The Nationals have gone on a tear recently, and have the best record in the MLB since May 24. Now while their performance has improved vastly, they still have some holes on the squad. Here are three trades that would improve the chances that the Nationals make some noise in October, while insuring that they stay under the luxury tax and reset their penalties for next season:
*Numbers in parentheses notes prospect ranking in Nationals system
Nationals Receive: 2B Eric Sogard, RHP David Phelps
Blue Jays Receive: OF Michael A. Taylor, RHP Reid Schaller (15), LHP Nick Raquet (21)
Eric Sogard is having a resurgent year with the Blue Jays, and looks to be an unexpected trade chip for MLB’s lone Canadian franchise. Sogard is slashing .302/.370/.494 and is having the best offensive season of his career. Sogard would be a valuable bench piece for the Nationals, and can play both infield and outfield. Acquiring a player who can contribute as a pinch hitter, and is able to give regular starters an occasional day off, should be on the priority list.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 15, 2019
David Phelps has been one of the most underappreciated relief pitchers over the last several seasons. Since converting from a starting to a relief role in 2016, Phelps has developed into a reliable late inning option. The Nationals shouldn’t expect Phelps to be a stud, but he could be a reliable arm out of the bullpen, something that they don’t have too many of.
Michael A. Taylor has sort of run his course in Washington, and moving to a rebuilding team like Toronto where there is minimal pressure could be a welcome change. Toronto would also most likely be interested in basically any pitching prospects. Schaller and Raquet are both currently starting in the Nationals farm system, but most talent evaluators see them as potential late-inning arms.
These might not be the sexiest names on the market, but both Phelps and Sogard will fill a role and get the job done. This is not a huge return for the Blue Jays, but both Phelps and Sogard are aging veterans with a low amount of upside. This would be a good trade for both teams, where the Nationals shore up some weaknesses, and the Blue Jays get some young players that better fit their timeline for winning.
Projected Amount Under Luxury Tax Threshold (Before Trade): $6.22M
Projected Amount Under Luxury Tax Threshold (After Trade): $5.21M
Nationals Receive: SP Trevor Williams
Pirates Receive: C Raudy Read (18), LHP Ben Braymer (23)
Let’s get one thing out of the way…Trevor Williams is not having a good year. However this shouldn’t scare the Nationals away from throwing their name in the ring to see if they can get him from the Pirates.
Williams currently has a 5.17 ERA on the season, but things have recently took a bad turn over only his last four starts. Over those starts, Williams has given up 24 earned runs in only 22.2 innings. Williams is better than how he has performed lately, and the Nationals could look to slide him in the back of their rotation, or at least some rotation depth. Williams would likely be an upgrade over the tandem of Austin Voth and Erick Fedde who have previously shown some struggles with getting past the 5th inning.
Trevor Williams, 92mph Fastball (foul) and 84mph Slider (Swinging K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/Ov5VwsK2PO
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 14, 2019
The Nationals would likely not have to give up too much for Williams, considering he is only a back end starter and is struggling this season. Ben Braymer dominated in AA-Harrisburg this season, but has struggled since being promoted to AAA-Fresno. He could be an interesting piece for Pittsburgh who would likely join the MLB rotation in 2020. Raudy Read is another intriguing piece of this package in that he most likely doesn’t have an open spot in Washington, but would potentially have a chance to start in Pittsburgh during 2020 with the expected departure of Francisco Cervelli.
This would be a good move for both sides with the Nationals receiving a back end starter for a possible playoff push and years ahead, while the Pirates get two players who could join the MLB roster as soon as 2020, and better fit their timeline to contend.
Projected Amount Under Luxury Tax Threshold (Before Trade): $5.21M
Projected Amount Under Luxury Tax Threshold (After Trade): $4.63M
Nationals Receive: RHP Mychal Givens
Orioles Receive: OF Andrew Stevenson, RHP Wil Crowe (4), SS Yasel Antuna (6)
Although the Orioles and Nationals have not done much business together, due to the ever ongoing MASN dispute, this is a scenario that would make sense for both sides to work together to complete a deal.
On the surface it seems as if Givens has struggled mightily this season as the Orioles closer, however this should not be seen as much of a problem as it is made out to be. Givens currently has a 4.50 ERA on the season, but nine of the 18 earned runs he has given up this year came in two outings where he gave up a big homer. Givens currently has career high’s in multiple categories including K/9 (12.8), strikeout rate (34.5%), swinging-strike rate (15.3%), and chase rate (32%). Much of the reason that the raw numbers might not match his actual performance could be attributed to the hitter-friendly Camden Yards. Six of the eight home runs that Givens has allowed this season have come at home. While playing on the road, things have been much better with opponents only slashing .185/.286/.315 against him. This goes to show that Givens could be a great buy-low candidate.
— theScore (@theScore) July 15, 2019
With the talent that Givens has along with the affordable contract and team control, the Orioles would receive a pretty decent haul for Givens. Yasel Antuna is not the best defensively, but profiles to be an above average major league hitter. With the flux of young infield players and prospects the Nationals have, they can afford to give him up. Wil Crowe is one of the Nationals top pitching prospects, but with the Nationals current rotation and a lower ceiling that Crowe has, they probably wouldn’t be too torn on including him in this deal. Finally, the Nationals will probably have to throw in a young player that is ready for the majors and Stevenson seems a likely candidate with no place for him in the Nationals outfield. Stevenson might not have the best bat right now, but he is a good defender and baserunner, and would likely start immediately for Baltimore.
The Nationals would have to give up two prospects in their top 10 along with another young outfielder, but to be able and acquire a guy that could solidify the 8th inning for years to come, is something they should pull the trigger on. Givens is one of the most underappreciated arms on the market, which may be because he’s in Baltimore, but trhat shouldn’t stop the Nats from doing what they can to acquire the young reliever.
Projected Amount Under Luxury Tax Threshold (Before Trade): $4.63M
Projected Amount Under Luxury Tax Threshold (After Trade): $2.69M