Nationals' 5 biggest Winter Meetings moves

December 7th, 2020

Teams around baseball will be looking to bolster their rosters at the 2020 Winter Meetings, which will be held virtually this year. Ahead of the event, let's take a look back at five of the most memorable Nationals transactions tied to the annual baseball business gathering.

1. Nationals acquire Trea Turner and Joe Ross in three-team deal (San Diego, 2014)
Technically, Turner was not acquired by the Nationals until June 14, 2015, but the deal that landed the star shortstop was put in the works during the '14 Winter Meetings.

On Dec. 19, 2014, the Nats struck a three-team deal with the Padres and Rays that sent a player to be named and right-hander Ross from San Diego to Washington. The Nationals dealt outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and Minor League left-hander Travis Ott to Tampa Bay in return.

That player to be named turned out to be Turner, whom the Padres had selected with the 13th overall pick of the 2014 MLB Draft.

"We're happy to complete this trade and add an exceptional talent to our fold," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said at the time. "From the outset, this was a complex deal, but we thought it was one that would better our organization for the present as well as the long term. That's always our goal.”

Turner made his big league debut two months later, and he has gone on to become a centerpiece of the Nationals’ future. In 2020, he batted a career-high .335 and finished seventh in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting.

Ross also has developed into a key player for Washington. Utilized as both a starter and reliever over his career, he made a memorable spot start for Max Scherzer in Game 5 of the 2019 World Series. Ross was the top contender for the fifth starter role in the '20 rotation before he elected not to play this season, and he agreed to a one-year deal with the Nats for ‘21.

2. Nats ink Jayson Werth to mega free-agent signing (Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 2010)
The Nationals finished the 2010 season at the bottom of the NL East standings and with a sub-.500 record (69-93) for the fifth straight year. At the subsequent Winter Meetings, they began a franchise turnaround with the headline-grabbing signing of Werth. The seven-year, $126 million contract put the Nats on the path to contention. They made their first playoff appearance in '12 and earned a postseason berth in four of Werth’s seven seasons in Washington.

“I’ve always been a big fan of an underdog,” Werth said at the time. “I’m coming to be a part of something much greater than you’ve seen in this city.”

At the time of the signing, Werth had played eight years in the Majors and was entering his age-32 season. He went on to slash .263/.355/.433 with a .788 OPS and 450 runs scored (10th most in cumulative Nationals/Expos franchise history) in 808 regular-season games. His memorable playoff moments include a walk-off homer to win Game 4 of the 2012 NL Division Series against the Cardinals that is commemorated at Nationals Park with a home run marker.

Werth played out the remainder of his 15-year career in Washington and retired in 2018.

3. Stephen Strasburg re-signs with record-setting contract (San Diego, 2019)
One of the biggest questions heading into the 2019 Winter Meetings was, would the Nationals re-sign Strasburg following his historic World Series performance? The right-hander had just become the first pitcher to go 5-0 in postseason history and earned World Series MVP honors.

The Nats didn’t waste any time -- they inked Strasburg to a then-record-setting seven-year, $245 million deal on the first day of the Meetings. Strasburg’s monster signing topped the previous marks for total dollars committed to a pitcher (David Price, $217 million) and average annual value for a pitcher (Zack Greinke, $34.4 million). Strasburg’s contract averages $35 million per season and includes a full no-trade clause.

The long-term contract cemented Strasburg’s place in Washington lore. He was drafted by the team with the first overall pick in 2009 and has been donning a Nationals uniform since his debut in '10. After the '19 season, Strasburg (who was 31 years old at the time) opted out of the remaining four years and $100 million of his seven-year, $175 million contract, which spanned from '17-23.

"We couldn't be happier to announce the re-signing of one of our most popular and most important players on our roster in Stephen Strasburg," Rizzo said at the time. "As you all know, he's a player near and dear to my heart. Drafted, signed, developed and turned into a superstar right before our eyes with 'Washington' on the front of his chest.”

4. Nationals bring All-Star Alfonso Soriano to Washington (Dallas, 2005)
Early into the team’s relocation to Washington, D.C., the Nationals made noise at the 2005 Winter Meetings. They acquired Soriano from the Rangers in exchange for Armando Galarraga, Terrmel Sledge and Brad Wilkerson, and moved the speedy veteran infielder to left field.

Though Soriano only played one year for the Nats, his age-30 season in 2006 was as memorable as the trade itself. In addition to slashing .277/.351/.560 with a .911 OPS, he set the single-season franchise record with 46 home runs and stole 41 bases in a 40-40 showcase, only the fourth in Major League history. In his first season in the outfield, Soriano led NL left fielders in putouts (326) and assists (22).

Soriano was named an All-Star and a Silver Slugger Award winner with the Nationals. Following his standout season, he went on to sign an eight-year, $136 million contract with the Cubs.

5. Nats swap top prospects for Adam Eaton (National Harbor, Md., 2016)
Washington was looking for a proven outfielder, and it memorably pulled from its pool of prospects to land one at the 2016 Winter Meetings. The Nationals traded right-handers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Dane Dunning -- then ranked their Nos. 1, 3 and 6 prospects, respectively, by MLB Pipeline -- to the White Sox for Eaton.

The move was particularly notable because Giolito was the No. 3 prospect in baseball, and the Nationals' roster move allowed Turner to shift back to shortstop from the outfield.

At the time, Eaton was 28 years old and had been named a Gold Glove Award finalist in his fifth Major League season. Over the next four years with the Nationals, he slashed .279/.365/.419 in 310 games. His highlights include belting two homers in the 2019 World Series, during which his home run celebration with Howie Kendrick became synonymous with postseason victories.

The Nationals acquired Eaton in the middle of a long-term contract with a team option for 2021, which they declined at the end of this season.

Honorable Mention: Tanner for Tanner (Las Vegas, 2018)
Right-hander pitched his first six seasons with the Nationals. But after they signed lefty Patrick Corbin to a six-year contract in early December 2018, they changed up their starting rotation. Washington traded Roark to the Reds in exchange for right-handed reliever .

Beyond being the first Tanner-for-Tanner trade in Major League history, it landed the Nationals a bullpen arm that manager Dave Martinez referred this season to as “potentially our future closer.” In only his third season, the 27-year-old Rainey pitched to a 2.66 ERA over 20 1/3 innings. His WHIP dropped from 1.45 in 2019 to 0.74 in '20, and he averaged 14.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He also ranked in the 99th percentile in the Majors with a 42.7 percent strikeout rate and 75.5 percent whiff rate, per Statcast.

“This year, he had a confidence in him that, ‘Hey, I’m going to be able to pitch in the back end of the bullpen. I’m going to get high-leverage situations and get outs,’” Martinez said toward the end of this season. “He’s been doing that, and he’s doing that really well.”