Mark Lerner says time to look to future
The Washington Nationals all but punted on their playoff aspirations Tuesday afternoon, trading veteran left-handed sluggers Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams to National League teams that have far better postseason chances.
And the third-place Nationals got nothing in return to help their current squad, which entered Tuesday 62-63 and 7.5 games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
Owner Mark D. Lerner saidthe “time has come for us to make decisions that will bolster our roster for next season and beyond.”
In an open letter to fans, Lerner said, “This is not a rebuilding effort. We have a lot of talent on our roster from seasoned veterans to enthusiastic young guys. And Mike Rizzo and his team will be busy during the offseason making sure we have all of the pieces necessary to come back and be competitive next year.”
Second baseman/first baseman Murphy, in the last year of a three-year deal, was traded to the Chicago Cubs for minor league infielder Andruw Monasterio and a player to be named or cash considerations. First baseman/left fielder Adams was sent to the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that drafted him out of college at Slippery Rock in 2010, for cash considerations.
“We took a chance at the first trade deadline (in late July) and held tight,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday. “We felt that was our best way to compete. I still think today we have the talent ... to play competitive games at the end of the season. I know what the standings say (but) the talent in that locker room is still great.”
“These are tough decisions,” Rizzo added. “It is never easy. We felt this was the best way to facilitate what we are trying to do in 2018 and beyond.”
The irony is a recent woeful road trip against the Cubs and Cardinals, in which the Nationals went 2-5, helped Rizzo decide to look to the future and trade the two soon-to-be free agents. Then the Nationals lost two of three at home this past weekend to the last-place Marlins, who once lost 14 games in a row to Washington.
The trades were a stunning reversal for a club that has won the last two National League East division titles and was considered a World Series favorite again this year.
The Nationals have won four division titles since 2012 and since then have rarely made a mid-season trade that didn’t aid their chances for that playoff drive.
First-year manager Dave Martinez has taken some of the blame from fans this year. But he got an endorsement without being asked by Murphy.
“Right man for the job here in D.C.,” Murphy said Tuesday.
The Nationals entered Tuesday’s home contest against the second-place Phillies (68-56) with seven losses in 10 games and a losing record in August. Washington has just one winning month this year, was 26-26 against teams in its division and was 12 games under .500 since late May.
Murphy hit better than .300 in 2016 and 2017 as the Nationals won the division but lost in the first round of the playoffs. He was a World Series star for the New York Mets in 2015 before signing with the Nationals.
“I feel my time here has been a success,” he said. “We haven’t won as many postseason games as we would have liked.”