clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Yankees potential trade partner: Washington Nationals

This rebuilding team is sparse in trade options, but boasts a few under-the-radar candidates.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Seattle Mariners Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

By design, it’s been a rough season in the District of Columbia. The Nationals are 33-48, and their 2019 championship still stands out as one of the great runs of recent history because of how quickly that roster fell apart. Once Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper departed and Stephen Strasburg’s body failed him, and neither Victor Robles nor Carter Kieboom stepped up to fill those voids, their braintrust wasted little time hitting the reset button, trading a combined four years of production from Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, and Juan Soto for a boatload of unproven talent. They’ve been losing ever since, and while they don’t have a whole lot to offer the Yankees in this moment, there do remain a few players who might be useful down the stretch — or beyond.

3B - Jeimer Candelario

Most of the trade-seeking attention on the offensive side of things has focused on the outfield, but there’s a chance for upgrade on the infield side of things too. Brian Cashman isn’t typically one to lose a prospect in the name of getting rid of a contract, but with Washington, who are estimated to finish the season with payroll just over $130 million, there may be an opportunity to shed the last two month’s of Josh Donaldson’s bloated salary — and more importantly, the space he’s occupying on the roster — if they’re willing to give up a minor leaguer (or a number of minor leaguers) good enough to also net them the 29-year-old Candelario in return.

Candelario signed with the Nationals for $5 million last offseason after being non-tendered by the Tigers before his last season of arbitration eligibility, and he’s responded by playing at a 5-WAR pace as the starting third baseman in Washington. He posted a 125 OPS+ and nearly 6 WAR between 2020 and 2021, and led the American League with 41 doubles in the latter year. His offense is above-average rather than great, and his underlying batted ball metrics are even a bit below average, but he’s a switch hitter who’s playing fantastic defense at the hot corner (95th percentile in OAA and UZR). He’s only under contract through the rest of the year, so the cost likely won’t be outrageous. Lineup (im)balance has been an issue for the Yankees in multiple postseasons recently, and getting this done would be as big a step towards addressing that as they’ve ever made.

OF - Lane Thomas

The 27-year-old Thomas, whom Washington acquired from the Cardinals in a deadline Deal for Jon Lester in 2021, is an interesting (if unlikely) under-the-radar outfield option available for the Yankees. He’s enjoyed a substantial breakout in 2023, hitting to a 138 OPS+ and also setting himself on pace for over 5 rWAR, and while defensive metrics have been down on him this year, he graded out positively by UZR and DRS as recently as last year. He would also give the Yankees a much-needed lefty offensive threat to complement Anthony Rizzo, a necessity for October in a time where teams like the Astros are comfortable riding with just one or even no left-handed relievers in a playoff series.

On the other hand, Thomas won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2026 season, which will make him pricey, as he fits the timeline the Nationals have established with CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz, MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, and the soon-arriving James Wood, Brady House, and one of Paul Skenes or Dylan Crew. Batted ball metrics aren’t terribly hot on the sustainability of his first half, either, as he’s been one of the league’s biggest wOBA/xwOBA overperformers, doing so by a full 50 points, though his xwOBA on contact is an excellent .402. It’s not a perfect match, but if Brian Cashman wants to take a big, risky swing, he’s out there.

RPs: Hunter Harvey, Kyle Finnegan

You can never have too many good high-leverage relievers, so if the Yankees do feel like picking up the phone and calling Mike Rizzo, Harvey and Finnegan are the obvious options of interest. The two might be mistaken for each other if you were just looking at their arsenals: They’re both right-handers with high-90s fastballs who work in a splitter as their first secondary pitch, and a slider that they can show to righties exclusively.

Harvey is a former top prospect who’s finally found his health in Washington’s bullpen, already nearing career-highs at 35 appearances and 36.1 innings. Since coming to D.C. in 2022, Harvey has worked to a 2.87 ERA with an excellent 28.6 percent strikeout rate. He’s also signed through 2026. Finnegan, meanwhile, might be the most consistent pitcher in baseball. After jumping onto the scene with a 2.96 ERA in the shortened 2020 season, Finnegan posted nearly identical 3.55 and 3.51 ERAs in 2021 and 2022, in a nearly identical 66 and 66.2 innings. So far this year, he’s on pace to do it for a third year in a row, putting up another 3.51 ERA in 32 appearances and 33 innings of work. He’ll also be a free agent in 2026, and while neither pitcher will cost a fortune, it’ll probably take more than a throwaway lottery ticket to get one, especially in an always-competitive relief market.

That more or less composes the supply of potential trade options in Washington. It doesn’t seem likely that they’ll wind up tying the knot with a deal, but if they do, it’ll probably be pretty interesting.