Coming up is Jim Bowden's fourth trade deadline as the Nationals general manager and he's been relatively active in two of his first three deadlines with the organization.
July 13, 2005 - Acquired Preston Wilson from Colorado for Zach Day, J.J. Davis and cash.
Clearly, the biggest name in the deal was Preston Wilson, but at the time, Zach Day was thought of as a decent prospect. While Day had suffered through some injuries, he had very respectable numbers coming into the 2005 season, going 18-19 with a 4.01 ERA in three seasons. However, in 2007, he was struggling badly and the popular theory at the time was that he needed a change of scenery - at least that was their story and they were sticking to it - even though his ERA had ballooned to 6.75 through the first-half of the season. J.J. Davis had been acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Antonio Sucre the previous November and was thought to be a decent, if not above average outfield prospect.
At the time of the deal, the Nationals (52-37) were leading the division by 2.5 games, but had lost five-of-seven going into the All-Star Break, shrinking what was at one time a 5.5 game lead in the NL East. Bowden was sniffing the playoffs, which would have been huge for the franchise as they settled into Washington. They needed a bat and Wilson was available, so Bowden pulled the trigger. While Wilson wasn't a huge bat, he was someone looked at as able to provide more offense for the Nationals and they hoped to build on his .258 average that he had posted with the Rockies. He went into the break with 15 home runs, but what Bowden downplayed was the fact that 10 of those home runs had come in the rarified air of Coors Field. RFK Stadium must have looked like the Grand Canyon compared to Coors and while Wilson finished the season with 25 home runs overall, just three of them came at Coors and his average went up just slightly to .261 with the Nationals over the rest of the season.
After the deal, Zack Day went on to suffer more injuries and was released by the Rockies the following April, only to be claimed on waivers by the Nationals. Day was last seen pitching for the Minnesota Twins organization in the Florida State League. House never did accomplish much and isn't playing with an affiliated team this season. As for Wilson, he didn't stick around long, choosing to file for free agency and sign with the Houston Astros after the 2005 season. Wilson clearly was the best player in the deal, but didn't give the Nationals much and they finished the season at 81-81, good enough for just fifth in the NL East (yes, there are only five teams). The good news is that the deal also didn't cost the National much and was likely worth the shot that Bowden took to try to win the division.
If there were whispers that Zach Day was damaged goods when Bowden dealt him to Colorado, then there were screams that Majewski was damaged when Bowden sent him to Cincinnati. In fact, Bowden knew that Majewski had taken cortisone shots just before the deal; the Reds filed a grievance, but as with most grievance's it fell mostly on deaf ears and Bowden and the Nationals basically escaped unscathed from the episode. Of course, it didn't help the Reds that Wagner turned up lame not long after the deal and there were whispers that Reds GM Wayne Krivsky suspected physical problems with him at the time of the deal, too.
When Bowden made this deal, exactly one year after the Preston Wilson trade, his team was the exact opposite of what they were a year before. Instead of leading the division, they were last and instead of being 15 games over .500, they were 14 games under .500 (38-52). Of course, they were still looking for offense and hoped that Kearns and Lopez would provide some much needed offensive help and that Wagner could become a quality late-inning reliever and possibly even a closer for them down the road. Wagner hasn't given the Nationals anything of value and is now rehabbing and working his way back up the ladder in the Nationals organization. Majewski threw just 15 innings for the Reds in 2006 before landing on the DL and he hasn't been the same pitcher since. He started the 2008 season at Triple-A and has since been recalled, but has a 4.67 ERA in 14 games with the Reds this season. Thompson reached the majors with Cincinnati this season, but struggled in three games and was sent back to Triple-A where he's pitching well for Cincinnati. While Bray had put up horrible numbers with the Reds last season, he too has responded and is a serviceable reliever for Cincinnati going 2-1, 2.59 as a left-handed specialist. Clayton finished the 2006 season in Cincinnati, but then left via free agency to sign with Toronto, before they released him last August. In January of 2007, Cincinnati dealt Harris to Tampa Bay and he has since wound up with the Minnesota Twins.
Kearns hasn't given the Nationals exactly what they had hoped for offensively and has spent some time on the DL. In his time in Washington, Kearns is just a .254 hitter with 21 home runs in 786 at bats. Lopez has been steady, but offensively, he too hasn't been the player that the Nationals had hoped for (.244 in 245 games).
In their annual search for offense - and a lot of other missing parts - neither Kearns nor Lopez have become answers. Both could be dealt at this deadline, especially since Lopez is being actively shopped. With the continued development of Thompson and Bray and the potential return to form for Majewski, the Reds appear to have gotten the better end of this deal, even though they were the ones complaining the loudest about the trade when they discovered Majewski's physical condition.
July 14, 2006 - Accepts former Rule 5 pick Chris Booker back from Kansas City.
Poor Chris Booker had been bouncing around for months. The Tigers took him in the Rule 5 Draft in December, only to deal him to Philadelphia. From there, he wound up in Kansas City and was then placed on waivers only to return to the Washington Nationals when nobody claimed him. It wasn't a major move and technically wasn't a trade, but it was done in July, so we're counting it among Bowden's deadline moves. Bottom line? It didn't hurt and it didn't help.
Since Martis is so young - he turned 21 in March - this deal still has plenty of time to play out, but it looks like a potential steal for the Nationals. Martis started the season at Double-A and went 4-4, 3.98 in 14 starts to earn a promotion to Triple-A Columbus, where he may be 0-2, but his 3.60 ERA in five starts is impressive. The young right-hander will stick with Columbus through the end of the month before heading off to pitch for the Netherlands in the Olympics (as will another Nationals prospect Yurendell de Caster). He looks like he could be a nice pick up for the Nationals, who certainly didn't miss Stanton on a team that wasn't going to go anywhere in the NL East in 2006. The Giants thought Stanton would be a good enough addition to solidify their bullpen for a stretch run, which was somewhat optimistic on the part of Giants GM Brian Sabean, since his team was just 51-51 and in third place in the NL West when he made the deal (they wound up 76-85 and in third place at the end of the season.)
Overall, Bowden has done pretty well with his July trades. That rating could climb if Martis turns out to be as good as he has shown and we could see him challenging for a spot in the starting rotation as early as next Spring with the numbers that he's put up this season. He'll have to be pretty good to make up for the slight losses in the deal with Cincinnati, but perhaps we'll see some new arrivals from that deal this July if Kearns and/or Lopez are dealt elsewhere.