Nationals Notebook: Troubling trade winds

The Washington Nationals spoiled us from 2012-21 with high preseason expectations and met those expectations more often than not with five playoff appearances over an eight-year span.

Now that they’re on the other side of the coin (their 14 wins are half of the division-leading Mets and they’re just as close to the NL East lead as they are to being winless) midseason roster maneuvering goes from putting finishing touches on a contending club to dealing productive but expensive pieces for prospects.

But one would think that there would be at least one “untouchable” player on this team. A player who when other General Managers bring up their name on a call to Mike Rizzo, he laughs before hanging up immediately. Evidently the very player many thought would be the building block of the next Nationals team to contend might be in the mix to be moved for the right package.

This past week ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote a story (for the exclusive ESPN+) citing that the team might be looking to move Juan Soto.

Yes, Juan Soto. The 23-year-old face of the franchise. The best player on a team that is unwatchable at times.

The All-Star has two more years of team control before hitting free agency. A generational talent that will hit the market (as most Scott Boras clients do), giving deeper-pocketed teams the chance to outbid a franchise that might either be in the process of being sold or sold already at that point. And the team is less than a year away from trading Trea Turner a year before his walk-season. To walk away from Soto at this time would be akin to trading Ryan Zimmerman in 2010. If they do so this summer it will be a dark day on the diamond in the District.

Digesting the Division– the New York Mets (28-15) have now won 14 straight games after a loss, but the question is how will they deal with the loss of pitcher Max Scherzer for the next six to eight weeks due to an oblique strain? Jacob deGrom has been on the shelf all season long, and one wonders how they’ll perform when-or if-they return to the mound. It’s a good thing the rest of the division is a soggy plate of nachos, with Atlanta (19-22), Philadelphia (19-22), and Miami (18-22) each under .500 a quarter of the way through the season. The Nationals (14-28) are five games out of fourth place.

Break up the Birds– Baltimore (17-25) lost three of four to the AL East-leading New York Yankees before taking two of three from second-place Tampa Bay with both of those wins coming in extra innings. Unfortunately, the series victory over the Rays wasn’t enough to keep the O’s in front of surging Boston who has won five straight and nine of twelve to move out of the cellar. Another bright spot was the debut of catcher Adley Rutschman, and the number one prospect in the organization did not disappoint. The kid tripled Saturday.

Last Week’s Heroes– Keibert Ruiz batted .412 with four walks while Lane Thomas had four extra base hits and a team-high five RBI. Leadoff man Cesar Hernandez hit .333 and scored a team-high four runs. Carl Edwards Jr. threw 3.1 scoreless innings over three appearances while Steve Cishek tallied three scoreless frames over three games. Aaron Sanchez tossed five solid innings in Sunday’s win over Milwaukee and became the only starter to post a win since … Aaron Sanchez on May 11.

Last Week’s Humbled– Patrick Corbin allowed five runs over five innings in his start Saturday to fall to 0-7 with a 6.60 ERA this year. Austin Voth coughed up seven runs over 1.1 innings over to games (47.25 ERA for those without calculators). Josh Bell hit 1-for-23 (. 056) while Juan Soto batted .143 and Nelson Cruz drove in just one run (the Soto-Bell-Cruz trio combined for four RBI over six games).

Game to Watch– Tuesday the Nats play the Los Angeles Dodgers as Josiah Gray faces his former team for the first time since being traded last summer. Keibert Ruiz (also in the deal) likely will be in the lineup as well. And Walker Buehler (5-1, 2.89 ERA) is off to a strong start.

Game to Miss– Saturday the Nats clash with Colorado at 4:05 p.m., instead of a 1:05 p.m. start when it’s still warming up or the 7:05 p.m. start when it’s beginning to cool off. It’s also the day many pools open, and I’m thinking one would rather be wet from chlorinated water than from perspiration. And if you’re going to cannonball, please call it out before jumping in.

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Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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