The idea that the Nationals would trade Jason Marquis at the trade deadline was no surprise to anyone who has followed the team this year; the 32-year-old is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Nationals were intending to get something of value for him before he went to another team.
But the way the deal sending Marquis to the Diamondbacks actually played out on Saturday was odd; he was scheduled to pitch for the Nationals on Saturday night, but Fox Sports first reported the trade while the Nationals were on the field taking batting practice. Marquis sat at his locker, telling teammates he hadn't heard anything about whether he'd be starting or packing, while team officials formed a perimeter around Marquis, telling reporters they couldn't talk to him because he was starting the game. All the while, the Nationals had Yunesky Maya across the hall in the team's family room, awaiting word of a trade so he could enter the locker room and get ready to pitch in Marquis' place.
And once that peculiar scene had played out, Marquis got word he was joining a team that played a role in his first major league suspension; he was ejected from a game on June 5 when he hit Justin Upton with a pitch, saying afterward he'd lost control of a sinker because he wasn't able to get enough moisture on his fingers to control the pitch in the desert heat.
It was an odd day for Marquis, who was traded in the middle of a season for the first time, but it ended with him joining a team that gives him a chance to part of a playoff team for the 11th time in 12 seasons.
"This year turned out the way I wanted. I'm throwing the ball the way I want," Marquis said. "It's an exciting time to know a team has enough confidence in you to be part of a postseason run."
For the Nationals, things couldn't have worked out much better this year either. They signed Marquis to a two-year, $15 million deal last season, hoping he could lend some stability to their rotation, but he wound up on the disabled list after getting shredded for a 20.52 ERA in three starts and having arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow.
He's come back strong this year, though, posting a 3.95 ERA and leading the staff with eight wins. Sources have said Marquis will be seeking a multi-year deal after the season, and it was unlikely the Nationals were going to bring him back at that price. In return for him, they got shortstop Zach Walters, a 6-foot-3 shortstop who will start at Single-A Potomac and who general manager Mike Rizzo said will play in the majors eventually.
"We had several calls about Jason," Rizzo said. "We felt this was the best deal, player-wise. He was a guy we scouted very extensively, because Sam Solis (the team's second-round pick last year) was on the same ballclub at the University of San Diego. He's a switch-hitting middle infielder who's got some bat ability, got some power. He's a good instinctual ballplayer. We feel like he can stay in the middle of the diamond and be a run-producing type of ballplayer."
They'll also likely get a chance to look at some of their young pitchers in the second half of the season, like Brad Peacock and Tom Milone. Maya, who is pitching tonight, is likely only in the majors for a spot start, and it's possible the Nationals could take a look at one of the prospects after that.
And when Rizzo talked to reporters about the trade, he had some gratitude to Marquis for pitching well enough to make himself a valuable commodity.
"It's a tribute to Jason Marquis," Rizzo said. "He's one of the hardest-working guys I know, and he worked extremely hard to get back to the Jason Marquis of old. It's really rewarding for us to be able to trade him and get some value back for him, because he's worked hard to get where he is."