I, we had to do some laundry because we moved out of our apartment and we’ve been living in a hotel. We hadn’t done laundry in like two weeks. It was gross. So, we did some laundry. Came back and I watched some ‘Stranger Things.’”

Doolittle’s answer of course included a tangent and demanded a follow-up. Why was he in a hotel? 

“Just the way our lease was set up.”

You, a multi-millionaire, couldn’t extend it? Or pay to have the laundry picked up, for that matter?

“We got a good deal on the apartment and we didn’t have to put a security deposit down,” Doolittle said. “But, they said Sept. 30 you’ve got to be out of there. The last week of the season was a little bit crazy, but it’s all good.”


Count Ryan Zimmerman and Davey Martinez among those who followed a portion of Doolittle’s plan. Unlike him, they have their living residence in order. But, they, too, found themselves a bit lost without a game or schedule, and also exhausted.

“I did nothing,” Zimmerman said. “I woke up and had some breakfast before my family left and went back to sleep until like 2:30 in the afternoon. Woke up, hung around the house with the girls. I think we watched a movie or something. It was rainy that day? Wasn’t it? Then we ordered Chinese food and I went to sleep. It was epic.”

“Wednesday, I was kind of numb,” Martinez said. “I didn’t do anything on Wednesday. As a matter of fact, by the time I settled in, it was 6 o’clock in the morning. I slept until 3. Had some dinner. Went back to bed. That’s how I spent my Wednesday.”

Friday, they were all back on the field. Washington held a light workout and took batting practice. More is to come over the weekend, however it will be conducted in private. The Nationals’ only workout session open to the media occurred Friday afternoon in a cool and breezy Nationals Park. They will simulate a game over the weekend before flying to Houston on Monday morning or venturing up to New York for World Series Media Day. 

The nothing day, so rare and fleeting, has passed. Work has begun again, this time with clean laundry in Doolittle's hotel room.


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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’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.