No more moves for Nats as trade deadline passes (updated)

The Nationals made their one obvious trade deadline move 24 hours before the deadline, dealing Jeimer Candelario to the Cubs before Monday night’s game. They then spent deadline day deciding if any offers they received for other potential candidates were good enough to make another move.

In the end, they didn’t believe any were worth it.

Kyle Finnegan and Lane Thomas are still part of the Nationals, as is anyone else who was on the roster this afternoon, after the club opted not to make any more moves before today’s 6 p.m. deadline. Candelario wound up the only player dealt this year.

Finnegan and Thomas always loomed as possible pieces to move at the deadline, but the price for either always was going to be high because of their contract statuses. Neither player can become a free agent until after the 2025 season, leaving the Nats to ponder whether they believed one or both could be part of what they hope will be a winning roster before either could depart on his own.

"Those are two guys we feel very good about," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We're very high on both of them. They're good players, but more importantly, they're great guys in the clubhouse. They've both become leaders in the clubhouse. When you're building a young foundation like we are here, you've got to sprinkle in some good, veteran players. And those two guys are good players. (Potential trades) never reached the bar we set for each player."

Finnegan joined the organization in 2020, signed to a major league contract after six seasons toiling in the Athletics’ farm system without getting called up. The right-hander has wound up becoming one of the most durable and trusted relievers in Nationals history.

Monday night was Finnegan’s 202nd career relief appearance, eighth-most in club history. The 31-year-old produced a 3.34 ERA, 1.290 WHIP and 208 strikeouts across 202 1/3 innings, recording 37 saves along the way. He’s got an even 3.00 ERA, 1.178 WHIP and 15 saves this season, bouncing back and forth from the closer’s role to a setup/fireman role.

"He was a guy who was struggling when we got him, and our pitching people have developed him into a guy that's qualified to pitch in the back end of major league games," Rizzo said. "That's how far he's come."

Thomas was one of the original players acquired at the momentous 2021 trade deadline, a last-minute move that sent Jon Lester to the Cardinals brought the young outfielder to D.C. with a chance to prove he could stick as a major league backup. He has done way more than that, ascending into an everyday role in right field and producing this year at an All-Star level.

The 27-year-old has now played 296 games with the Nationals, during which time he has hit .263/.324/.444 with 66 doubles, 40 homers, 136 RBIs and 24 stolen bases. His numbers slipped a bit during a rough July, but he still enters tonight with an .807 OPS, 26 doubles, 16 homers and 3.1 bWAR.

"I think he's getting better at a later age than most prospects do," Rizzo said. "He's come leaps and bounds in just the short time we've had him here, and become a player we think is going to be part of us when we become good."

So does keeping Finnegan and Thomas past the deadline signal to both players the organization sees them as a part of a winning future and not merely as stopgaps during this rebuilding phase?

"I hope they see it that way, because they're a huge part of our success," Martinez said. "Both of those guys. They've been so good for us."

In the end, the Nationals weren’t nearly as active at this trade deadline as they were the previous two. Much of that is attributable to the lower-profile players they had available this time around. But is any of it also a sign the organization is closer to fielding a winning team again after two years of tearing down?

"When we started this, we had a plan," Martinez said. "And obviously, part of the plan is getting some guys here that we thought, if possible, we could get some younger players for. That's part of it. But our plan is to get younger, give our young guys an opportunity to come up here and play. And as we move forward, watch these guys develop. So far, so good. We’ve got some guys doing some really good things so far. …

"The plan seems to be progressing. And progressing quite quickly. I don't think we're that far off."

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