To add some objectivity and narrow the scope, we used each player’s wins above replacement (via FanGraphs) with the acquiring team after the transaction to find those who helped the Nationals the most post-trade. Disagree with any of the top choices? Leave your feedback in the comments.
Dec. 23, 2011: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with Robert Gilliam to the Washington Nationals for A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris and Brad Peacock
23.5 wins above replacement with the Nationals
One year after Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke invoked his no-trade clause to block a deal with the Nationals and two weeks after free agent target Mark Buehrle signed with the Miami Marlins, Washington finally acquired a dependable starter to complement Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.
“I’m definitely the type of guy, I don’t want to let you down,” Gonzalez said after signing a contract extension through the 2016 season with team options for 2017 and 2018 following the trade. “I will do anything and everything I can to make sure you got exactly what you wanted. And I love the pressure situations. Give me the baseball.”
Gonzalez was a key part of the Nationals’ transition to yearly contender and landed on the disabled list only once in seven seasons. He wasn’t at his best when Washington gave him the ball in the postseason, going winless with a 4.78 ERA in six playoff starts, including a pair of Game 5s that the Nationals lost.
Key stat: Among pitchers, only Strasburg (36.7) and Max Scherzer (32.6) have produced more wins above replacement for the franchise.
Trea Turner and Joe Ross
Dec. 19, 2014: The San Diego Padres sent a player to be named later and Joe Ross to the Nationals
June 14, 2015: The San Diego Padres sent Trea Turner to the Nationals to complete the deal
19.0 wins above replacement combined with the Nationals
General Manager Mike Rizzo and the Nationals got creative at the 2014 winter meetings to pull off the trade that brought them their speedy starting shortstop. Major League Baseball rules prohibited a player from being traded in the first year after he signed his first professional contract, so the Nationals and Padres agreed to make Turner a “player to be named later” in the deal that also sent Steven Souza from the Nationals to the Tampa Bay Rays and Wil Myers from the Rays to the Padres.
A trade involving a PTBNL must close within six months, and in this case, six months from Dec. 17 was just enough time to pass the first anniversary of the day Turner signed his first contract. On June 14, 2015, Turner officially joined the Nationals organization after playing the first 58 games of the minor league season with San Diego’s Class AA affiliate.
Eventually, the deal for Ross and Turner, who are under team control through 2021 and 2022, respectively, will rival that of Gonzalez. Ross is expected to add 1.7 more wins above replacement in a Nationals uniform. Turner is expected to produce 10.5 wins above replacement over the next three years, pushing his career total to 24.8 for Washington.
Key stat: Turner’s average sprint speed in 2019 (30.4 feet per second) was the second fastest in the majors. No one had more “bolts” (122 runs faster than 30 feet per second). In fact, Turner had almost twice as many “bolts” as the Kansas City Royals’ Adalberto Mondesi (68), who was second on the leader board.
July 30, 2010: Traded by the Texas Rangers with Ryan Tatusko to the Nationals for Cristian Guzman
12.9 wins above replacement with the Nationals
“Two young, good AA prospects that will help our inventory,” Rizzo said after Roark and Tatusko were acquired for Guzman, the last remaining player from the 2005 Nationals.
Roark provided more than depth for Washington’s system. The right-hander went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA as a rookie in 2013 while splitting time as a starter and reliever. The following year, he won 15 games with a 2.85 ERA as a full-time starter. Roark was used primarily as a reliever in 2015 after Washington signed Scherzer, but he re-emerged as a starter from 2016 to 2018 with up-and-down results.
“Life’s too short to hold grudges,” Roark said after being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in December 2018. “But [shuffling between starting and relieving] is what they wanted to do. If they can live with it, then they live with it.”
Key stat: During his time in Washington, batters scored 46 fewer runs than expected against Roark after taking into account the outs left in the inning and men on base at the time of each at-bat.
July 29, 2010: Traded by the Minnesota Twins with Joe Testa to the Nationals for Matt Capps
11.3 wins above replacement with the Nationals
The Nationals’ trade for Roark was overshadowed by the one for Ramos a day earlier.
“We feel like he’s major league ready,” Rizzo said of the catcher, who was playing for Minnesota’s Class AAA affiliate.
Ramos appeared in 113 games for the Nationals the following year and finished fourth in National League rookie of the year voting. “The Buffalo” battled injuries throughout his time in Washington. He was in the midst of his best season in 2016, which included his first All-Star Game selection, when he tore his ACL just before the playoffs. Ramos signed a two-year deal with the Rays that offseason.
Key stat: Ramos produced more wins above replacement for the Nationals than all of the other catchers in franchise history.
Nationals, 2005 to 2019
All other catchers
Nov. 29, 2012: Traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Nationals for Alex Meyer
9.0 wins above replacement with the Nationals
Before acquiring Span, the Nationals had started 32 players in center field since 2005.
“I think he’s going to bring a dimension to the club that we haven’t had before,” Rizzo said. “His skill set is something we were looking for, something we’ve been looking for, for a couple years. He’s a front-line defensive center fielder. He’s a consummate leadoff-type of hitter.”
A core muscle injury and hip surgery limited Span to 61 games in 2015, his final season in the District, but he started 289 games in his first two years with the Nationals and led the league in hits in 2014. Meanwhile, injuries derailed Meyer’s career, and he retired in 2019 after making only 22 appearances in the big leagues.
Key stat: From 2005 to 2019, Washington had eight players see at least 500 plate appearances as the leadoff hitter. None had a better walk-to-strikeout ratio than Span (117 to 163) when batting first.
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