Nationals get: SS Kevin Made, LHP D.J. Herz
Cubs get: 3B Jeimer Candelario
Stephen J. Nesbitt: Somehow, the guy non-tendered by the Detroit Tigers (of all teams) and signed by the Washington Nationals as a bargain-bin free agent became likely the best position player moved at this weird trade deadline. And of course he wound up back with the Cubs, his original club, which traded him along with Isaac Paredes for Alex Avila and Justin Wilson exactly six years ago. Time is a flat circle, and so is baseball’s trading deadline.
The Cubs are not content to sit on their laurels and sell, like some of you yahoos expected. No, these Cubs — currently four games out of the division lead — are plugging holes and plunging ahead. And so now they’re raining chaos upon this trade deadline. I applaud it. Candelario, a rental making $5 million this year, is slashing .257/.342/.481 with 16 homers, looking very much like the third baseman who raked in 2020 and 2021, and nothing like the dreadful version of himself that threw up low-600s OPSs in 2019 and 2022. The Cubs don’t need to solve Candelario’s issue of year-over-year Jekyll-and-Hyde transformations. They just need him raking and playing a sound third base for the next couple months. He can do that.
The Nationals, a rebuilding team in the business of throwing a few darts in free agency each offseason, landed a bullseye with Candelario, and they are rewarded with return of the Cubs’ Nos. 14 (Made) and 16 (Herz) prospects, per MLB pipeline. Herz, a 22-year-old left-hander drafted in the eighth round in 2019, is the further along of the two, with a 3.97 ERA in 14 starts at Double A this season. It’s a little underwhelming, considering how well Candelario has swung the bat, but it’s also a reminder that the market for rental bats isn’t nearly as robust as it is for starting pitchers. If Mike Rizzo felt there was a better offer to be had for Candelario, he would have held out for it. As is, it’s a fine swap. The Cubs get better at third base for the stretch run. The Nationals get a couple mid-tier prospects to add to their much-improved farm system.
Britt Ghiroli: This is a weird market, one executive complained on Monday morning. Everyone is out scouting rookie ball. So considering the lack of true impact bats, the Cubs — surprise buyers thanks to a late-July surge — did themselves a favor and got one of the better ones available. The price is two solid prospects but Candelario gives them a power-hitting infield bat capable of playing the corners, and should help deepen the Cubs lineup down the stretch.
Under Mike Rizzo the Nationals have made some excellent trades and this one, on the surface looks like another solid move. For a rental on a non-contending team they were able to add two Cubs top-20 prospects, driving up the price as eight teams were whittled down to two on Monday night: the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees, despite persistent rumors, were never serious suitors. Washington is one of a handful of sellers this year and could also move a reliever and — a longer shot still — outfielder Lane Thomas. They’ve improved their farm system by leaps and bounds at the last two trade deadlines and while this isn’t a blockbuster move it’s solid enough to give the Nats’ system more depth; not bad for two months of Candelario.
(Photo of Candelario: John Jones / USA TODAY)