At 53-53, the Washington Nationals needed to make a decision about who they were headed into the 2018 season trade deadline. Were they still contenders fighting for a wild-card berth, or were they ready to admit defeat and start looking to the future? The fact that Bryce Harper’s name had been floated out there as potential trade bait told you everything you needed to know about just how far things might go if the team decided to pull the trigger. In the end, they denied Harper was, in fact, available and instead shuffled a few minor pieces around but otherwise stood pat.
One of those pieces was reliever Brandon Kintzler, who was traded to the Cubs for a Single-A prospect on Tuesday. The move saves the Nats at least $6 million over the next two seasons, but that might not have been their actual motivation to move him. In fact, according to the Washington Post, Kintzler was moved because “the Nationals believed he was responsible for anonymous reports that painted Washington’s clubhouse culture as iffy.”
It was unclear why they thought that or which articles that might have been alluding to, though a recent one by Yahoo! Sports that includes anonymous player quotes painting the clubhouse as “a mess” certainly stand out. What more, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo (seen above) didn’t exactly hide the fact that Kintzler’s opinions were a major factor in his trade.
While Rizzo says "loose lips sink ships" isn't a fair characterization, he did say "we want players who care about the name on the front of the jersey more than the name on the back of the jersey. That's a demand that I make of them…if we don’t get that, then we have an issue."
— Chris Lingebach (@ChrisLingebach) August 1, 2018
This isn’t an isolated incident, either. The Nationals are coming off an embarrassing beatdown of division rival New York. However, late in the game, pitcher Shawn Kelley got mad and threw a temper tantrum on the mound after giving up a home run.
Shawn Kelley clearly thrilled to be closing out a 24 run lead… pic.twitter.com/I88bKNbmS8
— Tim Murray (@1TimMurray) August 1, 2018
This was seen as Kelley showing up his manager by putting him out there in the first place with nothing to gain. The Nationals responded by designating Kelley for assignment on Wednesday.
Mike Rizzo on the decision to DFA Shawn Kelley: “You’re either in or you’re in the way. He was in the way.” Called him slamming his glove “disrespect” and “selfish.”
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) August 1, 2018
When asked about it, manager Dave Martinez doesn’t think there is dysfunction in the Nationals’ locker room, but said the fact that the team isn’t living up to the hype they entered the season with is clearly taking its toll.
Dave Martinez said he doesn’t see dysfunction in the Nats clubhouse, but says he sees frustration on a team that wants to win
— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) July 31, 2018
Had they traded away Harper, it’s entirely possible the Nats would have had a mutiny on their hands. Perhaps not giving up on the 2018 season was their way to ensuring that the rest of the roster cools it with the “iffy” behavior. ” However, these aren’t exactly typical reasons listed for roster moves, and if the team continues to fade into the background and out of the playoff picture for good, it doesn’t exactly sound like there’s a good foundation there to handle what happens next.