Nationals throw fans a curveball by trading big-name players


Now that the Summer Olympics are finished, it’s time to check in on what’s happening with the Washington Nationals baseball team.

a baseball player throwing a ball: WASHINGTON, DC — AUGUST 2:  Washington Nationals starting pitcher Josiah Gray (40) makes his debut at Nationals Park against the Philadelphia Phillies August 02, 2021 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post) © Katherine Frey/The Washington Post WASHINGTON, DC — AUGUST 2: Washington Nationals starting pitcher Josiah Gray (40) makes his debut at Nationals Park against the Philadelphia Phillies August 02, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

• Is Max Scherzer still striking batters out?

• Is Trea Turner hitting over .300?

• Is Kyle Schwarber back and slugging home runs?

Whoops! If you have been focused on Olympic gymnastics, swimming and beach volleyball during the past couple of weeks, you may have missed that the Nats traded eight (!) players at the end of July.

Washington traded its best pitcher (Scherzer), all-star shortstop (Turner) and top slugger (Schwarber), as well as three other pitchers, a starting infielder and catcher, for 12 young players from other teams.

None of the new Nats players are big names. In fact, only a couple have played any games in the major leagues. General Manager Mike Rizzo is hoping that some of these young players will improve and bloom into future stars.

One new pitcher, 23-year-old rookie Josiah Gray, looked promising in his first two starts for the Nats, giving up only two earned runs in 10 innings while striking out 12 batters. Gray is scheduled to pitch against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Still, it will take a long time, and a lot of luck, for Gray to become as good as Scherzer.

Max Scherzer in a baseball uniform throwing a ball © Provided by The Washington Post © Provided by The Washington Post

Another newcomer, catcher Keibert (pronounced Kay-ber) Ruiz, is supposed to be a first-class prospect. Now the 23-year-old is playing for the Rochester Red Wings, the Nats’ top minor league team. But Ruiz may be behind the plate at Nationals Park before the season ends.

It’s an exciting time, but it’s tough for fans and especially kids — who may have a Scherzer shirt in their dresser drawer or a Turner poster on their bedroom wall — to say goodbye to their favorite players.

But that is the way things are in professional sports. Players come and go. They retire, are traded or sign with other clubs. Hardly any players stay with the same team for 10 or 15 seasons.

The Nats’ Ryan Zimmerman — 16 seasons and more than 1,760 games — may be one of the rare players who plays his entire career with one team.

Part of the fun about being a fan, however, is learning about the new players. For example, Gray did not pitch much before he went to Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York — hardly a baseball powerhouse. He is a late bloomer who fires fastballs now.

Ruiz, on the other hand, started his professional career at age 16. He is a solid (6 feet, 225 pounds) switch hitter from Venezuela who has been a good hitter at every level of the minor leagues.

The Nats have a lot of new players, and maybe you will have new favorites.

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