January 17, 2013
Washington's Winning Way with Trades
Draft well, scout well internationally, develop players well, and when the time is absolutely right, go all in for that big free agent—the last piece of your World Series champions. Or at least the last piece of the best team in baseball that will still have to win three near-coin-flip series to lift the hardware.
You watch teams like the Astros trying to emulate this plan to get to the top, and meanwhile, you observe the Nationals following through on it with the addition of Rafael Soriano to an already loaded bullpen. It’s a move of luxury, not necessity, the final component of what is arguably baseball’s best team.
Yet there is a step missing in that narrative when it comes to Mike Rizzo’s meticulous construction of the Nationals.
Yes, they drafted well, from the gimme no. 1 overall picks in Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg to the other stars in the Zimmerman(n) brothers to the outstanding middle infield combination of Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond, both third-round picks. And they have gone beyond their usual Expo ways in acquiring Jayson Werth and Soriano in the last three seasons and giving a contract to free agent Adam LaRoche when they could have cut costs and settled for in-house option Mike Morse.
But in the middle of those two stories is a 2013 Nationals roster that was built largely through trades that have benefited the club greatly.
It’s not a story of perfection. When Werth was acquired in 2011, the Nationals went with the pretty awful outfield of Laynce Nix, Rick Ankiel, and Werth, trading away Josh Willingham and Nyjer Morgan in loser deals while watching them both go on to have very strong years. And you could argue that Joel Hanrahan would have prevented Wednesday’s splurge, but Morgan and Sean Burnett was not a bad package.