While I reserve that the Washington Nationals have made good moves in their recent trades, the minor league prospects that they gave up matter more to the organization than many people may think. While the Nationals ultimately come out looking like winners, they still took on some risk in the players that they put on planes to Detroit and Oakland.
A couple of weeks ago, the Nationals cut a deal with the Detroit Tigers to send them Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi and minor leaguer Robbie Ray in exchange for starting pitcher Doug Fister. This past Wednesday, Mike Rizzo put together a package with Oakland Athletics GM Billy Bean to acquire left-handed pitcher Jerry Blevins in exchange for minor leaguer Billy Burns.
While Krol and Lombardozzi will be missed, it’s the loss of Burns and Ray that will hurt the Nationals more.
Let’s take a look at Ray. In 27 starts across single-A and double-A in 2013, he finished with an 11-5 record and 3.36 ERA. He struck out 160 batters while walking just 62, and held an impressive 10 K/9. He was widely regarded as one of the up-and-coming pitchers in the organization. Furthermore, he’s a lefty and that’s something Nationals lack throughout the entire system.
In deal number two, you’ll find the official fastest man in minor league baseball, Billy Burns. Along with that title, Burns was also named the Nationals minor leaguer of the year in 2013. It’s hard to argue with his numbers. The outfielder stole 74 bases while getting caught just seven times. He also batted .315 with a .425 on-base percentage across single-A and double-A. Burns, along with Ray, was becoming a star in the system.
With the new aggressive mindset that manager Matt Williams is wanting to put in place, Burns seems like a perfect fit. He’s got blazing speed (I’d love to see him and Bryce Harper run a race) and he loves to be aggressive on the bags. The lack of left-handers in the Nationals organization make Ray a hot commodity as well.
While the Nationals have certainly bettered their team, the players that they gave up weren’t just “nobodies” floundering around in the minor league system. Both Ray and Burns will become future stars in MLB. Unfortunately for Washington, it won’t be with the Nationals. Washington has taken a bit of a risk in trading away players with such high potential.