I’m not going to sugarcoat it at all; the Washington Nationals are not good. I thought they were, on the back of elite starting pitching and a dynamite lineup, going to be the team to beat in the NL East. I was wrong.
Enough with the confessional, though. It means nothing what the expectations were in January. It’s the end of May and the Nationals look like one of the worst teams in the National League. They look worse than they did last year; one in which fans were calling for Dave Martinez’s head. Washington is perhaps in the worst state a team can be in sports, the state of flux, and something needs to be done to change that.
That change isn’t going to come by adding talent. Teams that find their way to a double-digit game deficit after only 50 games generally don’t make the playoffs. Washington’s had their chances, and they have blown them all. It’s time to blow it up.
They’ve cooled off a bit after a blazing start, but Tampa Bay has been one of baseball’s pleasant surprises. Despite the lack of a true superstar, the Rays look to be in complete control of a playoff spot, barring any sort of injury. While it may not be the division, with one major addition, the Rays could have the best-constructed roster for a playoff run.
I cannot stress this enough: this trade doesn’t work if Erik Neander and the Rays don’t believe they can win the World Series in 2019. I believe they can. I think Kevin Cash has the brains to get the most out of his squad, I think the team has all the talent in the world, and more than anything, the other AL teams are anything but flawless.
This potential trade would be a risk of proportions unheard of in sports. That being said, if the Rays believe in this team as much as I think they do, this makes a lot of sense. So here goes nothing.
Rays get: RHP Max scherzer, 3B Anthony Rendon, LHP Tony Sipp
Nationals get: ss Wander franco, rhp brent honeywell, of Jesus sanchez, 2b Vidal brujan, rhp shane baz, lhp shane mcclanahan, lhp colin poche
Yes, that’s a ton to digest. However, it makes sense.
When they traded away Chris Sale in 2016, the White Sox got back the #1 prospect in baseball, Yoan Moncada, a prospect with universally touted Cy Young potential in Michael Kopech, and a high upside project in Luis Basabe. The Nationals, for Scherzer, would be getting back baseball’s soon-to-be top prospect, a pitcher with universally touted Cy Young potential and a really good third piece in Vidal Brujan.
The Orioles got an outfield prospect in the 50s range, Yusniel Diaz, along with a couple fliers for Manny Machado last July. Rendon would theoretically cost more, given this hypothetical trade goes down in May, so the Nationals would be acquiring Jesus Sanchez and one or two of the pitchers for him. Sipp is an extraneous piece, one which won’t command a huge return on his own, but is here to up the price a bit in this megadeal while helping out the Rays bullpen.
So what are the Nationals getting? Well, in just Wander Franco, they are getting a guy tapped as baseball’s next big thing. Franco is a traditional five-tool shortstop, and while the Nationals already have Carter Kieboom, Franco has the versatility to play either second or third base. In this scenario, he’d likely enter the bigs and develop as a third baseman to accommodate the sure-handed Brujan at second, assuming Kieboom is the shortstop.
Got two PA from our #6 overall prospect Rays SS Wander Franco yesterday. It's electric bat speed w/intent, elite bat and body control along w/sneaky pop. The first swing is an excuse-me two-strike swing and it was homer distance, about 10 feet foul. Thunder in the hands. pic.twitter.com/4FDbMK4hgp
— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) September 28, 2018
Brent Honeywell has been on the radar of the entire league for seemingly three years, and this year was supposed to be the one which he took the league by storm. However, Tommy John surgery prevented that. It’s possible the Nats don’t want a guy coming off Tommy John as a marquee part of a deal, but the Rays also have LHP Brendan McKay, another potential ace, whom can be dealt. In theory, the Rays would offer either one up and the Nationals would choose.
Jesus Sanchez looks to be a fantastic third piece to Victor Robles and Juan Soto, possibly as soon as later this year. Sanchez has all the potential in the world as an outfielder, but flaws in his pitch recognition and relative lack of results at the minor league level leave him a risk. If a team trusts its player development, which the Nats would have to in order to make this deal, he makes a ton of sense.
Shane Baz, acquired in the Chris Archer trade, and Shane McClanahan are both A-ball pitchers with three plus pitches. Neither probably cracks the bigs this year or next, but this hypothetical deal is geared towards winning in 2022 or 2023, with both of these pitchers contributing. Baz is a surefire starter prospect whom I personally think is underrated by most, while McClanahan is likely a lights-out reliever in the big leagues.
— Jeff (@jonesbwp) February 17, 2018
Colin Poche is a project who is more than likely blocked should the Rays trade for Tony Sipp. He hasn’t had any success at all at AAA Durham so far this year, but his high K rate would lead him to possibly be a back-end guy in the Washington bullpen. He’s an unknown commodity at this point, but as the 7th piece in a deal, he has really high upside.
It would be a culture shock, and it would tear the Nationals organization down to the core. However, it’s becoming clear in baseball that you can’t have success without some sort of failure. The goal of the game is to win a championship, not to have four first-round exits in six years.
Mike Rizzo has built a failing organization. Now, it’s time he admits his defeat and works towards building a successful one. That’s going to happen overnight, and more importantly, that’s not going to happen without a move like this. It’s not like the Nationals have a crazy talented farm system to tap into. They don’t.
They should probably consider one though for Mike Rizzo, or his replacement when he’s inevitably held responsible for this mess, to rebuild with.