How did the citizens get here? Four reasons for their transition from 2019 to 2022

Less than three years ago Washington citizens They were on top of the baseball world. They completed an unlikely round to capture the 2019 World Championships after being (a) 19-31 on May 23, b) down twice in the eighth round of the Wild Card Game, c) down twice in the eighth inning of NLDS 5, and d ) dropped three games to two in the world championships. The citizens of 2019 refused to die.

Fast forward to today, the Nationals are the latest club to approach their second consecutive season with at least 95 losses. Since winning the world championships less than three years ago, Washington has had a win percentage of 0.388, a 99-loss pace in a 162-game table. Just Pittsburgh Pirates (.372) and Arizona Diamondbacks (.378) has the worst profit rates since the start of the 2020 season.

We haven’t seen a World Championship winner run so hard and so fast Florida Marlins Fire sale days, and the citizens themselves made a quick sale this week. They did what seemed unexpected a few months ago, She trades genius Juan Soto for San Diego Padres for a bundle of five potential clients. Soto rejected a 15-year, $440 million extension a few weeks ago It appears to have prompted the team to act.

“He’s a player from generation to generation. He’s a great guy and a real gentleman in the game. What can you say about Juan Soto who hasn’t already been said?” Citizens GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com after the trade. “…There was no ordinance to trade it or not to trade it. It was business as usual. The ownership gave me the freedom to make a good baseball deal if I felt it was a deal to change the franchise, and it turns out we got one to our liking and it worked. Kudos to the other side for making it work.”

Soto is one of only 44 players in MLB history to reach 2,400 players before his 24th birthday, so he immediately placed him in an exclusive club, and of those 44 players he ranks second in the base percentage behind Ted Williams and fourth. At OPS+ behind Williams, Ty Cobb and Mike Trout. This is not just a great young player. This is Jill’s talent for doing things that are rarely done.

How do things get so bad, so quickly, that, less than three years after winning the world championship, you walk away from the talent of a generation and franchise icon with two more seasons of judging eligibility remaining? If Soto comes in free agency, well, I can understand, but he was bound to the Citizens until 2024. The organization would have to be in deep trouble to consider trading this guy the best possible move.

The team doesn’t fall that far, that fast without too many mistakes. Here are four reasons the Nationals have gone from world champion to last place (and trading away from Soto) in three years.

1. Lots of elite talent outside the door

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The Citizens won the 2019 World Championships not by depth, but by performing high-end talent at their best. Soto and Anthony Rendon carried on offense (with a few Howie Kendrick mixed in in time) and the trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin combined to throw nearly 60 percent of the team’s post-season innings. You’re supposed to rely on your stars in October, and no hero in your recent memory has depended on their stars as much as on the Nationals of 2019.

All those elite talent – or, more accurately, elite performance – are gone. Soto, Scherzer, and Trea Turner were traded away and Rendon was left as free agent. Strasburg and Corbin are still with the Nationals but are shells of their own for 2019. Strasbourg shows that this wasn’t just a “keep the player” issue. It was elite in 2019, and now it’s not. Same with Rendon. Therefore, the citizens were getting these high-end offers in 2019 that no longer exist, either due to the player’s departure or rejection.

In other words, the core of the Washington Championship soon became below championship level. Rendón’s immediate defection to the Free Agent and the retreat of Strasbourg and Corbin removed much of the influence from the roster. We hear almost every year that a team that wins the World Championship has the potential to be a breed – rarely true, but we do – because they have a talent for controllable impact. That wasn’t the case with the list that natives out there ran out of in 2019. Age and free agency showed that it was quite clear that their core wouldn’t be together for much longer.

2. Free agent contracts head south

Corbin and Strasbourg combined to score 10.6 WWs in 2019 and this regular season only. It’s been worth less than 2.0 WAR in the three years since. The Nationals won the World Championship in the first year of Corbin’s six-year, $140 million contract, so from a “flags fly forever” perspective, it was well worth it. He’s now the worst starting player in baseball, and if not for a World Series win, Corbin would have been one of the worst free agent signings in modern baseball history. (And he still can.)

Named World Player of the Year in 2019, Strasburg was drawn from four years and $100 million remaining in his contract, then re-signed with the club in a new seven-year deal worth $245 million. It was the richest throwing contract in baseball history at the time. (That went on for about 24 hours because Gerrit Cole signed his nine-year, $324 million contract the next day.) Injuries have tied Strasbourg to eight ineffective starts since signing his new deal, and it’s unclear how far he’ll be able to. contribute to the future. This contract is a complete disaster.

It wasn’t just Corbyn and Strasbourg contracts. The Nationals re-signed Kendrick to a one-year deal worth $6.25 million after the World Championships, and the DH level was an alternate in 2020. They re-signed Daniel Hudson to a two-year deal worth $11 million and earned 54 1/3 mid-ranking quality roles before he was traded Away. Washington gave Will Harris three years and $24 million and he threw 23 2/3 the run in those three years, including none in 2022. Jon Lister, Starlin Castro, Eric Timms, Brad Hand, and even Nelson Cruz this year are free agents Actively hurts the team.

Washington’s best free agent signing since the 2019 World Series is Kyle Schwarber. They gave him one year and $10 million last season, then crushed 25 homers in 72 games before he got hurt and traded away last season. The second-best free agent signing since the 2019 World Series is Josh Harrison, who originally signed with the club on a minor league deal and gave them a .291/.363/.431 slash in 123 games over two seasons. In terms of free proxy success stories, that’s not so much.

Years ago, Ben Lindbergh did the research and found World Championship winners re-sign their free agents at a higher rate than other teams, this is logical. There’s an emotional component to those autographs, plus it can be easy to fall into the “we have the magic formula” trap and think you need to keep the band together. Citizens were no different. They re-signed Strasbourg, Kendrick, Hudson, Anibal Sanchez and others on deals that never worked out. Moreover, other engagements (Harris, Leicester, etc.) are largely counterproductive. Washington’s attempts to complete what was left of their core were very poor.

3. Not enough ‘stealth’ pickups

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Who is Chris Taylor from Washington? Clay Holmes? Is it 35-year-old Paulo Espino and 4.10 ERA in 182 1/3 swing innings in the past three years? The Citizens don’t have the Taylor/Holmes type, and discovering hidden gems is a common theme among the best baseball teams. The best teams build their rosters through every possible means. Draft, trades, free agency, concessions, and steals undervalued players away from other organizations. Citizens are missing this last part.

In the grand scheme of things, these are small pills. The citizens were not far from staying in competition and keeping Soto. It does speak of a bigger problem though. Washington’s R&D department lags behind the elite sports teams. The guide is in the field. Lots of moves don’t work out and you seldom spot surprising difference makers. No hidden pickups are symptoms. The R&D group that is not on par with the best teams in the league is disease.

4. Poor player development

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This is the biggest problem for citizens at the moment. Their farm system simply didn’t produce enough talent to sustain a competitor post-season, and that says something for an organization that pumped out Soto not too long ago. America baseball The Washington Farm System ranked 26th in baseball this spring. They were 30 last year, 28 in 2020, and 24 in 2019. Spend those many years near the bottom of the rankings and you’ll pay a price at some point.

America baseball The Washington System ranked 12th in baseball in 2018, the year before he won the World Series. This is the last time they finished first in the first half of the league. Look at the top five prospects that year:

  1. Victor Robles: The quarterback started on the 2019 World Championship Team, but has been a .217/ .300/ .308 hitter ever since. It seems that Robles no longer has the support of the organization.
  2. For Juan Soto: Incredible player. You can spend a lifetime following the odds and still you may never see your favorite team produce a player of this quality.
  3. RHP Erick Fedde: The previous first round was not selected in the 2019 postseason and has a 5.19 ERA, including a 5.08 ERA in 276 1/3 innings since the title series.
  4. If Carter Kibum: Previous post selection from the first round. Kieboom had a cup of coffee in 2019 and is his career .197/ .304/ .285 hitter in the major leagues. Like Robles, he appears to be unwanted.
  5. LHP Seth Romero: Another pick from the first round. He has thrown 85 2/3 runs in parts of five career seasons and has not played this year due to injury.

Soto is a potential success story that happens once in a generation and has contributed to Robles’ world title. Other than these two, the farm system has produced very little in recent years. Four players on Washington’s active roster originally signed with the team as amateurs and exited through the system: Robles, reserve catcher Tres Parreira, shortstop Luis Garcia, and defensive back Yadiel Hernandez. Garcia, seeded 6th on the 2018 roster, is the only one with a realistic chance of joining Washington’s next rival team.

This is a big problem! Isn’t it at least a bit about exchanging citizens soto for prospects? How confident are you in their ability to get the most out of CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, et al? They’ve done it right with Soto, Turner and Bryce Harper before him, so the Nationals have had success with truly elite talent. Perhaps the men who were greeted at the Soto trade will come out and Washington will be where they want to be in 2-3 years. However, their player development record calls into question.


So where are the citizens headed now that Soto has been traded? Well, they will go to a new owner, we know that very much. The team is for sale and we won’t know the direction of the franchise until it’s sold. Does the new ownership group support a long multi-year rebuilding? They may not have a choice. Do they want to make an effort to compete for an extended post-season spot in 2023? It may sound crazy but it isn’t. Look what the Padres family experienced in 2015. Everything remains a mystery until the new owner takes over.

We know this a lot: Washington has to improve a few things behind the scenes no matter who’s buying the franchise. There are player development and research and development issues that must be addressed to become a consistent competitor in this era of baseball. The Nationals won over 93 games five times in eight games from 2012-19, but what worked then doesn’t necessarily work now. Soto’s trade was an unfortunate – and I would argue an unnecessary step – but it has been accomplished, and now the citizens must begin the process of getting the organization back on track.

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