A total of 370 players have appeared in at least one game for the Nationals since 2005. Some of them were longtime stalwarts who are forever associated fondly with this franchise. Some were only here for a year or two as part of successful careers with multiple clubs. And some of them played for a while in Washington and then never played in the big leagues again.
Actually, more than some of them fit that last description. Would you believe at least 127 of the 370 players in Nationals history finished their careers here, whether by their own choice or not?
It’s true. And that number might actually grow in the next few months if several members of the 2019 roster don’t make it back to the big leagues after failing to do so in 2020.
I can’t explain why exactly this subject fascinates me, but it really does. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot over the years, and I even wrote about this way back when. I always thought it would be worth revisiting, so why not do it right now?
Below are all of the guys who played for the Nationals, then after getting released or traded or demoted never played in the majors again. Some were veterans at the tail end of their careers. Others were young guys who got their shot but couldn’t stick.
We’ll go backwards in time, listing players in the year they last appeared in a game for the Nats. As you’ll see, some years feature only a handful of guys who fit this description. And some feature a boatload of names, many of them familiar and some of them completely forgettable to even the most devoted fans of this franchise ...
Notes: Several of these players will be back in the majors this season, they just didn’t appear in a game in 2020 for various reasons. Zimmerman and Ross opted out and are likely to return. Barrera and Read remain in the organization. Parra, Rodney, Miller and Williams played in 2020, just not in the major leagues. Hellickson and Venters officially retired.
Notes: Glover, Kieboom and Montero all retired. Solís didn’t pitch in 2020 after spending 2019 in Japan. Sierra also played in Japan this year. Bautista remained in the organization in 2020 but recently became a free agent.
Alejandro De Aza
Notes: Blanton, Drew, Guthrie, Heisey and Raburn all retired after the 2017 season. Werth tried to make it back in 2018 with the Mariners but retired after getting hurt at Triple-A.
Notes: Burnett spent 2018-19 at Triple-A before calling it quits. Robinson hung up his spikes after playing in Syracuse in 2017 and became a scout. Martín is still pitching in Mexico. Papelbon is ... well, God only knows where the D.C. Strangler is these days.
Notes: Janssen, Johnson and Uggla all wrapped up long careers with brief stints in D.C. The two Taylors never pitched well enough to stay in the big leagues.
Notes: McLouth ($10.75 million to hit .173 in 79 games) might be the biggest free-agent bust in club history. Dobbs, Hairston and Schierholtz each closed out long careers as bench players. Kobernus played in the minors with the Giants and Mariners following his short time in Washington.
Notes: Tracy was a valuable member of the “Goon Squad” bench in 2012 but struggled in 2013 before retiring. Davis spent a lot of time in Triple-A for the Nats, Diamondbacks and Brewers after reaching the majors in 2013. Maya, an absolute bust with the Nationals, remarkably is still pitching in the Dominican Winter League.
Notes: Do you remember that Lidge recorded the save and Carroll scored the winning run on opening day 2012 at Wrigley Field? Sadly, that was the highlight of both players’ short time with the Nationals. Flores bounced around a lot after his six seasons with the Nats ended but never made it back to the majors. Garcia, Maldonado and Perry weren’t around for long.
Notes: Rodríguez, Cora and Stairs all had long and distinguished playing careers that happened to all end the same year in D.C. Broderick is the last player the Nats selected in the Rule 5 draft. If you blinked, you might have missed Kimball and Severino’s time here.
Notes: You can see we’ve now reached the dark times in club history. The worse the team was, the longer this list gets. Would you believe Olsen, Mock, Chico and Atilano all were in the Nationals rotation early in this season and then were never heard from again? Bergmann stuck with the Nats (and Expos, for that matter) for a long time but saw his time run out in 2010. The rest of the names here aren’t going to conjure up many memories.
Notes: This team lost 103 games, and one glance at these nine names will remind you why that was. Cintrón, Tavárez and Villone were veterans who had nothing left by the time they got here. Garate, Hinckley, Padilla, Segovia and Shell had short cups of coffee but didn’t stick. And then there’s Dukes, whose tumultuous career abruptly ended the next spring when he was released.
Notes: This team lost 102 games, and again you can see why. Then-general manager Jim Bowden thought it would be a good idea to have a bunch of past-their-prime veterans on the roster. Suffice it to say, it didn’t work out. You know what else didn’t work out? Giving Young a two-year, $10 million extension after his inspiring comeback season in 2007. Da Meat Hook hurt his back in 2008 and spent 1 1/2 years of those two years on the injured list before retiring.
Notes: Speaking of past-their-prime veterans ... this 73-win team had plenty of them. And remember when Patterson and Logan were going to be key pieces of the organizational rebuild? That didn’t quite work out as well as hoped.
Notes: This may be the most astounding fact in club history: Of the 57 players who were on the Nationals’ 2006 roster, 20 never played in the majors again. That’s 35 percent of the roster! How was that even possible?
Notes: The inaugural Nationals are remembered fondly by many fans, but not so much these 16 players who came and went and were never heard from again. Only Baerga, who was at the end of a productive career, had any kind of real positive impact on the team. Well, aside from the remarkable Short, who made his MLB debut at 32, drove in a run in his first career at-bat and wound up 6-for-15 with two homers and a 1.404 OPS yet never played in the big leagues again.