WASHINGTON — The Nationals’ acquisition last week of lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski is the type of move, as subtle as it may appear, that could pay huge dividends down the stretch and in the postseason.
But they had to give up something up. They chose to deal Max Schrock, a prospect at the Single-A level, to Oakland, sacrificing a piece of their future for a better chance for success now.
Since we already have an idea of what Rzepczynski brings to the table — he’s allowed one run (unearned) and struck out five batters over his first five innings for the Nats — let’s take a look at why Washington was willing to part with Schrock.
Schrock, a 13th-round pick by the Nationals in 2015, is a middle infielder, a position at which Washington already has a logjam at the big league level. Daniel Murphy is signed through 2018, Danny Espinosa has another year of arbitration eligibility before his free agency year after 2017, and Trea Turner still has another two years of team control — after this one — before he even reaches his three arbitration years.
And that doesn’t begin to address the other middle infield prospects — Wilmer Difo for starters — in the Nats’ system. Similar to lineup crunch Steven Souza faced with a crowded Nats outfield in 2015, Shrock would have been blocked for the foreseeable future.
Fans have certainly seen the inverse of this in Washington, too. The Nats were fine with trading Cristian Guzman in 2010, with Ian Desmond waiting in the wings to take on an everyday role.
Still, Schrock showed a ton of promise in his first full season at the Single-A level, hitting .333 with nine home runs and 68 RBI, while also drawing 31 walks in 121 games between Class-A affiliates Hagerstown and Potomac.
Nats GM Mike Rizzo was asked about the trade during his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance with The Sports Junkies on Wednesday.
Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week: How hard was it to trade Max Schrock to Oakland? — Chuck in Springfield
“Oh, every player that you trade is difficult, there’s difficult decisions you make,” Rizzo said. “You know, you really get a really good sense of the player when he’s here. You have a fondness for him. But you’ve got to give to get.”
“We needed a left-handed relief pitcher,” he said. “We wanted a veteran guy that can get our left-handers and right-handers with a track record, playoff savvy and that type of thing. Marc fit all that criteria that we had and we’re blessed to be pretty deep in that position, and when you talk to your evaluators and the minor league guys and the guys who’ve seen this kid for a long time, we felt that this was a reasonable price to pay.”
“And again, it goes back to scouting,” Rizzo said. “This is a guy that we turned into a piece of our championship puzzle for a low-round draft choice, and we polished him up and made him not a prospect enough where we traded him to the Oakland As for Marc Rzepczynski. It’s really a credit to our scouts and our player development to getting these kind of players into the system that you are able to trade those guys for pieces in a pennant race that you need to try and win.”