We are just minutes before the trade deadline, and although the Nationals have made a few roster moves this afternoon, none of them have been in the form of a trade like last night’s deal of Jeimer Candelario to the Cubs for two prospects.
This afternoon the Nats announced they recalled infielder Jake Alu from Triple-A Rochester to take Candelario’s spot on the active roster.
“I was excited,” Alu said back in the Nats clubhouse. “I kind of understood the scenario of everything. Like I said, I was playing baseball just one day at a time and kind of just staying focused as much as I could. That's kind of how I went about it.”
This marks Alu’s fourth major league stint this season. He has appeared in five games, going 3-for-14 (.214) with one walk and one stolen base with the Nats.
On the farm, Alu, 26, has been having another strong season. He's tied for first among Nationals farmhands with 22 doubles and ranks in the system in hits (third, 90), runs (fifth, 48), batting average (sixth, .293), OPS (seventh, .777), RBIs (tied for seventh, 43), slugging percentage (eighth, .420) extra-base hits (eighth, 28) and on-base percentage (10th, .357).
Alu made four starts in left field and one appearance at second base in his time with the Nats. But he has played mostly third base with Rochester and now will assume most of the playing time at the hot corner at the big league level, starting tonight as he is in the lineup at third and batting eighth.
“We're gonna play him at third base for most of the time he's here,” manager Davey Martinez said. “But I also would like him to play some outfield as well. But he'll play a lot of third base.”
That means Ildemaro Vargas, who started at third in Candelario’s absence last night, will move back to a utility role off the bench, where he’s been very valuable for the Nationals this season.
“He'll play some third base as well,” Martinez said of Vargas. “And he'll still be used like we always use him. But the opportunity to give another young kid a chance to play is what we're looking for right now.”
“There's always an opportunity, no matter when you come up or whenever it is,” Alu said. “But I think just being able to, like you said, have some stability in a spot will definitely help. Like I said, I'm definitely open to playing anywhere, just getting in the field and doing the best I can to help the team.”
“When one guy gets traded, it opens up an opportunity for someone else, and Jake Alu is that guy right now,” Martinez said. “So he's gonna get a chance to play and get some at-bats. And hopefully he does well.”
A former 24th-round pick from Boston College in 2019, Alu was added to Washington’s 40-man roster following the 2022 season. So there’s been an open spot since Candelario left.
The Nats filled that 40-man roster spot by claiming left-hander Robert Garcia off waivers from the Marlins.
Garcia, 27, has strong numbers in the minors, going 2–0 with two saves and a 2.85 ERA in 31 games (one start) for Triple-A Jacksonville. He struck out 62 batters in 41 innings and posted a .226 opponents’ batting average.
He made his major league debut on July 14 in Baltimore, allowing one hit and one walk in ⅓ of an inning.
“Another left-handed reliever that we like,” Martinez said. “He throws in the mid-90s, good curveball, good changeup. He's got some swing-and-miss in there. He's striking out 13 per nine. His walks are a little bit high, but hopefully we get him here and we can kind of straighten him out a little bit. We like him. We've always been short on left-handed relievers here, so having another one definitely helps.”
The 13.6 K/9 is impressive at Triple-A, but the 1.341 WHIP, 7.2 H/9 and 4.8 BB/9 are a little concerning for a reliever. But he’s just another arm to take a chance on, and a lefty at that.
* The Nationals announced numerous minor league transactions as well this afternoon.
Elijah Green was placed on the seven-day injured list at Single-A Fredericksburg. The 2022 fifth-overall pick hasn’t played since June 28, with general manager Mike Rizzo recently saying he was going to ramp up soon while dealing with a wrist injury.
"It's just taking time, and he is in progression to get back and playing," Rizzo said. "He's (at the Nats' facilities in West Palm Beach, Fla.) taking swings. But we're going slow with it because wrist injuries, they linger. He did it a while back, but it was probably sore before he even brought it to our attention. So going very slowly with him. It's a healthy wrist, it's just still weak and we need to build it. So he's taking swings right now in the cages, and we'll progress him into playing in games. And hopefully in a short period of time, he'll be back in Fredericksburg."
The 19-year-old is slashing .218/.327/.318 with a .644 OPS, 10 doubles, one triple, three home runs, 29 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 58 games with the FredNats. But plate discipline remains the biggest issue for him: He’s already struck out 106 times while only walking 34 times in his first season at Single-A.
Sammy Infante was promoted from Fredericksburg to High-A Wilmington after slashing .243/.351/.321 with a .672 OPS with 13 doubles, one triple, two homers, 34 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 74 games with the FredNats.
The 22-year-old was a second-round pick out of high school.
A handful of recent draft picks were added to the FredNats roster from the Rookie-level Florida Complex League, including Yohandy Morales, Andrew Pinckney and Gavin Dugas.
Carter Kieboom is starting a rehab assignment with Wilmington.
Jordy Barley was transferred from Wilmington to Double-A Harrisburg while Lucius Fox was placed on the seven-day IL at Harrisburg.
Not in reference to these minor league moves, but Martinez was asked about his thoughts on the Nationals’ rebuild one year after the mega Juan Soto-Josh Bell trade. He mentioned the progress of Lane Thomas (who is still a National), CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams.
“When we started this, we had a plan,” the skipper said. “And obviously, part of the plan is getting some guys here that we thought that, if possible, we can get some young players for. Like I said yesterday, that's part of it. But our plan is to get younger, give our young guys opportunities to come up here and play. And yet, as we move forward, watch these guys develop. And so far, so far, so good. We got some guys doing some really good things right now. I could talk about CJ Abrams, how well he's playing. I could talk about Lane. Lane solidified himself right now as part of the future here, hopefully. We'll see. But I love him. He could do a lot of different things. I got Keibert, who's catching most of the time, you got Riley Adams, who's definitely had an unbelievable year so far.
“So we got a lot of good young guys, and some of the guys that are coming I'm really, really excited about. Some of the core guys that we got in Double-A that are doing well, we're excited about those guys. So the plan seems to be progressing and progressing quite quickly. I don't think that we're that far off. We're playing, we compete here every day and the guys are going out there and playing hard. I love that about them. So we’ve got to continue to go and continue to get better.”
Is it surprising how quickly this is all coming together?
“No,” he said, “because, look, nobody that I surround myself with, we don't like losing. We really don't. We want this thing to happen and happen fairly quickly. This organization has been known to win and play in the playoffs. So we want to get back to that as soon as possible. So like I said, we started this thing, we've had a plan. The plan wasn't to wait five, six years. The plan was to try to get it done. And right now we feel really good about where we're at.”