The Nationals knew they couldn’t stick with a six-man bullpen for long. They just needed to figure out how to clear a roster spot to address that need.
They found a way today, trading outfielder Brian Goodwin to the Royals for minor league pitcher Jacob Condra-Bogan, then recalling left-hander Sammy Solís from Triple-A Syracuse to give themselves a full relief corps again.
Goodwin, a member of the Nationals since they used a first-round pick on him in 2011 and a key member of last season’s roster, had fallen down the organizational outfield depth chart the last two months and was barely getting playing time behind Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Juan Soto and Michael A. Taylor.
The Nats hung onto the 27-year-old, who was out of minor league options, but once Ryan Zimmerman was activated off the disabled list Friday they knew they were going to have to drop someone from their bench, and veteran corner infielder Mark Reynolds seemed to be the only other possible choice.
In the end, the Nationals were able to get something in return for Goodwin, who should get more opportunities to play with a Royals club that was willing to give up a hard-throwing, 23-year-old reliever in exchange for him.
“He was sad because this was his first team that he’s played for,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He knows no better. But I said this will open doors for you and you’ll get a chance to play. You kick-start your career again and go from there.”
It took Goodwin nearly five full seasons in the minors before he finally made his major league debut in August 2016. When several other outfielders were injured last season, he got his first opportunity for extended playing time and impressed with an .811 OPS and 13 homers in 278 plate appearances.
Another spate of outfield injuries would have opened the door for Goodwin again this season, but he wound up missing six weeks with a fractured wrist. By the time he returned, Soto had established himself as the starting left fielder, leaving Goodwin as the fifth outfielder on the big league roster. He started only one game in the last month and struggled coming off the bench, going 1-for-26 as a pinch-hitter.
“Of course anybody would want to play a lot more, but he understood what his role was, and he accepted it,” Martinez said. “Now I told him: ‘You get an opportunity to go out there and play. You deserve that opportunity.’”
The player the Nationals received from Kansas City for Goodwin is a long-term project, but one with intriguing upside. Condra-Bogan, 23, was signed by the Royals out of the independent Frontier League, but his fastball approaches 100 mph and he posted a 2.08 ERA with 39 strikeouts and two walks in 26 innings for low Single-A Lexington, recently earning a promotion to high Single-A Wilmington.
Condra-Bogan, who also is pursuing a master’s degree in sports management from Georgia Southern, is expected to report to Potomac to begin his climb up the Nationals organizational ladder.
Solís, meanwhile, returns to the Nats bullpen three weeks after he was demoted to Triple-A, a victim of the one remaining option year he still has. The lefty, who didn’t hide his displeasure with the demotion after he pitched in 40 of the team’s first 80 games, allowed three runs (two earned) in four innings spanning five appearances with Syracuse.
“He’s worked on some stuff down in Triple-A,” Martinez said. “I’m excited to stick him out there and see what we’ve got.”
In other news, the Nationals made a procedural move today, reinstating Koda Glover from the 60-day DL and optioning him to Syracuse, where he had just made two of his five relief appearances while on a rehab assignment.
Glover, who has battled a rotator cuff injury since last season, will continue to pitch at Triple-A but could be an option for a promotion to the big league bullpen in the coming weeks.
Update: The start of today’s game is being delayed by impending inclement weather.
Update II: The Nationals expect that today’s game will start at approximately 3:30 p.m.
Update III: And after a 1-hour, 55-minute rain delay, this game finally got underway. And the Nats promptly gave Max Scherzer a 3-0 lead with an impressive first-inning rally. Long at-bats by Eaton (single) and Harper (walk) set the stage for Anthony Rendon, who sent a double down the right field line that scored both runners. And since Rendon advanced to third on the play, he was in position to score on contact when Soto chopped a ball to first base. Scherzer did give one run back in the top of the second, though, when Johan Camargo singled, Ender Inciarte doubled off the wall and Dansby Swanson delivered a run-scoring groundout. So the Nats hold a 3-1 lead in the middle of the second.
Update IV: The Braves are really working quality at-bats today versus Scherzer. They’ve made him throw 86 pitches to 18 batters through four innings, nearly five pitches per plate appearance. So far, that has resulted in only two runs (they added another in the top of the fourth on a two-out single by Swanson) but they’ve made the ace work, and likely will force the Nats to go to the bullpen earlier than they would prefer today. It’s 3-2 Washington in the middle of the fourth.
Update V: So, here’s the deal. The Nats added to their lead thanks to a Harper two-out, two-strike RBI single in the bottom of the sixth. That made it 4-2 ... at which point the skies opened up again. Yes, we’re in another rain delay here before the start of the seventh. And given that it’s not supposed to stop raining for a while, the umpires are facing an awfully interesting decision now. This is an official game, so if they can’t resume, the Nats win.
Update VI: And we’re back. The rain cleared out, and the teams are back on the field to pick up the top of the seventh after a delay of 1 hour, 38 minutes.
Update VII: The Nats got an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to a Soto double and an Adams single. But they had to use both Matt Grace and Ryan Madson to get through the top of the inning, after Brandon Kintzler warmed up before the rain delay but didn’t pitch. So now it’s Sammy Solis to pitch the top of the eighth with the Nats ahead 5-2.