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Nationals make smart win-now moves in offseason

Aaron Rosenthal

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During the 2015 offseason, the Washington Nationals front office was able to nab Max Scherzer, who won the Cy Young this year. In 2016, they signed Daniel Murphy, who just won the batting title, and also finished second in the voting for National League MVP. This offseason, general manager Mike Rizzo made another big move. However, he didn’t receive the same kind of praise that he got for the last two.

Rizzo decided to trade for White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton, and many fans complained when they heard about the deal. However, the complaints came not because Eaton is a bad player, but because they felt that Rizzo gave up too much for him. In the deal, the Nats gave up the league’s number one pitching prospect, Lucas Giolito, along with two of the league’s other top prospects in Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. Adam Eaton is in no way a big name, so many fans were confused why Rizzo would give up a handful of the team’s future stars for a player who has never made an All-Star appearance. However, if you take a closer look at the trade, it was actually a great move for the team.

Right now, the Nats are in win-now-mode, and they will be until Bryce Harper hits the free agency market in two years. Lopez and Dunning were going to take awhile to get ready to really compete in the big leagues, and Giolito, who was supposed to be practically MLB-ready, did not look good during his time in the majors. His 6.75 ERA was abysmal, and he only averaged a meager 4.5 strikeouts per nine innings. After the Nats traded away Danny Espinosa, there was an opening in the outfield because Trea Turner is moving to shortstop this season. Eaton was the perfect fit. From 2014-16, he hit .290 with a .362 on-base percentage, which is obviously a lot better than Espinosa ever did for the Nats. Additionally, he had a WAR of 6.0 last season, which was better than the likes of star players such as Anthony Rizzo, Nolan Arenado, and Miguel Cabrera. And that’s not even the best part. Eaton is only going to make 40 million dollars over the next 5 years, which is extremely cheap.

By making this deal, Rizzo made a major upgrade to the starting lineup. In doing so, he saved a ton of money, and also did practically no damage to the current pitching rotation. The money that was saved as a result of this trade could help the Nats retain Harper after the 2018 season, or at least help them to go after another big-name free agent.

Ultimately, this acquisition will be extremely helpful to the team over the next two seasons, and could also potentially give Rizzo enough money to land a superstar in free agency, which will surely make up for what the Nats gave up here.

Besides this transaction, the Nationals front office has been pretty reserved this offseason. They did talk with Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, but they ended up deciding that Eaton was better for what they were trying to do with the team. They have also showed some interest in acquiring Orioles catcher Matt Wieters to replace the beloved Wilson Ramos, but so far nothing has been done about that. However, they did manage to trade for Padres catcher Derek Norris, although he’s nothing special. Last year, Norris hit just .186 with 14 home runs. As of now, he’s set to split time behind the plate with Jose Lobaton. Obviously, this is a huge step down at the position from Ramos, but Nats fan shouldn’t panic. Mike Rizzo will probably just end up working his magic again.

IMAGE COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

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Nationals make smart win-now moves in offseason