WASHINGTON -- The Nationals did not make any swaps prior to Monday's 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, keeping their roster and pool of prospects intact as they look to make a turnaround to defend their World Series title.
“Our focus is really on the guys that we have,” manager Dave Martinez said. “[General manager] Mike [Rizzo] and his guys, they worked diligently, and I trust their process and what they do to try to get us better. We’re staying put.
“We’ve just got to go out there now, and this is what we’ve got, and play baseball. We’re getting close to September -- let’s have a good month and finish up strong.”
The Nats were 12-19, last place in the National League East, heading into Monday. There are areas of their roster in need of improvement this season, but at what cost? The club decided it wasn't worth it if the price tag was future talent.
“We don’t want to give up some of our younger prospects,” Martinez said. “We believe these guys are a big part of our future here. We’ve got some pretty good ones, so we’re excited about that. We just wanted to make sure that if there was something out there that we could have gotten, they would have gotten it to help us.”
One of the most glaring questions leading up to the Deadline was if the Nationals would make a move to enhance their starting rotation. They lost Stephen Strasburg (carpal tunnel neuritis in the right hand) to season-ending surgery, veteran Aníbal Sánchez’s ERA has reached 6.90 and Austin Voth has struggled in his first year as a full-time starter.
The Nats entered this season with three options for the fifth starter -- Voth, Erick Fedde and Joe Ross. Martinez said they had “penciled in” Ross for the job before he elected not to play in 2020, and Voth landed the job over Fedde. Voth, though, is winless, with an 0-4 record and a 7.99 ERA in six outings. He exited Sunday’s start against the Red Sox after allowing five runs in two innings.
Without making a trade, Washington does not have another established starter in-house. The club already moved Fedde out of the bullpen to fill Strasburg’s spot; Voth is scheduled to start in one of Friday’s doubleheaders in Atlanta. The Nationals plan to work with him this week in the lead-up to it.
“Things could have been different if Stras was around and Fedde was still [in the bullpen] -- we could have swapped those guys,” Martinez said. “Voth did well for us, and he’s struggling now a little bit. I don’t want to give up on him, I really don’t. I want to see if we can fix him and get him to where he was last year.”
Talent on the horizon
The Nationals have tapped into their prospects and called up second baseman Luis García (their No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline), right-hander Wil Crowe (No. 5) and left-handers Seth Romero (No. 11) and Ben Braymer (No. 24) to make their big league debuts this season. Martinez expects to see more of that in September.
“They’re going to get an opportunity to play -- play and help us win games,” he said.
Martinez noted pitchers are throwing into the uppers-90s at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va. The Nationals’ top Draft picks from the past two years, right-handers Jackson Rutledge (No. 3) and Cade Cavalli (No. 4), are among the players there. Martinez also praised infielder Yasel Antuna (No. 14) and outfielder Jeremy De La Rosa (No. 15) as being “really, really, really good athletes, good players.”
“We’re really excited about our prospects, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we didn’t want to part ways with any of these guys when things were coming up,” Martinez said. "We want to keep them around, because they’re going to be good and they’re going to be impact players -- some of them here -- so we want to give them a shot.”
While the Nationals were silent on Monday, they already had made two additions leading up to the day. Eyeing versatility, they signed Josh Harrison and Brock Holt after both veterans were released by their former teams this season. Each player can play infield and outfield positions, and Holt provides a left-handed bat.
“When these guys become available, they’re nice to have,” Martinez said. “They fit, and they can fit everywhere.”
The bottom line
“Defensively, we’ve got to get better. Obviously, pitching’s got to be more consistent. We’ve just got to play all-around better baseball. We’ve started swinging the bats. … We’ve got to focus on, when guys are on base, try to get that extra point or two on the board. But I like where our at-bats have been going. The biggest thing is, whenever we scored five runs or more, I felt really confident about us winning games, so we’ve got to get back to that.” -- Martinez