National Business Ehire Adrianza – The Washington Post


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Opinion

Easing their approach to the trade deadline, the Washington Nationals traded utility man Ehire Adrianza to the Atlanta Braves for 26-year-old outfielder Trey Harris on Monday. When the deal was announced by both clubs, they had 30 hours left to offer a sell-out for the second year in a row. Finding a landing spot for Adrianza — and getting a low-risk, low-value player in the process — was an early win on the fringes.

Adrianza, 32, signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Nationals in March. He spent 2021 with the Braves, playing six positions in their winning season. With Washington, he spent the rest of the year recovering from a quad injury suffered at the end of spring training. He appeared in 31 games and had a .179 batting average, .255 on-base percentage and .202 slugging percentage in 94 plate appearances. He’s started recently, mostly at third base for Mikel Franco, probably the last spot the Nationals wanted to show him before Tuesday’s deadline.

“I wish I had seen him here a lot because I know what kind of player he is,” manager Dave Martinez said Monday afternoon. “He’s started off slow, and I believe that’s because he’s injured. He had a bad quad injury, and couldn’t really walk. But I would love to meet him.

To replace Adrianza on active duty and on the 40-man roster, the Nationals recalled infielder Ildemaro Vargas from Class AAA Rochester. The 31-year-old Vargas is a smooth defender and an easy bat on both sides of the plate. He has been with four major league teams and had a brief stint with the Chicago Cubs in May. To clear room for Adrianza, the Braves designated Robinson Cannon for assignment.

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With the exception of Juan Soto, and Adrianza returning to Atlanta, Washington could still move Josh Bell, Nelson Cruz, Carl Edwards Jr., Steve Cishek and Kyle Finnegan before Tuesday’s 6 p.m. And since the Adrianza was a somewhat surprising trade chip, it’s important to remember that it’s hard to know exactly what competitors will need before a stretch run. In that sense, Monday’s swap felt similar to when the Nationals sent left-hander Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2021 for outfielder Lane Thomas.

The Washington Nationals may be looking to trade star shortstop Juan Soto after rejecting his 15-year, $440 million contract extension. (Video: Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

Harris hasn’t played above Class AA, meaning he’s behind Thomas when he arrived in Washington — and he’s been under team control for six seasons since the service clock started ticking. In general, however, a deep arm is more valuable than a light-hitting utility player.

Analogous to the last chance to acquire players from other clubs, the Braves have a different role for Adrianza and see if he is limited in Harris. Although general manager Mike Rizzo chose not to move players in the National League East, that made them good business partners with the Nationals.

For the past two seasons, Harris has been with Class AA Mississippi. And starting in 2019, the right-handed hitter tried to regain the Hank Aaron Award, given to the best offensive player in Atlanta’s system.

That year, Harris posted a .323 batting average, .389 on-base percentage and .498 slugging percentage with three walks, 14 homers and 26 doubles. But the full-time jump to Class AA proved difficult: Harris had a .238/.338/.323 slash line in 220 plate appearances this season.

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His average and slugging percentage are markedly lower than where they finished last year. His on-base percentage is a few ticks higher. In the year A 32nd-round draft pick out of Missouri in 2018, Harris has played all three outfield positions, his fair share of looks. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the Braves’ 29th-best prospect.

As Nationals director of player development DeJohn Watson pointed out recently, the organization is short on bats and overall talent in Class AA. A thin, top-heavy system is highlighted by a pitcher at Class AAA Rochester and a handful of bats in the lower ranks. And while the gap will likely close as Brady House, Jeremy De La Rosa and TJ White and others step forward, in the meantime, there’s no harm in taking a flyer on a fighter like Harris.

The costs were minimal. The next step for nationals is to see how much you can get such deals.

“This is a first,” Martinez said. “Who knows what will happen in the next 48 hours?”

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