Downs adds needed infield depth with potential for high upside

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The Nationals’ latest waiver claim was noteworthy in that it was a well known name that was surprisingly available.

Jeter Downs, whom the Nats claimed on outright waivers from the Red Sox yesterday, is known for being a former top shortstop prospect and being included in two major trades since the Reds made him the No. 32 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

He was grouped with Homer Bailey and Josiah Gray – the latter now his Nationals teammate – in a Dec. 21, 2018 trade to the Dodgers for Kyle Farmer, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood. Then on Feb. 10, 2020, he was famously included in the package with Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong that went to the Red Sox for Mookie Betts and David Price.

A central piece in two major trades and a highly rated prospect before turning 22 years old, Downs was, surprisingly, exposed to waivers when the Red Sox designated him for assignment last week after signing outfielder Masataka Yoshida. But of course, there’s a reason for that. His struggles in the Red Sox system and during his brief stint in the majors forced Boston to give up on the now 24-year-old.

Now, almost four years to the day since his trade to Los Angeles, Downs joins a Nationals organization where he is reunited with fellow former Dodgers prospects Gray and Keibert Ruiz. And he brings much-needed infield depth, whether he’s on the major league roster or in the minor league system.

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Nats claim infielder Jeter Downs from Red Sox

Jeter Downs Red Sox swing white

Just three days before Christmas, general manager Mike Rizzo remains busy checking things off his list.

The Nationals announced this afternoon they have claimed infielder Jeter Downs on outright waivers from the Red Sox. Downs was designated for assignment last week when the Red Sox signed outfielder Masataka Yoshida to a five-year, $90 million contract.

Downs, 24, was born in San Andrés, Colombia, where his father was a professional baseball player. He was named after Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and ironically would go on to record his first major league hit and RBI then score the game-winning run against the Yankees and hit his first big league home run at Yankee Stadium this season.

He was a 2017 first-round pick (32nd overall) by the Reds out of Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, Fla. He has since been traded twice, first with current Nationals starting pitcher Josiah Gray and Homer Bailey to the Dodgers in exchange for Kyle Farmer, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and cash in December 2018. But Downs is probably most known for being a central piece in the package along with Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong to go to Boston in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade in February 2020.

Primarily a shortstop, Downs was considered a top prospect around the sport. He was the Red Sox’s No. 1 and No. 2 prospect in 2020 and 2021, respectively, and was ranked as high as the No. 44 prospect in baseball two years ago, per MLB Pipeline.

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