MLB Trade Deadline: Anthony Rendon and other Nationals trade chips ranked if they become sellers by July 31
The Nationals have a talented roster despite their poor results
On Wednesday, we used math (and common sense) to explain why the Washington Nationals were nearing the point where they should shift their focus to trading third baseman Anthony Rendon. The Nationals Thursday, inching even closer to the line. Today is Friday, so we decided to have a little fun at the Nationals' expense by indulging our inner messiness. Or, in so many words, speculating wildly about their trade-deadline potential.
Do note that this is more art than science -- much like our preseason predictions, where we mostly picked the Nationals to win the National League East. Hey, that's baseball for you. Also note that the players are listed below in order of perceived likelihood of a trade. We've capped ourselves to 11 players, meaning you won't find the Nationals' best (e.g. Juan Soto) or worst assets (e.g. most of their bullpen) on the list.
Now, onto the fun.
Because of how we're ranking these players, we're starting the list with a different Nationals infielder. Howie Kendrick will turn 36 years old in July, but he's having what could be a banner season. He entered Thursday with a 131 OPS+ and seven home runs in his first 40 games -- prior to 2019, he'd hit 10-plus homers in four his 11 seasons in which he appeared in more than 80 games. Kendrick has some defensive versatility and is a free agent at season's end. Contenders looking for a cheap but above-average stick could do worse than him.
Sean Doolittle is one of the best relievers -- left-handed or otherwise -- in baseball. Since the start of the 2017 season, he's compiled a 177 ERA+, a 6.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 57 saves. Yet Doolittle's willingness to pitch outside of the ninth inning should make him appealing to practically every team in baseball. Who wouldn't want a top-flight reliever filling a rover role for the next year-plus at a modest cost? Because Doolittle is already in his age-32 season, it might behoove the Nationals to see what they can get -- even if it'd be hard to part with him.
The expectation has been that the Nationals will re-sign Anthony Rendon to a long-term contact. As such, it's possible they hold on to him through the deadline with an eye on locking him up after the season ends -- the way they tried to do with Bryce Harper last year. That's why he's No. 3 here. On talent alone, Rendon is the best player on the board. So long as his body doesn't let him down -- and hey, who knows there -- he's likely to remain a down-ballot MVP vote recipient for at least a few more years.
We're kind of cheating here by pairing Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki together. Both are veteran backstops who can be controlled for at least an additional season. Gomes is a better defender while Suzuki has turned into the superior hitter. There's not enough quality catching to go around, so expect the Nationals to field calls on both if and when they open for business.
Contenders always want some left-handed thunder off the bench. Matt Adams fits the billing. He's homered 60 times in his last 400 games -- that's around 24 per season -- and seems fine coming off the bench to torment right-handed pitching. Beware: Adams has gotten off to an odd start this season that has seen his strikeout and walk rates sprint in the wrong directions. We're not suggesting he's done or anything, but it's something interested parties should monitor.
Adam Eaton has also underperformed thus far. Presuming he gets back to hitting, he could appeal to teams looking for a reasonably priced long-term fit in the outfield, as his contract includes a pair of club options (worth $20 million total) for the next two seasons. The drawbacks with Eaton are that he's missed a lot of time due to injury in recent years, and that his … um, as a teammate may cause some teams to look elsewhere.
We're putting Brian Dozier on here, but we're not confident there would be a robust market for him. He's continued to struggle, with his strikeout rate expanding to nearly 28 percent. At the same time, he's not posting the power numbers he did during his better days -- or, heck, even last year. Some contender might have interest in seeing if they can help him get back to his old ways. Our guess is the Nationals would basically have to give him away barring a hot streak.
Yes, we're tripling-up here to cover Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. Each is a high-quality pitcher, each would make a lot of sense for a contender, and each is unlikely to go anywhere due to their contracts. Scherzer is due more than $120 million through 2021; Strasburg is owed $100 million … after what's left of his $38 million this season; and Corbin just signed a six-year deal worth $140 million. Given how reluctant teams are to spend money -- especially on pitchers -- it's hard to see anyone giving the Nationals the prospects they'd desire and taking on that kind of financial commitment. This isn't a knock on the pitchers involved, either. It's just how baseball tends to work in 2019, for better or (likely) worse.
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