For the DMV, it sucks. Because we’ve seen this play before.
We saw it when Ian Desmond left via free agency in 2016 — which, it was explained at the time, wasn’t really the Nats’ fault, because they offered Desmond more money to stay than he took to leave. At any rate, the blow of losing the All-Star shortstop was mitigated, fans were told, because Desmond’s replacement was already in-house, after Mike Rizzo’s heist of the Padres in December 2014 brought Trea Turner to town.
We saw it in March 2019 when Bryce Harper went to the Phillies. But, fear not, Nats fans were assuaged — Adam Eaton would step in for Harper in right, and besides, Washington had Soto ready to become its next star. And, indeed, that season the Nationals famously rallied from 19-31 to win the whole damn thing, without Harper — and with Soto doing historic things in the postseason at age 20.
We saw it in 2020, when Anthony Rendon left — because, Nats fans were told, the team couldn’t pay both its All-Star third baseman and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. And the Nationals, in keeping with their philosophy of spending big on elite pitching, paid Strasburg. But Soto was still in the wings, ready for his close-up.
We saw it last year, when the Nationals, not willing to wait until Turner’s free agency played out, moved him and Max Scherzer to the Dodgers for Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, while making it clear they expected Soto to be the fulcrum upon which the franchise pivoted. There was before 2021 and there would be after ’21, but Soto would be the bridge to both eras.
(Photo: Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)