How did the countrymen get here? Four reasons to move from the 2019 champs to the 2022 champs

less than three years ago citizens of Washington He was on top of the baseball world. He completed an impossible run to grab the 2019 World Series Championship after a) 19-31 on 23 May, b) two runs down in the eighth inning of the wild card game, c) two runs down in the eighth inning of the NLDS game . 5, and d) reduced three games to two in the World Series. The citizens of 2019 refused to die.

Fast forward to today and the Citizens are a last-placed club towards their second straight season of at least 95 losses. Since winning the World Series less than three years ago, Washington has a .388 win percentage, a 99-loss pace in a 162-game schedule. Only Pittsburgh Pirates (.372) and Arizona Diamondbacks (.378) has the worst win percentage since the start of the 2020 season.

We haven’t seen a World Series winner crash so hard and so fast since time immemorial Florida Marlins Back in the days of fire sales, and the citizens themselves had fire sales this week. He did what seemed unimaginable a few months ago, and traded Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres for a five-probable package, Soto declined a 15-year, $440 million extension a few weeks ago And it appears to have inspired the team to act.

“He is a player of a generation. He is a wonderful man and a true gentleman of the game. What can you say about Juan Soto that hasn’t already been said?” National GM Mike Rizzo tells after the trade, “… there was no order of whether or not to do business with him. It was business as usual. Ownership gave me the latitude to score a good baseball deal if I thought it was a franchise-changing deal, and Turns out we found 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 at-bats before his 24th birthday, therefore immediately placing him in a special club, and among those 44 players he is second only to Ted Williams. is in fourth place. Williams in OPS+, behind Ty Cobb and Mike Trout. It’s not just a great young player. This is a generation of geniuses doing things that are rarely done.

How do things go so wrong, so quickly that less than three years after winning the World Series, you’re trading a generation of talent and franchise icon with two more seasons of arbitrage-eligibility left? If Soto was coming on free agency, well, I could understand, but he’s attached to the citizens through 2024. The organization must be strict to treat this man’s business as the best possible move.

A team doesn’t fall that far, it’s going to go wrong a lot faster. Here are four reasons to go from National World Series champion to a last-place team (and trade away from Soto) in three years’ time.

1. Too Much Elite Talent Out the Door

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The nations won the 2019 World Series not with depth, but with high-end talent at their best. Soto and Anthony Rendon took offense (Howie Kendrick’s home runs were mixed at some point) and the trio of Max Schaezer, Stephen Strasberg, and Patrick Corbin threw nearly 60 percent of the team’s postseason innings. You’re going to depend on your stars in October, and no champion in recent memory is as dependent on your stars as the 2019 Nationals.

All of that elite talent – ​​or, more accurately, elite performance – is gone. Soto, Scherzer, and Tree Turner were traded and Rendon left as a free agent. Strasbourg and Corbyn are still at the nationals, but have their 2019 shells of their own. Strasbourg shows that it was not just a problem of “playing keeping”. He was elite in 2019, now he is not. Same with Rendon. So, the nations were getting these high-end performances in 2019 that are no longer there, either because the player is gone or has been rejected.

To put it another way, Washington’s championship corps quickly fell short of championship-caliber. Rendon’s immediate free agent defection and the fall of Strasbourg and Corbin removed much of the influence from the roster. Almost every year we hear that the team that wins the World Series has the potential to become a dynasty – this is rarely true, but we hear it – because they have controllable impact talents. This was not the case with the roster of nations in 2019. Age and free agency made it clear that their core together wasn’t going to last long.

2. Free Agent Contracts Going South

Corbyn and Strasbourg combined posted 10.6 wars in 2019 and this is the regular season only. They’ve been worth a zero to 2.0 war in three years. The Nationals won the World Series in Year 1 of Corbyn’s six-year $140 million contract, so from a “flags fly forever” perspective, it was well worth it. He is now the worst starting pitcher in baseball, and if not for that World Series win, Corbin would go down as one of the worst free agent signings in recent baseball history. (And he still could be.)

Strasbourg was named World Series MVP in 2019, with four years and $100 million remaining on his contract, then re-signed a new seven-year, $245 million deal with the club. It was the richest pitching contract in baseball history at the time. (It lasted about 24 hours since Gerrit Cole signed his nine-year contract, $324 million the very next day.) Injuries have limited Strasbourg to eight ineffective starts since signing his new deal, And it is not clear how much he will be able to contribute in the future. That contract is a total disaster.

It’s not just the Corbyn and Strasbourg contracts that went south as well. The Nationals re-signed Kendrick for a year, a $6.25 million deal after the World Series and he was a replacement level DH in 2020. He re-signed Daniel Hudson to a two-year, $11 million deal and received 54 1/3. Middle reliever quality shift before trading him away. Washington gave Will Harris three years and $24 million, and he threw 23 2/3 innings in those three years, including none in 2022. John Lester, Starlin Castro, Eric Thames, Brad Hand, and even Nelson Cruz are signing free agents this year. Actively hurt the team.

One mile, Kyle Schwarber, Washington’s best free agent signing since the 2019 World Series. They gave him a year and $10 million last season, then traded him in 72 games before hitting 25 homers and last season. His second best free agent signing since the 2019 World Series is Josh Harrison, who originally signed with the club on a minor league deal that saw him slash .291/.363/.431 in 123 games over two seasons. Line given. As far as free agent success stories go, that’s not much.

Years ago, Ben Lindbergh researched and found World Series winners re-sign their own free agents at a higher rate than other teams, and it is understandable. There’s an emotional component to those signs, plus it can be easy to fall into the “we have the magic formula” trap and feel like you need to keep the band together. Citizens were no different. He re-signed Strasbourg, Kendrick, Hudson, Annibal Sanchez and others which didn’t work out at all. And on top of that his other signatures (Harris, Lester, etc.) are largely inverted. Washington’s efforts to supplement what was left at his core worked very poorly.

3. Not Enough ‘Stealth’ Pickup

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Who is Chris Taylor of Washington? Their Clay Homes? Is it Paolo Espino, 35, and his 4.10 ERA in 182 1/3 swingman innings over the past three years? The Nationals don’t have the Taylor/Holmes type and finding hidden gems is a common theme among baseball’s best teams. The best teams build their roster in every way possible. Draft, trade, free agency, rebate, and piracy of undeclared players from other organizations. Nationals are missing that last part.

In the grand scheme of things, these are little beans. One or two stealth pickups weren’t far from being in civil dispute and keeping Soto. However this speaks of a bigger problem. Washington’s research and development department lags behind the sport’s elite teams. The evidence is on the field. Too many tricks aren’t working and they often dig up surprising gap-makers. There is no stealth pickup symptom. An R&D group that doesn’t equal the best of the league is sick.

4. Poor Player Development

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This is the biggest problem for the countrymen right now. His farming system simply hasn’t produced enough talent to sustain a postseason contender, and that’s saying something for an organization that pumped out Soto not long ago. baseball america Washington’s agricultural system was ranked 26th in baseball this spring. They were ranked 30th last year, 28th in 2020 and 24th in 2019. Be at the bottom of the rankings for so many years and you will have to pay the price at some point.

baseball america Ranked Washington’s system 12th in baseball in 2018, a year before winning the World Series. This is the last time they have finished in the top half of the league. Check out their top five prospects that year,

  1. Of Victor Robles: Starting center fielder on the 2019 World Series team, but has since hit .217/.300/.308. Robles seems to have fallen out of favor with the organization.
  2. Of Juan Soto: Incredible player. You can spend your whole life chasing the possibilities and yet you might never see your favorite team making such a good player.
  3. RHP Eric Fedde: The former first-round pick did not pitch in the 2019 postseason and has a career 5.19 ERA including 5.08 ERA in 276 1/3 innings since the Word Series title.
  4. If Carter Keyboom: Another former first round pick. Keeboom had a cup of coffee in 2019 and has a career of .197/.304/.285 hitters in the big leagues. Like Robles, he appears to be out of favor.
  5. LHP Seth Romero: Yet another first round pick. He has made 85 2/3 innings in parts of five professional seasons and has not pitched this year due to injury.

Soto has been a success story from generation to generation and Robles contributed to the World Series title. Other than those two, the agricultural system has produced little in recent years. Four players on Washington’s active roster originally signed with the team as amateurs and came through the system: Robles, backup catcher Tres Barrera, shortstop Luis García and outfielder Yadil Hernández. Garcia, number 6 on that 2018 list, is the only person with a real chance of being on Washington’s next competitive team.

This is a big problem! And doesn’t this pertain to citizens doing soto business, at least for prospects? How confident are you that they can get the most out of CJ Abrams, Mackenzie Gore, et al? They fixed it with Soto, and Turner and Bryce Harper, so the Nationals have really had success with elite talent. Maybe the people they met in the Soto business will drop out and Washington will be where they want to be in 2-3 years. That said, his player development track record warrants doubt.

So where do citizens go now that Soto has been traded? Well, they’re moving on to a new owner, that much we know. The team is for sale and we won’t know the direction of the franchise until they are sold. Does the new ownership group support a long multi-year rebuild? They may not have a choice. Do they want to try to fight for an expanded postseason spot in 2023? This may sound crazy but it is not. See what the Padres tried in 2015. Everything is a mystery until the new owner takes over.

That’s all we know: Washington must improve some things behind the scenes, no matter who buys the franchise. Player development and R&D are issues that must be addressed in order to be a consistent contender in this age of baseball. The Nationals won more than 93 games five times in an eight-game span from 2012–19, but what worked at that time no longer works. The Soto trade was an unfortunate – and I would argue unnecessary move – but what has been done has been done, and now citizens must begin the process of getting the organization back on track.

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