Aside from being traded by the Nats, Steven Souza Jr. and Ross Detwiler have something else in common. If they were to enter Spring Training with the Nats they’d both be in competition for small roles on the main roster. Detwiler would’ve competed with Blake Treinen, Taylor Hill, and Taylor Jordan to be the long reliever/swing man and Steven Souza would’ve been in a competition for a bench spot. The Texas Rangers traded for Detwiler in order to get a starting pitcher and the Rays view Steven Souza as one of their everyday outfielders. Roles they weren’t going to have on the Nats and roles that wouldn’t have brought much in return in a trade. So before they earned those roles the Nats traded them to teams that viewed them as more.
Steven Souza netted the Nats the most in return bringing back Joe Ross and Trea Turner. You can go read NatsGM.com for more information on the return for Steven Souza, but the main point is the Nats traded a 26 year old late bloomer for a couple of former first round picks with a chance to be special. For the Rays Steven Souza makes a lot of sense. He has five tool potential and because he is 26 years old the Rays have him under control for all the seasons of his prime. Older minor league players have become an undervalued commodity. The exact type of thing the Rays would covet.
From the Nats' perspective, they had two pieces that weren’t going to help them much now or even in the future. Souza wouldn’t have been a full time starter on the Nats until Werth were gone and that won’t be for another three seasons. By that time another prospect would’ve risen through the ranks and surpassed Souza on the depth chart or the Nats used some of the money from not resigning some combination of their free agents to be to bring in Justin Upton or Jason Heyward. The names aren’t so important as the fact that a lot can happen in three seasons and Souza’s place with the Nationals was not guaranteed.
Both the Detwiler and Souza deals bolster an already strong farm system that hasn’t graduated any top prospects since Anthony Rendon made his major league debut and unless either Span, Zimmermann, or Fister gets traded before the season starts or significantly hurt during the season the farm system will once again lose no one to the major leagues, and with the chance to have six first round picks in the 2016 draft the farm could be the key to the Nats staying atop the NL East.
That doesn’t mean that Michael Taylor, Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner, and A.J. Cole have to step in and instantly replace Span, Zimmermann, Desmond, and Fister. As seen by the Gio Gonzalez trade and the Doug Fister trade there are other ways in which talent can be added using the farm system. Prospects can be used as a currency to acquire already established major league talent, and the Nats stand to have as much of that currency as anyone and if they do end up with six first round draft picks in 2016 they can almost instantly replenish that talent.
There are multiple ways to bolster a roster and with this off-season so far focused on building up the farm system it’s safe to say that it is the key to the Nationals future acquisition of talent whether it if via promotion from the farm system or through the trading of prospects for established MLB talent.