Minnesota Twins Offseason Trade Partner Profile: Washington Nationals
The 2017-2018 offseason is here for the Minnesota Twins. Who could be their trade partners this offseason?
Now that the Minnesota Twins have entered the offseason, they are looking to improve the roster through trades and through free agent signings. In this series, we’ll look at how the Twins match up with teams in trade scenarios.
We will first cover the team’s 2017 and what they may be looking for this offseason and then look at whether the Twins could be a good fit for a possible trade this offseason. If there’s a fit, we’ll try to put together a feasible trade that would work for both sides. We will go alphabetically through the league, and today we will look at a team that is likely looking at one of the last years of their competitive window in 2018, the Washington Nationals.
While the rest of the National League East didn’t provide much of a fight, the Nationals still had a struggle in 2017 as they seemingly fought injury throughout the season to the lineup (no player played 150 games) and in the pitching staff. In spite of those struggles, the Nationals managed a 97-win season before bowing out in the NLDS.
The 2017 Nationals were led by their dominant front three in their rotation. Max Scherzer won his second straight National League Cy Young award, taking 27 of the 30 first-place votes, as he went 16-6 over 31 starts with 200 2/3 innings, allowing a 2.51 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and posting a 55/268 BB/K ratio.
Gio Gonzalez stepped forward with his best season, making 32 starts and throwing 201 innings, winning 15 games with a 2.96 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and a 79/188 BB/K ratio. When healthy, Stephen Strasburg also threw his best ball, making 28 starts, throwing 175 1/3 innings with a 2.52 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and a 47/204 BB/K ratio.
The bullpen for the Nationals has been a mess for years, and to open the season, it was a similar mess with Blake Treinen, Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Albers all spending some time as the team’s “closer” before mid-season acquisitions brought in three significant additions.
Sean Doolittle was the most significant addition, saving 21 games in his 30 appearances with the Nationals, posting a 2.40 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and a 8/31 BB/K. Brandon Kintzler made 27 appearances with a 1.15 WHIP. Ryan Madson made 20 appearances with a 1.37 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and a 3/28 BB/K over 19 2/3 innings. The trio formed a solid back end to the playoff bullpen.
After a major deal in the offseason that sent away three of their top prospects, the Nationals were crushed to see center fielder and leadoff hitter Adam Eaton go down for the season due to injury after 23 games, especially as he was hitting .297/.393/.462 at the time of his injury.
Michael Taylor stepped up in Eaton’s absence, hitting .271/.320/.486 with 19 home runs and 17 stolen bases, playing quality defense in center. Brian Goodwin also pitched in to fill in for Eaton, playing 74 games, with a .251/.313/.498 line with 13 home runs and 6 stolen bases.
Ryan Zimmerman had a resurgent season, hitting .303/.358/.573 with 36 home runs and driving in 108 runs. His “fill in” when he would get a day off was Adam Lind, the team’s primary pinch hitter as well, who hit .303/.362/.513 in 301 plate appearances with 14 home runs.
Bryce Harper missed 50 games, but when he was on the field, he was dynamic, hitting .319/.413/.595 with 29 home runs.
Shortstop Trea Turner missed nearly half of the season, playing in just 98 games, yet he was able to put up an incredible .284/.338/.451 line with 11 home runs and 46 stolen bases. His double play partner Daniel Murphy challenged for the batting title, hitting .322/.384/.543, leading the league with 43 doubles and hitting 23 home runs.
The real breakout in 2017 was third baseman Anthony Rendon, who had one of the biggest seasons on the team, hitting .301/.403/.533 with 41 doubles, 25 home runs, and 100 RBI. He also walked more than he struck out and added in premium defense.
Possible Trade Interest
Nationals may want: Salary relief, long-term assets. The current Nationals payroll (with assumed arbitration numbers) sits just barely under $180 million, which would eclipse the highest opening day payroll in team history by $15 million. With things still in the air with the team’s long-term finances, they have front-loaded salaries to Scherzer and Strasburg recently, leaving them with a heavy salary burden in 2019.
The team sees a huge chunk of their vital pieces hit free agency after 2018 as Harper, Murphy, and Gio will all be among the top free agents, and Madson will be missed in the bullpen while Wieters is also a free agent. Having the assets to cover losing a player like Wieters or Madson without investing money would be vital to an attempt to re-sign one of the “big three”.
To be fully honest, this is a team match that could be ideal after the 2018 season, but this offseason, the fits aren’t great.
Twins may want: A power bat for the DH position, starting pitching, relief pitching
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With those needs how could the Twins and Nationals match up? Here are three ideas:
Trade proposal #1: Mitch Garver for Pedro Severino and Jackson Tetreault. Garver has been a guy the Twins have enjoyed watching come up in their system, and it would be hard to see him go, but with Jason Castro in house for the next two seasons, there’s not a likely starting job for Garver, whereas he could very well be starting in Washington in 2019.
Severino would bring back the Twins a very quality backup catcher with the profile to have a fairly long career in that role. Tetreault is one of the Nationals’ best picks from the 2017 draft, picked from JuCo in Florida, a 6’5″ righty that still needs to fill into his frame but showed a ton in his first pro exposure.
Trade proposal #2: Nick Gordon for Joe Ross, Raudy Read, and Ben Braymer. The Twins have seen an influx of talented middle infielders, and with the acquisition this offseason of Yunior Severino, they added another young Latin infielder that should move quickly along with Wander Javier. With Royce Lewis likely to move quickly as well and Jermaine Palacios also in the system, Gordon becomes a guy that could be moved for the right package, and it would give the Nationals a guy to take over for Murphy in 2019.
Ross has shown plenty of skills before he went down with Tommy John in mid-2017, so he will miss most (if not all) of 2018 recovering before he’ll be able to likely impact the team’s rotation plans in 2019. Read is an under-the radar catcher that really has a similar profile to Castro with good power and framing skills. Braymer is a college lefty that has shown more in the pros so far than expected when he was drafted out of Auburn.
Next: How offseason deals affect the Twins' plans
Trade proposal #3: Stephen Gonsalves for Wil Crowe, Tres Barrera, and Joan Baez. Gonsalves is knocking on the door of the majors but might not be ready until 2019 to take a sure spot in the rotation, when he could slide into Gio’s rotation spot. The Twins would get back a starter from the 2017 draft in Crowe who was considered a possible top 15 talent in 2016 before TJS, and was a smart pick in 2017 in his first year back. Adding in a quality catcher and a high-velocity (though likely relief) arm would probably be needed to get the Twins to move their prize lefty.