The Nationals Have a Fire Sale

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The Washington Nationals, who have been riding in third place in the National League East, finally decided to punt the season and made a pair of deals.

Early on Tuesday, it was reported that the Nationals had placed Bryce Harper, Matt Adams, and Daniel Murphy on revocable waivers and each drew a claim.

Of the trio, Harper stayed put after the Los Angeles Dodgers tried to make him the second superstar rental to move from the D.C. area to Los Angeles. While there was no report of any prospective return, the Nationals pulled him back, essentially cementing Harper as a qualifying offer recipient, which will land the Nationals draft pick compensation assuming he rejects it and does not re-sign with the Nationals.

The first of the impending free agents to leave D.C. was 30-year old-first baseman Adams. Adams will head back to the organization that drafted him back in 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals. Adams is having another solid season, slashing .257/.332/.510 with 18 home runs after signing with the Nats for $4 million after being non-tendered by Atlanta despite a .858 OPS last season. Adams seems likely to provide a power bench bat to replace Luke Voit, while bringing a much needed left-handed bat to a chiefly right-handed lineup. Adams joins Greg Garcia and Matt Carpenter as the only lefty bats on the 25-man roster. The Nationals will not receive compensation, other than salary relief, as it was simply a waiver claim.

Murphy will be headed to the National League Central as well, although he will join a first-place team, as the Chicago Cubs brought him in. While Murphy has spent a considerable amount of time on the disabled list, he has slashed a very serviceable .300/.341/.442 while displaying nice plate discipline (13:17 BB:K ratio) and power (six home runs in 56 games). While it isn’t up to par with his first two seasons in Washington (.334/.387/.569), it is good enough to make him a strong veteran addition to any competitor.

The Cubs will take on the remainder of Murphy’s hefty $17.5 million salary and give up second base prospect Andruw Monasterio and a player to be named later or cash considerations. The 21-year-old Monasterio is currently playing in High-A, where he has slashed a solid .263/.359/.336 while walking 52 times compared to just 64 strikeouts. While I’m not sure that his pedestrian averages in the minor leagues will ever allow him to be a major league starter, his speed, plate discipline, and decent enough glove could make him a nice bench option. While he will be Rule 5 eligible in December, I wouldn’t imagine that he’s claimed. Nevertheless, he’s still just 21 years old in his second season at High-A, which is encouraging for his prospects as a major leaguer.

The Nats may be out of it this season, but with Juan Soto setting the world on fire, with Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Anthony Rendon sticking around for 2019, and with Victor Robles forging his path to the major leagues, the Nationals can’t be counted out for 2019 and beyond. While I believe that they shouldn’t have waited as long as they did, it makes sense that they’ve finally begun trying to recoup some value and salary relief. While they didn’t get much back, it’s a symbolic gesture that they’re looking toward next season.

With Chicago, Addison Russell has been dealing with some hitting issues, making Murphy a good fit who can push Russell to a super utility role for the time being, based on the fact that his bat is a lot stronger. While Murphy’s glove isn’t much, the rest of the Cubs defense throughout the diamond is good enough that they can afford to trade some defensive talent for an upgrade with the bat. Furthermore, Russell won’t be out of a starting job long-term, as Murphy will be gone next season.

St. Louis had already made a previous waiver move, bringing in Tyson Ross, who has been decent enough out of the bullpen. Adding Adams brings in another low-cost piece on the periphery of the roster to fortify some loose ends through the end of the season. Cardinals fans should be familiar with Adams’ game; his power and plate discipline are both solid despite a lack of defensive ability. While this move isn’t going to push the Cards over the edge, it definitely won’t hurt.

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