When the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals to start the 2005 season, the franchise was bad, real bad and expectations remained low for many years.
But being bad means good draft picks like Ryan Zimmerman in 2005 and a few years later pitcher Stephen Strasburg and 17-year old catcher Bryce Harper.
A few trades and free agent signings later and the Nationals were looking World Serious good. In 2012, they won the first National League East title in franchise history or second if you consider the 1981 split season Expos title.
The Cardinals ended the National’s season quickly, but the elements were in place for 2013. So what happened? We’re in mid August-40 games to play and the Nationals are 9 and a half games behind in the wild card race.
I think the Nationals tried to fix what was never broken. They traded away slugger Michael Morse for more pitching prospects, lost three left-handed middle relievers to free agency and then signed right-handed closer Rafael Soriano.
The Nationals have scored a measly 455 runs this season. That’s 25th out of 30 teams. Last year they scored 731 by season’s end.
Morse hit a career high 31 homers in 2011 and followed it up with 18 more in 2012 in fewer at bats. But the Nationals traded him for pitching prospect A.J. Cole, a player they once drafted and apparently just had to get back.
The Nationals already had pitching depth and one of baseball’s better bullpens in 2012. so why did the sign Rafael Soriano? Morse would have cost the Nationals 6.75 million for 2013 or a little less than what they’re paying Soriano.
Of course, Morse kinda bites this year in Seattle, but the Nationals were an exciting, come from behind team in 2012 and this year, they look like a bunch of zombies.
The Nationals offense in 2012 was built on break out seasons by unproven players with the exception of Jayson Werth and maybe Adam LaRoche. The team had no business trading away offense.
They claim they needed to replenish a depleted farm system after giving up young pitchers in trades for Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span. OK, fine. It’s good to have pitching prospects, but at what cost?
Sometimes you gotta say screw the farm system and go for it right now because windows of opportunity can shut real fast.