With the trade deadline looming on Thursday and a tight race for the division, the Nationals needed to make some noise in the trade market. While the Nationals have a relatively deep roster, they had serious needs at second and third base. Ryan Zimmerman is out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, forcing Anthony Rendon to replace him at third, and Danny Espinosa was struggling offensively despite his stellar defensive play.
Still, throughout the majority of July, the Nationals front office remained quiet. There was some rumors of trading for Rangers’ Adrian Beltre but that request was quickly denied.
The Nationals were major league procrastinators though, and waited until July 31st to finally make their move. On deadline day, the Nationals traded infield prospect Zach Walters (AAA) to Cleveland for Indians second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera.
On a day where David Price was dealt to the Tigers and Yoenis Cespedes moved coasts, the Nationals trade seemed to to be much smaller in scale. Cabrera, a two time All-Star, was batting a meager .246 with just nine home runs and 40 RBIs for the Indians. He also was playing shortstop for the Indians and had not played second base for the team since 2008.
That being said, the trade did make a splash in the Nationals organization and was exactly what the Nationals needed. A strong, consistent second baseman is what the Nationals need to continually fight for a playoff spot and hold off the Atlanta Braves in the race for the NL East. Cabrera is expected to take over that role for the remainder of the season, and the Nationals are confident he will be able to succeed. Nationals defensive coordinator, Mark Weidemaier, believes Cabrera can be one of the best second baseman in the game and get back to his All-Star numbers.
Like all other teams in Major League Baseball, only time will tell if the Nationals trade will actually pay off. Cabrera will face several struggles. Other than the challenge of switching from shortstop to second, Cabrera also has to make the adjustment from the American League to the National League. Still, for now it is safe to say that the Nationals trade was smart and, overall, beneficial for the team. Even if his decline continues, Cabrera is still a better offensive second baseman than Espinosa. He also has the support of his new team and a real shot at making the playoffs.
After beating the Phillies on Sunday, the Nationals hold a 3 game lead over the Braves in the NL East. Thanks to Cabrera, that lead could grow even larger. So yes, the Nationals were winners in the trading game, and their first place status could last well into the late summer, early fall months.