It’s August 22, and the Washington Nationals are 7.5 games behind the NL East leading Atlanta Braves and two games behind the Philadelphia Phillies, who are in second place. They are six games behind for a wild card spot in the National League and still have 36 games left to play in 2018.
So there’s still hope, right?
When looking at those numbers, you could say there is some hope. They just beat the Phillies to narrow the gap between second and third place in the NL East and they still have another series against both the Phillies and the Braves. It will be tough to make the playoffs, but stranger things have happened.
But even so, it seems as if the Nationals have given up on this season by trading away first baseman Matt Adams to the St. Louis Cardinals and second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Chicago Cubs, the two teams competing for the top spot in the NL Central.
The announcement comes just a few weeks after the Nationals held on to their key players at the trade deadline, saying back then that they, “couldn’t give up on this team.”
Fast forward three weeks, and it looks like Washington’s management has done just that, given up on this team. It’s hard to disagree with that train of thought when they trade away Murphy, a guy averaging .300 in 56 games played this season and .340 since the All-Star break (with 35 hits, 11 runs and five home runs since mid-July). In return they are getting shortstop Wilmer Difo who will take over at second, and will likey provide better defense than he will offense (he’s averaging .240 for the season).
The trades may signal one thing, but the Nationals are still saying something different, and still consider themselves in the race for a spot in the postseason.
General Manager Mike Rizzo said that he still believes, even with the trades, that, “we have the talent base on this team to play competitive games at the end of the season.” Many of the players echoed the same message, reiterating that they haven’t given up on making the playoffs, even if the moves tell a different story.
Fangraphs gives the Nationals a 15.1 percent chance of making the playoffs. Those are not great odds, but they’re not zero, either. But by dealing away players before the end of August, did they just show the rest of the league that they don’t believe enough in themselves?