Rizzo says Nats are 'open for business' ahead of Deadline

July 19th, 2023

CHICAGO -- The Nationals made megadeals the past two Trade Deadlines to build a young core for the future. This season, they could add to that group.

“We’re open for business,” general manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday before the Nats’ 17-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. “We’re going to do deals that make sense for us. We have a plan in place, we have a blueprint in place for this rebuild. We’re always open-minded and we’ll always be aggressive. That’s not to say we’re going to move everybody. But if we can move the ball forward in the rebuild process, we certainly will be open-minded to it.”

When assessing trade candidates for the Aug. 1 Deadline, those on expiring contracts jump out. Third baseman Jeimer Candelario headlines that group during a turnaround year in which he is batting .260 with 27 doubles and 14 home runs. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand noted the Cubs, Marlins and Yankees as potential fits for Candelario, who inked a one-year deal worth $5 million this past offseason.

Left fielder Corey Dickerson and right-hander Carl Edwards Jr., who is on the 15-day injured list because of right shoulder inflammation, are also in the same situation with expiring contracts.

Then there are members of the Nationals having standout performances who could garner interest from teams looking to add players to their rosters beyond this season. Outfielder Lane Thomas and relievers Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey (15-day IL, right elbow strain) are under two years of team control.

Thomas (.293/.342/.488) made a case for the All-Star team, Harvey (3.12 ERA, 0.992 WHIP, nine saves) earned the closer job during the season and Finnegan (3.32 ERA, 1.279 WHIP, 12 saves) can fill multiple high-leverage roles in the back end of the bullpen.

“Everyone on expiring [contracts] -- those decisions are fairly easy,” said Rizzo. “That was the decision we made with Max [Scherzer]. That factors into it. You have a good player, a good All-Star-caliber type of player in Lane Thomas, and you have him for two more seasons after this. Sure, that makes it much more difficult to trade. That’s code word for 'We’d have to get a good return.'”

The Nationals made a splash in recent years by trading outfielder Juan Soto and shortstop Trea Turner with years remaining on their contracts.

“The tricky part is getting back the value you want for them,” Rizzo said of players under team control. “I see Lane Thomas as having an All-Star first half of the season. He’s got tools, he’s young and he’s a terrific player. If another team views him only as a part-time or bench player, we won’t have a deal. But if somebody views him as the way I view him and the way our staff views him, then we’d have a conversation.”

The Nats are two seasons removed from acquiring Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz from the Dodgers in exchange for Scherzer (expiring deal) and Turner (season and a half of team control), and one year removed from sending Soto (two and a half seasons of team control) and first baseman Josh Bell (expiring contract) to the Padres for a deep package of shortstop CJ Abrams, southpaw MacKenzie Gore, outfield prospects James Wood and Robert Hassell III, and righty prospect Jarlin Susana.

Along with those multiplayer headlining moves, they also swapped expiring contracts for younger talents, such as Thomas for Jon Lester (Cardinals), right-hander Mason Thompson for right-hander Daniel Hudson (Padres) and catcher Riley Adams for southpaw Brad Hand (Blue Jays).

“I think we impacted our franchise greatly,” said Rizzo. “I think that we put the rebuild process in overdrive, and I think that we're further along than if we hadn't done those two Trade Deadlines.”