The Nationals won in big fashion, defeating the Reds 14-4 in a Sunday matinee game. Anthony Rendon continued his red-hot streak. Daniel Murphy hit two home runs. Tanner Roark looked more like the starter he was in 2014 and 2016. Jose Lobaton even hit a home run. Most importantly, the infamous Nationals bullpen did not almost squander the 10-run lead that the team had built over the course of the game.
It was, in many respects, a huge, complete win. On any other day, this recap would be lauding the efforts of Murphy, Rendon, Harper and the rest of the offensive gang, as well as the tremendous bounce-back start from Roark. But it was an event that happened before the game had even started that would overshadow the entire game.
Ken Rosenthal had tweeted Saturday night that the Nationals were interested in acquiring RHP Ryan Madson and LHP Sean Doolittle from the Oakland Athletics, a team with whom Mike Rizzo has made nearly a dozen trades already (including Gio Gonzalez). Before first pitch this afternoon, Rosenthal reported that the Nationals had acquired those two veteran relievers, both of whom can close games as well as work in a variety of other situations out of the ‘pen.
Mike Rizzo continued his excellent trade record, giving up Blake Treinen along with two lower-level prospects (Jesus Lazardo and Sheldon Neuse) in exchange for the two aforementioned pitchers, who will not only bolster what has been one of the worst bullpens in the history of baseball, but also be back next season (Doolittle could be in DC as long as the 2020 season with the options in his contract). Rizzo held on to prized prospects Eric Fedde, Victor Robles, and Juan Soto, and improved the team exponentially.
It is still unknown how Dusty Baker will manage his new bullpen pieces, but I would assume that if the starter can get you 6 innings, you’d use Enny Romero, Matt Albers, and/or Oliver Perez in the seventh inning, Ryan Madson as your setup man, and Sean Doolittle as your closer, but it may change based on matchups. Dusty is not one to use a closer by committee, which he had to do considering the struggles of his team’s ‘pen this year, and this acquisition not only gives the Nationals more stability at the back end, but puts guys like Matt Grace, Joe Blanton, Enny Romero and company back into roles within the bullpen that they are more comfortable and familiar with.
This is not your traditional game recap, but as mentioned in the title, the shadow of this trade loomed over the entire game, and I had tweeted out earlier that the Nats could lose this game 800-4 (they were leading 4-0 at the time) and it still would not matter. Of course, they almost won the game 800-4 (14 isn’t that far off from 800, right?), with some stellar performances, but all anyone could talk about was the fact that the Nationals went out and made a move that makes them considerably better for the next two years at least.
In my writing this season, I have called out the Lerner family for not being serious enough about winning, and I guess they read this site. The Nationals with this trade will inherit 4.5 million dollars in payroll for this season, and 12 million dollars next season (of course Jayson Werth comes off the books at the end of this year, but still, adding that kind of payroll with notably stingy owners is a huge move). This is a move that shows that the Nationals understand that their time to win, not just an NLDS, but potentially a pennant and even beyond, is now.
This is the type of move that an excellent executive like Mike Rizzo makes. This is the type of move that winning teams make. The Nationals may not be done adding towards the trade deadline (now with Joe Ross needing Tommy John surgery, they might want to look at acquiring a veteran 5th starter), but if this is the only move they make, fans should be incredibly excited for what’s to come.
The Nationals play a flyaway game this afternoon, looking to sweep a 4-game set against the Cincinnati Reds. They’ll be in Anaheim after that, and then start a potential NLDS preview against the NL-Central leading Milwaukee Brewers. I can genuinely say that I look forward to Nats games now that much-needed bullpen help is en route.
Get excited Nationals fans. The time is now.