The season more or less ended today. The Nats entered the series againts a weak Marlins team needing to win 3 times and damn well knew it. Unfortunately, they didn’t play like it the last two days, failing to advance countless runners on Saturday and getting 2 fucking hits today. The unfortunate reality is these Nationals aren’t very good and won’t be catching up to the Phillies. In fact, I would venture to say that when the next home game roles around on Tuesday , the 2018 Nationals will look very different as all indications are that the team is going to be selling off piece (Trade deadline is 4pm on Tuesday) .
So here’s what monday and tuesday probably look like:
Is Harper Movable?
That seems unlikely for a variety of reasons, most of which I agree with. The Nats have said they want to resign Harper and unlike injury reports, this is an area that I take them at their word on. While there are examples of teams trading impending free agents and then resigning them (Aroldis Chapman, Cliff Lee, Jay Bruce) that happens fairly rarely and given Bryce’s sometimes prickly personality that would hurt the nats efforts. The better comp here is probably when the Red Sox traded Jon Lester then failed to resign him because of the bruised ego. There’s also the more practical reason that Bryce hasn’t played particularly well this season and the return for him might be worth less than the compensation pick the Nats would get if he signed elsewhere along with the huge PR and fan interest hit the team would get.
Could They Jump Start a Rebuild/Retool?
Assuming that they aren’t actually going to move players with more than a year of control that’s unlikely. The players the Nats are considering moving are all pending free agents who are good, not great. While a common refrain is the return that the Yankees got when they traded(and then re-signed) Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs was huge and included now all star Gleyber Torres, Chapman was a generational talent AND Torres wasn’t nearly as well regarded then.
So Why Sell Off?
It’s not about the prospects in this case it’s about the money and probably being cheap asses. Moving enough expiring contracts has the potential to drop the Nationals below the luxury tax threshold. As background, any team that has the average annual value of it’s contracts paid out above 197 million dollars at the end of a season pays a penalty on the overage , with the penalties increasing based on how much a team is over and how many years in a row they’ve been over. The Nats went over just slightly in 2017 and will finish above it this year if they don’t reduce payroll. The benefit isn’t that this will save a lot of money for the nats as they penalty they’d pay is negligible and the $70 million in expiring contracts at the end of this year will take them below the threshold next year. The benefit (beyond satisfying the ownership group and its notoriously weird ways with money) is that by not paying the penalty this year the Nats could theoretically go spend crazy this offseason and not have the enhanced penalties that include draft picks,hit them in the future if they sign multiple premium free agents . I’m skeptical that they would do this but ,maybe the desire to win a championship before the teams nonagenarian principal owner dies will surpass their odd financial practices. Alternately the comparative pennies they could save here might be what pushes ownership to be okay with a big offseason move. No that isn’t sane but neither are the Lerners.
Who all is on the block?
In theory most of the pending free agents but in practice I would expect mostly pitchers to be movable.
Likeliest to Move
Kelvin Herrera- In spite of his weaker numbers with the Nats plenty of teams would covet him down the stretch
Ryan Madson-Age is obviously an issue but Madson is better than his numbers, which are skewed by some bad outings from Davey’s overuse.
Jeremy Hellickson- He may not be a length guy but this year showed he can be very useful as a 5 inning pitcher or possibly an excellent middle relief option in the playoffs. Won’t
Daniel Murphy- He’s hit better of late and could handle an infield role for the right team. The Brewers seemed likely but
Matt Adams/Mark Reynolds- The Nats have a 1B logjam and would probably be willing to move one of the two if an interested suitor came along, but it’s unclear if there’s a team that wants a 1B/DH upgrade. Both of them could end up as August waiver trades.
Michael A Taylor- Whether or not Harper is back, the Nats have an OF logjam next year and Taylor’s speed and power would profile well with almost every AL contender.
Gio Gonzalez- As much as he drives Nats fans nuts, he is an above average pitcher in a market without them. The Nats may try and resign Gio in the offseason, but if that isn’t in the cards then moving him now is a serious consideration.
Not Moving No Matter How Hard They Try
Matt Wieters- As much as the nats would love to get rid of his salary, nobody is going to take on that money for a catcher with as little value as he provides
Shawn Kelley- His numbers are much better than last years godawful campaign, but don’t expect that teams will overlook his sky high home run totals or that Nats refusal to let him pitch in high leverage ininings.
Brandon Kintzler- His contract has a weird option clause. The Nats have a $ 10 Million team option on Kintzler but if they decline that, then he has an option to stay at $5 million. I’m skeptical that any team is willing to take on the risk of being locked in to Kintzler at that salary at his age.
Guys Who Get Moved if Rizzo Snorts a Shitload of Cocaine and Tries to Win
This trade happens and it would be amazing then terrible.