Tag Archives: Juan Soto

NL East Division position comparison: center field

My evaluation of the National League East Division teams moves to center field today as I continue to rank the Philadelphia Phillies and their divisional competitors on a position-by-position basis.

The Phillies had the top catcher in my rankings and the club’s projected starter ranked third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstop, third base, and in left field.

Right field will come on Wednesday, and then each club’s bench group will follow on Thursday. Over the weekend the projected starting pitching rotations, bullpens, and finally the managers will be covered.

Center field is currently not a glamour position within the division. There are a number of younger players being used by the clubs. Any of those players could still develop into a more impactful player in the coming years and vault up the list. That includes a couple of prospects in the minor leagues who aren’t likely to appear in the upcoming 2020 campaign.

Once this evaluation process is complete, Phillies fans should have a better idea as February arrives of where the team stands as spring training opens. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater on February 11, less than two weeks from now.

NL EAST – 2020 CENTER FIELD RANKINGS

1) Victor Robles, Washington Nationals: The Nationals had the clear front-runner in left field with Juan Soto, and the defending world champs also have that in center with Robles. Though it was the third season in which he made an appearance with the Nats, he was still rookie-eligible a year ago. Robles, who turns 23 in mid-May, finished 6th in the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year voting during a season in which he slashed .255/.326/.419 with 17 home runs, 53 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, 86 runs, and 28 stolen bases. Robles is also an outstanding defender, leading all MLB center fielders – in fact all outfielders overall – in defensive runs saved last season. After finishing as a runner-up to Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain in 2019, Robles should eventually earn a number of Gold Glove Awards at the position.

2) Adam Haseley, Philadelphia Phillies: Haseley was a surprise emergency call-up by the Phillies last season who saw far more time in the big-leagues than ever originally envisioned. That promotion and playing time came due to the injuries suffered by Andrew McCutchen, Roman Quinn, and Jay Bruce and the Odubel Herrera domestic violence suspension. While he didn’t light the world on fire, neither did Haseley embarrass himself. In fact, no less an authority than the folks at Bill James Online named Haseley as their top defender for the month of September. He slashed .266/.324/.396 with five homers, 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, and 30 runs scored over 242 plate appearances across 67 games, 59 of those as starts. Haseley has been penciled in as new manager Joe Girardi‘s starter entering the season. He turns 24 in early April, and the 2017 first round draft pick could emerge as a legitimate difference-maker in the 2020 campaign.

3) Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets: Nimmo, who will turn 27-years-old as spring training comes to an end, missed nearly three-and-a-half months of the 2019 season due to a bulging disk in his neck. Finally returning to the lineup in September, Nimmo slashed .261/.430/.565 with five homers, 10 extra-base hits, 15 RBIs, and 14 runs scored over the final month as the Mets went 17-10. Jake Marisnick, who turns 29 at the end of March, was signed as a free agent. A far better defender than Nimmo, Marisnick could take some playing time away here, especially in late-game situations.

4) Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves: The 29-year-old Inciarte was the center field starter in Atlanta during the 2016-18 seasons. After beginning the season as the starter once again last year, Inciarte began suffering what turned out to be a series of injuries. A bad back at first cost him a couple of months, and then injuries to the quads in both of his legs finally ended his season early. The Braves could slide Ronald Acuna Jr.over to start in center field and use either Adam Duvall or Nick Markakis in right field. But while Acuna would excel anywhere on defense, the club’s overall best defensive outfield would have Inciarte in center with Acuna in right. Another factor to keep an eye on is that the Braves have a pair of hot outfield prospects who could be ready quickly in Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. Either could push for a starting role before 2020 is over.

5) Lewis Brinson, Miami Marlins: Many felt that Brinson was prepared to break out as a leading NL Rookie of the Year candidate with Miami in 2018 after he arrived from Milwaukee as part of the four-prospect package in January of that year for Christian Yelich. However, Brinson underwhelmed as a 24-year old. He returned last season, but rather than take a step forward, he seriously slid back, demoted to the minor leagues after hitting just .197 with no offensive impact over the 2019 season’s first month. After returning on August 5, Brinson didn’t fare any better, slashing only .160/.230/.200 with just five extra-base hits and no stolen bases over 166 plate appearances across 48 games. The Fish have a trio of talented outfield prospects rushing through their system in Monte Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, and JJ Bleday, and all three could be starting by some point in the 2021 season. But only Harrison, who also arrived as part of that Yelich trade with Milwaukee, is really a center fielder, and he lost time a year ago with a wrist injury. Brinson will likely get a long look this year in hopes that his raw talent will finally translate into on-field results.

 

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NL East Division position comparison: left field

My continuing position-by-position evaluation of the National League East Division teams moves to the outfield today after previously covering and ranking the entire infield.

The Philadelphia Phillies had the top catcher in the rankings and the club’s projected starter finished third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstop, and third base.

The outfield coverage begins in left field today. Over the next couple of days, I’ll move across to center field and then over to right field. As we get to the weekend, I’ll cover each club’s projected starting pitching rotation, their benches, bullpens, and finally the managers.

Once this evaluation process is complete, fans should have a better idea as February arrives of where each team in the division stands. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Clearwater, Florida for Phillies spring training on February 11, just about two weeks from now.

NL EAST – 2020 LEFT FIELD RANKINGS

1) Juan Soto, Washington Nationals: Just 21 years of age, Soto is one of the best young players in baseball. He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award to the player who is likely to appear in a couple of days at the top of the right field ranking. Last season, Soto upped his game, blasting 34 home runs with 71 extra-base hits, 110 RBIs, 110 runs scored and a dozen stolen bases while fashioning a .282/.401/.548 slash line. He then came through in the Nationals October 2019 run to their first-ever World Series crown, slashing .273/.373/.554 with five homers and 14 RBIs in the postseason. Just an average defender, Soto may never win a Gold Glove, but he doesn’t hurt the Nats in that regard. Soto looks right now as if he could sit atop this positional list for years to come.

2) Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves:  A solid offensive contributor and left field defender, Ozuna hung out on the free agent market for way too long this off-season. The Braves took advantage, scooping him up a week ago with a one-year, $18 million deal that will allow Ozuna to reset his value for another run at the market a year from now. Meanwhile, Atlanta will be the beneficiaries for at least the 2020 campaign during which the two-time NL All-Star will play at age 29. He has a .272 career average over seven big-league seasons, and a year ago produced 29 homers with 89 RBIs and 80 runs scored while helping lead the Saint Louis Cardinals to the NL Central crown. Atlanta also has a pair of solid veterans in Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall on their roster to cover the position effectively should injury strike.

3) Andrew McCutchen, Philadelphia Phillies: So much of this ranking depends on ‘Cutch’ fully bouncing back from the devastating knee injury and subsequent surgery that ended his first Phillies season in early June. The former NL MVP and five-time All-Star is not that level of performer any longer. However, prior to the injury he had a .378 on-base percentage as the Phillies leadoff hitter, and had produced 10 homers, 12 doubles, 29 RBIs, and 45 runs scored in just 262 plate appearances. I wrote a piece at the start of this month asking what we should expect from him in the coming season. Let’s hope that his reply below is what we actually get in 2020. If there are any recurring or lingering injury issues, Jay Bruce and Nick Williams would try to pick up the slack.

4) Corey Dickerson, Miami Marlins: The Phillies obtained Dickerson from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline last season in an attempt to remain in the playoff race after both McCutchen and Bruce had suffered injuries. He was one of the few bright spots for the club before suffering his own season-ending injury in mid-September. Dickerson hit .293 with eight homers, 20 extra-base hits and a staggering 34 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances over 34 games with the Phillies in 2019. That performance and a solid seven-year big-league career earned him a two-year, $17.5 million deal with the rebuilding Fish. He turns 31 years of age in late May and should give them a solid return on their investment if he stays healthy.

5) J.D. Davis, New York Mets: There remains a certain segment of the organization and fan base still hopes Yoenis Cespedes will be healthy and return to some semblance of his All-Star days. Now at age 34 and having missed most of the last two years with injuries, that is highly unlikely. Davis made 79 starts in left during the 2019 season, his first with the Mets after coming in a five-player deal with Houston at this time a year ago. He has the ability to make this bottom ranking look a bit foolish if it all comes together. Davis slashed .307/.369/.527 and delivered 22 homers, 22 doubles, 57 RBIs, and 65 runs scored over 453 plate appearances in 2019. He could end up at least in the middle of these rankings by the end of the upcoming season. If he instead falters, odds are that Dominic Smith would fare better as a replacement than any Cespedes pipe dream.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Nationals don’t miss Bryce Harper, and vice-versa

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Harper left the Nationals after seven seasons, joining the division-rival Phillies via free agency

 

After starring with the Washington Nationals for seven seasons, Bryce Harper signed back in spring training as a free agent with the division rival Philadelphia Phillies.

There were many around baseball who believed that this signaled a changing of the guards of sorts. The Phillies, after suffering through six consecutive losing seasons, appeared to be on the rise. The Nationals, winners of four National League East Division crowns during Harper’s first six seasons with the team, appeared possibly on the decline.

Over the 2019 season’s first two months, that was exactly how things were playing out. On May 29, the Phillies sat in first place, 11 games over the .500 mark and with a 3.5 game lead in the division.

On that same day, the Nationals were struggling along at eight games below .500 in fourth place, nine games behind the Phillies.

The two teams had met eight times by that point, splitting the contests at 4-4. Harper had been booed lustily in his first game back in D.C. on April 2, but had silenced those boos with a double and a massive home run.

But as spring turned to summer, the Phillies began to slip and the Nationals began to surge. On Independence Day, Washington moved past the Phillies in the standings for the first time. Two days later they moved into second place again, where the Nats would remain for the rest of the season.

Still, as the Atlanta Braves pulled away at the top of the division for a second straight year, the Phillies hung around in the NL Wildcard race.

Looming on the schedule was a rare five-game series between the Phillies and Nationals in Washington during the final week of the season.

But as that series drew closer, much of the drama was lost. The Phillies just couldn’t sustain a winning streak. The Nationals continued to play well. By the time of the series opener this past Monday, Washington had opened a six-game lead on the Phillies, who had dropped to fourth place in the division.

The Nationals took that opener, then during a split doubleheader on Tuesday, the Nationals swept the Phillies by scores of 4-1 and 6-5. With the first win, the Nats eliminated the Phillies from postseason contention. With the second, Washington clinched their own playoff berth.

Despite getting strong seasons from Harper and fellow newcomer J.T. Realmuto, the Phillies will miss out on the thrill of October baseball for an eight straight year. How did it happen?

There are many reasons. But one direct place to look would be at an area directly affected by Harper signing with the Phillies. That would be into the Nationals outfield. How were the Nats able to cover for the loss of one of the most dynamic young players in the game?

The answer lies in three names: left fielder Juan Soto, center fielder Victor Robles, and right fielder Adam Eaton.

Soto, who finished as the runner-up to Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. in the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award voting, has followed that performance up with an even bigger sophomore campaign.

The 20-year-old Soto is slashing .283/.401/.550 with 34 home runs, 69 extra-base hits, 109 RBIs, 107 runs scored, and a dozen stolen bases.

Playing in what is technically his rookie season but his third in the big leagues, the 22-year-old Robles has 17 home runs, 52 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, 84 runs scored, and 26 steals.

And in right, the 30-year-old Eaton is enjoying a solid bounce-back year after losing most of his first two years with the Nationals to injury. In his eight overall big-league season, Eaton has 15 homers, 47 extra-base hits, 101 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

That outfield trio has remained healthy all season for the Nationals, with Soto playing in 143 games to date, Eaton 148, and Robles in a team-high 153 games.

Meanwhile, the 26-year-old Harper has slashed .260/.375/.507 with 34 home runs, 109 RBIs, 69 extra-base hits, 96 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases. His first Phillies season will end up as his best year in the big-leagues, other than his 2015 NL MVP campaign.

As Harper took his position out in right field during the 8th inning of the series penultimate game on Wednesday, the Nationals fans began to heckle him. Nothing new there. Harper knew it would be this way when he signed with the Phillies.

But the attacks this time were not just simple boos or cries of “you suck” or “traitor” or the many other taunts directed at him this year. This time, the Nationals fans brought his newborn son into the taunts.

Harper’s wife, Kayla, turned to Twitter on Thursday morning to display her disgust, calling those Nationals fans “classless“:

Kayla further claimed that these kinds of attacks from Nationals fans, going beyond the pale, have occurred all season. They include messages “wishing my son has autism when he’s born“, for example.

For his part, Harper also acknowledged that things were different during that 8th inning attack.

They were fine all game talking about myself and things like that,” he said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I mean, I get it everywhere I go. It’s nothing new, but the last inning – it’s just not right. It’s just not right.

Harper then went on to address the situation further, mentioning his new home fans in Philadelphia:

“...fans up in Philly that appreciate me as a player and appreciate me as an individual and my family, as well. I owe a lot to those people up there in Philly because they show up for me every single night and they are there to cheer us on and boo us and keep us going as a team and as individuals as well and I’m looking forward to the next 12 years. Can’t wait.

The Nationals and many of their fans clearly do not miss Bryce Harper. Their team is headed back to the playoffs where they will once again take a shot at winning the first world championship in franchise history.

But just as clearly, Bryce Harper does not miss the Washington Nationals or their fans either. He wears the name “Phillies” across the front of his jersey now, and is very happy and proud to do so.

Score round one in 2019 to Washington. But this will be a long fight between these two teams. With Harper at the forefront, expect the Phillies to bloody the Nationals noses in many future rounds.

 

Streaking Nationals come to Citizens Bank Park on a roll

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Red-hot Juan Soto leads the streaking Nats into South Philly

The Philadelphia Phillies (47-43) and Washington Nationals (47-42) return to play following four days off for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game break with a Friday night contest at Citizens Bank Park.

These two NL East Division rivals currently control the two National League Wildcard playoff positions in the league standings. However, for nearly two months they have been travelling in opposite directions.
On May 29, the Phillies were 33-22 and held a 3.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings. That same day, the Nats were 24-32 and 9.5 games behind the Phillies.
But since May 24, Washington has forged a 28-11 mark. That is the best record in all of Major League Baseball since that date.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have slumped to a 14-21 record since their May 20 high-water at 11 games over the .500 mark. That is the same record in that time frame as the last place Miami Marlins have fashioned. Only the 13-22 record of the New York Mets over that period has been worse in the division.
All of that – the Phillies hot start, the Nationals recent hot stretch – is now in the rear view mirror. The ultimate story of the 2019 season for these two division rivals is going to be written over the next two and a half months. If the Phillies want to begin to turn their season back around, it has to begin this weekend.
For more than three weeks, the Phillies have faced nothing but NL East Division rivals on the schedule. The club has gone just 9-13 in those games. That stretch ends with this three-game weekend tilt with the Nationals.
The Phillies are going to come out of the stretch with a losing record. But winning this series would still mark a big step forward. It would also move them past the Nationals in the standings heading into a very tough four-game series to open next week with the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
Both teams have a middle-of-the-road offensive attack. The Nationals rank 14th in all of baseball with their average of 4.94 runs scored per game. The Phillies are right behind, their 4.91 runs per game ranking 15th among the 30 MLB ball clubs.
There is a big difference on the mound. Washington’s pitching staff ranks 5th in the National League with a .247 batting average against, and their .720 OPS against is 3rd in the league. Their pitchers collectively rank 4th in MLB in strikeouts.
The Phillies struggling staff is 14th in both AVG (.265) and OPS against (.799), and they have surrendered 153 home runs, far and away the highest total in the league and third-most in all of baseball. They are also just 22nd in strikeouts.
For the Phillies to actually win this series their pitching staff is going to have to begin stepping up. If the pitchers who are here and healthy right now cannot demonstrate improvement across the board, then the Nationals will keep up their winning ways and begin to pull away in the standings.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Anthony Rendon: (29) 3B – .304/.386/.611 with 20 home runs, 44 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs, 65 runs
Trea Turner: (26) SS – .288/.343/.491 with 7 home runs, 26 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs, 36 runs, 17 steals (missed 39 games)
Victor Robles: (22) CF – .246/.320/443 with 13 home runs, 39 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 47 runs, 12 steals
Howie Kendrick: (35) UT – .327/.378/.563 with 12 home runs, 25 extra-base hits, 47 RBIs, 39 runs
Adam Eaton: (30) RF – .281/.368/.383 with 6 home runs, 18 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs, 50 runs
Kurt Suzuki (35)/Yan Gomes (31): catching tandem combined for 14 homers and 58 RBIs

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Juan Soto: The 20-year-old left fielder was the runner-up to Ronald Acuna Jr.for the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award. After a slow start to his sophomore campaign, Soto has caught fireand helped lead the Nationals charge back to contending status.
Since May 17 when he was hitting just .228, Soto has slashed .354/.452/.628 with nine home runs, 23 extra-base hits, 32 RBIs and 36 runs scored over 164 at-bats across 46 games.
The Nationals manager (see below) was quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr as this series prepares to open:
I think his overall game has gotten better. Everybody talks about his hitting, but I think his outfield play has gotten better. His baserunning’s gotten better. In that aspect, he’s become that polished player. Still young, still learning. Works incredibly in all aspects of the game. But I think we still haven’t seen what he potentially can do as he gets older.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY – Stephen Strasburg (30): 10-4, 3.64 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 3.18 FIP, 92 hits over 116.1 IP across 18 starts with a 138/29 K:BB ratio. That Nationals come out of the break by throwing their three best starting pitchers against the Phillies. Strasburg has largely been dominating in what has been one of the big right-hander’s most complete seasons.
SATURDAY – Patrick Corbin (29): 7-5, 3.34 ERA, 1.112 WHIP, 3.34 FIP, 93 hits over 113.1 IP across 18 starts with a 129/33 K:BB ratio. Signed as a free agent this past off-season, Corbin has been everything the Nationals could have hoped. He provides the club a lone southpaw rotation presence, and a very good one.
SUNDAY – Anibal Sanchez (35): 5-6, 3.66 ERA, 1.327 WHIP, 4.53 FIP, 78 hits over 83.2 IP across 16 starts with a 75/33 K:BB ratio. This was supposed to be a turn for ace Max Scherzer. But ongoing back stiffness is causing the Nationals to skip him and go with 14-year veteran righty Sanchez. 

THE SKIPPER

54-year-old Dave Martinez had 16 years of playing experience in Major League Baseball with nine different organizations between 1986-2001. Four of those seasons from 1988-91 were with the Montreal Expos, the franchise from whom the Nationals are descended.
After retiring as an active player, Martinez became a spring training instructor for the Tampa Bay Rays, for whom he had played during the 1998-2000 seasons. In 2007, Martinez was hired as Joe Maddon‘s bench coach in Tampa, and was in that role as the club won their lone AL pennant and reached the 2008 World Series against the Phillies.
Martinez interviewed for a number of managerial positions over the next few years. When Maddon left following the 2014 campaign, Martinez was passed over for the Rays job and joined Maddon once again as the Chicago Cubs bench coach. In that role he helped the Cubs defeat the Nationals in a 2017 National League Division Series.
On October 30, 2017, Martinez was hired to take over as the Nationals manager. He has a contract running through next year, with a club option for the 2021 season. The Nationals overall record during his first year and a half at the helm is 129-122. His club finished 82-80 last year, good enough for second place in the NL East, but not good enough for a playoff spot.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Unless you are allergic to sunshine and warm temperatures, weather will play little role in this weekend series down in South Philadelphia. Each day is expected to include high temps right around 90 degrees, lows around 70 degrees, and very few clouds in the sky. A modest breeze each day should keep humidity levels at reasonable summertime levels.
The Nationals have won seven of the 11 meetings between the two division rivals. Bryce Harper has two home runs and eight RBIs in those first 11 games against his former ball club.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies series opposition preview: Washington Nationals

For Nationals it’s win now, or possibly lose two superstars

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The Nats already lost Harper, could Rendon be next star to go?

The Washington Nationals, who play host to the Phillies in a four-game series this week, have spent the better part of the last seven seasons dominating the National League East Division standings.

In 2012, the Nationals ended the Phillies five-year grip on the division by capturing the franchise’ first-ever NL East crown. Their direct predecessors, the Montreal Expos, were considered to have finished in first place back in 1994, but that was the strike-ended season that was never completed.
From 2012-18, the Nationals registered a winning season each year. They captured division titles four times in that span: 2012, 2014, and 2016-17. In each of the other three years, the Nats finished in second place.
The club was always in the hunt for a playoff berth until suddenly falling into a deep funk from June 10 through September 6. They struggled all summer at 32-46 during that stretch, falling from first place to finish 10 back of the Atlanta Braves in the east and nine games out of a Wildcard.
In the off-season, the Nationals lost the player who had arguably become the face of the franchise over those seven seasons. Bryce Harper left the team at age 26 to sign as a free agent with the rival Phillies.
The Nationals brain trust believed that it could cover for the loss of Harper. They had a pair of exciting young Dominican outfielders ready to make an impact on an everyday basis in now 20-year-old Juan Soto, who was the runner-up for the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award, and 22-year-old Victor Robles.
But when the season opened, things didn’t go as planned in our nation’s capital. Injuries and inconsistent play resulted in a horrendous first two months. The Nationals woke up on Friday, May 24 back home after getting swept in four games at Citi Field by the division-rival New York Mets. They were a disheartening 19-31, and were already 10 games off the pace in the NL East.
Since that time, the Nationals have begun to regain some of their lost mojo. They have fashioned a 14-7 record over the last three weeks, and though still 8.5 out in the division, the Nationals are now just six games behind the Phillies in the race for the final NL Wildcard spot. Of course, there are also five other teams ahead of them in chasing that spot.
If the Nationals cannot continue to win consistently and make a serious move up in the standings, that brain trust is going to have a couple of extremely difficult decisions to make a month from now as the August 1 MLB trade deadline approaches. Those decisions involved two key players, their third baseman and their top starting pitcher.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon has been, as Harper was before him, a career Nationals player. Like Harper, he was a first round draft pick, taken by Washington at sixth overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. That was right after the club had made Stephen Strasburg and Harper the top overall pick in the two previous drafts.
He turned 29-years-old at the start of this month, and is leading the team in virtually every offensive category. But also, like Harper last year, Rendon is about to become a free agent at the conclusion of this current season. Though both sides have said that they were willing to remain open to contract discussions as they season went along, there are no signs that the team is making any progress in getting him to agree to forego his first shot at free agency and re-up with a contract extension.
If you want to go ahead and agree that Nolan Arenado is the best third baseman in the NL today, then you had best understand that Rendon is clearly second in that ranking. If it weren’t for the Rockies outstanding third sacker, Rendon would certainly have a handful of Gold Glove Awards in his trophy case.
Arenado just signed a seven-year, $260 million deal with Colorado at age 28 years. Already making nearly $19 million for this 2019 season, Rendon is likely going to be looking for that same seven-year package for something at or above the $200 million total mark.
How Anthony Rendon ranks among NL 3rd basemen:

1st         On-Base Percentage (.415)
1st         Slugging Percentage (.660)
1st         OPS (1.075)
1st         WAR (3.1)
1st         wRC+ (169)
1st         wOBA (.435)
1st         OPS+ (70)
2nd       Batting Average (.321)

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While owner Ted Lerner and general manager Mike Rizzo contemplate how high they are willing to go on a Rendon deal, if he even wants to stay, that will not be the only contract consideration they will have on their minds as the trade deadline approaches.
Ace right-hander Max Scherzer, arguably the best right-handed starting pitcher in the game today and winner of three Cy Young Awards, can exercise his “10-and-5 rights” after this season. That would lock the Nationals into his contract, which call for him to be paid move than $42 million in each of the next two seasons as he turns ages 35 and 36 years of age.
Scherzer is having yet another great season this year. His 2.27 FIP mark is the best in baseball. His K/9 are actually up a tick, while his BB/9 are down. He has allowed just 87 hits over 99.1 innings across 15 starts with a phenomenal 136/20 K:BB.
So why would Washington even think of unloading Scherzer at the deadline this year? It would be the combination of those 10-and-5 rights, which would mean that he could veto any trade after this season, combined with his being owed $84 million for two more years as he continues to age.
If the Nationals are unable to climb back into the race in a serious way, they are at least going to have to entertain the idea of moving Scherzer and Rendon. Each player would bring back a substantial prospect package in trade with which Washington could continue to build a young foundation to battle in what looks like it will be a tough division during the 2020’s.
So, for the 2019 Washington Nationals, the time is now to keep winning, to keep digging their way out of that early hole. They have seven key games this week, four with the Phillies and three with the Braves. After that, the MLB schedule looks very weak for awhile.

If they can make up any further ground in these battles with the two clubs ahead of them in the NL East Division, and then do what they would be expected to do with the lesser opposition which the schedule presents over the following few weeks, Washington could end up forced to keep the band together for at least one more strong run this year.