Amidst a small firesale that started with the trade of Daniel Murphy to the Cubs, the Nationals have also traded Matt Adams to the Cardinals, the organization on which he spent the first five years of his career. The Nats parted with the soon to be free agent for only cash considerations.
Nothing can top the Nationals’ disastrous 2015 season, but 2018 is at least in the conversation. They were the consensus pick to win the NL East, but they are currently a game below .500 and are 7.5 games behind the Braves for the division, and 6.5 games out of a Wild Card slot. FanGraphs gave them an 89 percent chance to win the division in March. That number is now down to 12 percent. As competitive as the NL playoff picture is, the Nats’ season appears to be over.
As for the Cardinals, the future for their 2018 season certainly looks brighter than that of the Nationals. They currently only have a 43 percent chance to make the playoffs, but they are in a virtual three-way tie with the Rockies and Phillies for the last Wild Card slot, and only half a game behind the Brewers for the first slot. The Dodgers are just two games behind them. As I said before, the NL playoff race is highly competitive. There is only a month and a half left in the season, and Matt Adams is not exactly a star, but every little bit helps when the window is this tight.
Adams is hitting well this season with a line of .257/.332/.510, good for a 123 wRC+. He is the classic low-OBP, high-SLG guy. Unfortunately, he has other drawbacks as well. He has large platoon splits as a hitter who crushes righties but can’t hit lefties. He has made spot starts in the outfield, but in reality he is first base only, and his defense there is average at best. He can provide good PAs against left-handed pitching, but not much else.
Adams is a strange fit for the Cardinals. The guy who has been getting the bulk of the playing time at first base since July is MVP candidate Matt Carpenter. Adams should only be starting against right-handed pitchers and should be kept out of the outfield, so on those days he can start at first base while Carpenter can slide over to third. This leaves Jedd Gyorko as the odd man out. It can work since he hits right handed. He is an overall above-average hitter, but not against righties.
An Adams/Gyorko platoon could be worth an extra win at best over the last quarter of the season. In such a highly contested playoff race, that could make all the difference in the world. At the cost of only “cash considerations” he is basically free, anyway. As for the Nats, it is sad to see them throw in the towel in what should have been such a promising season, but selling off what they can now was the right decision to make.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.