MILWAUKEE — Anthony Rendon has played six organized games this month, his first action since suffering an ankle fracture on April 7 in the second game of his professional career. While he’s technically still on a rehab assignment in the Nationals’ lower levels, Rendon has moved from the GCL Nats to the New York Penn league.
In his last three games, Rendon has hit a home run. He is now 5-for-14 (.357) with a double and three homers since returning to action and Nationals officials have been encouraged by his progress.
As the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, the Nationals have gathered most of their front office in Milwaukee this weekend. That group includes National director of player development Doug Harris and director of minor league operations Mark Scialabba, two of the people with the most intimate knowledge of their minor league system — which provides an important reminder of what the Nationals might be asked to give up in any splashy deadline deal.
The Nationals’ minor league system is filled with players they see a future for. Rendon is atop the list. As is big righty Alex Meyer and 2012 draftee Lucas Giolito. Brian Goodwin, Michael Taylor, Eury Perez, the list goes on. But those are also the type of players other teams are going to come calling for if the Nationals go seeking for something hefty at the deadline.
Want an elite starting pitcher because you’re worried about Stephen Strasburg being shut down? Say ‘Goodbye’ to the Meyer and Goodwin types. (Though those two in particular would have to be ‘Players to be named later’ as they’re un-tradeable until Aug. 15.)
The Nationals are protective of their prospects. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo believes in the importance of a strong farm system and the current major league team is the product of that. With all of the injuries the Nationals have withstood, the primary producers in those voids have been young, homegrown talent. Bryce Harper. Steve Lombardozzi. Tyler Moore.
The Nationals’ minor league system was depleted some by the Gio Gonzalez trade this offseason, reflected in their fall from No. 1 before the trade to No. 12 in Baseball America’s re-rankings during spring training.Their blue chip prospects took a hit.
The fact that Matt Purke, still sidelined with shoulder tendinitis, Sammy Solis, with Tommy John surgery and, until recently Rendon with an ankle injury, have not been available for much of the season has compounded the problem. The addition of Giolito and other members of the 2012 draft class have helped it improve.
Does this mean the Nationals won’t trade any of them? Of course not.
They weren’t exactly dying to give up Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock, Derek Norris and A.J. Cole when they traded for Gonzalez but they saw a value in what they were getting that made it worth the risk.
What they’ll have to decide at the trade deadline is if that type of value exists.