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Nationals trade Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison and Jon Lester to cap off fire sale

Catcher Yan Gomes has been traded to the Oakland Athletics. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

When Mike Rizzo raised the possibility of selling at the trade deadline, way back in the distant past of July 20, he promised to go all-in on whatever direction the Washington Nationals chose. And then he very much did.

Just before MLB’s 4 p.m. deadline on Friday, Rizzo and the Nationals completed a full sell-off by trading catcher Yan Gomes and infielder Josh Harrison to the Oakland Athletics, then shipping starter Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals. In all, in less than 30 hours, they dealt Gomes, Harrison, Lester, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand and Daniel Hudson for 12 players, improving their thin farm system and punting on an injury-filled season.

“We got everything out of this group that we could have … and we reached the highest levels,” Rizzo said Friday afternoon, once the deadline had officially passed. “For 10 straight years, we competed with the best and brightest in all of baseball. We were as good as anybody in the game; we won four division titles; we’ve been in the playoffs five times; we won a World Series with this group. And there’s no shame in having to take a step back, refocus, reboot and start the process again.

“And that’s what we’re preparing to do. We felt looking at our talent base in the big leagues, after the covid situations, the injury situations and the performance on the field, that it was time.”

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The return for Gomes and Harrison was catcher Drew Millas and a pair of right-handed pitchers: Seth Shuman and Richard Guasch. Scherzer and Turner went to the Los Angeles for catcher Keibert Ruiz, right-handed pitchers Josiah Gray and Gerardo Carrillo, and outfielder Donovan Casey. Schwarber went to the Boston Red Sox for right-handed pitcher Aldo Ramirez, and Lester to the Cardinals for outfielder Lane Thomas. Hudson went to the San Diego Padres for right-handed pitcher Mason Thompson and shortstop Jordy Barley. And Hand went to the Toronto Blue Jays for catcher Riley Adams.

Thomas, 25, has the most major league experience of the group, appearing in 84 games across three years in St. Louis. All three prospects from the Athletics were in high Class A before joining Washington. And while the Nationals stripped their roster bare — a process that will be tough for any fan to swallow — they flipped seven rentals for what they hope are pieces of their future.

Scherzer, Hudson, Hand, Schwarber, Gomes, Harrison and Lester were either on one-year deals or in the final season of a longer contract. Turner was the outlier, a 28-year-old star still more than a year from free agency. But Rizzo saw a chance to build, to look beyond, and jumped.

The trades addressed a dearth of strong catchers in the Nationals’ system. Ruiz, the prize of the haul, is 23 and at the top of most prospect lists. He could be close to debuting with Washington, according to Rizzo. So could Gray, the 23-year-old righty from Los Angeles, who already pitched twice for the Dodgers in 2021. Adams, a tall catcher with potential power, is headed to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. Millas, the third add at the position, is a plus defender who was having a strong offensive season with the Class A Lansing Lugnuts.

There are young pitchers, too, which is typical for Washington, including the hard-throwing Thompson and Ramirez, a high-upside 20-year-old from Mexico. And there was room for both excitement and sadness inside the organization Friday, as one chapter slammed closed and the next began. Each feeling was found in Dave Martinez’s voice.

“It’s been tough to say goodbye to everybody,” said Martinez, the Nationals’ manager, speaking low with tears in his eyes. “But these guys all have a special place … not only here for the city of Washington and the Nationals fans but definitely a special place in my heart.”

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