Just when it looked like the Nats were going to stand pat with the same players that brought them to this miserable record, interim GM Mike Rizzo made two deals, sending away two players who had zero long-term value to the team.
He shipped off long-time first baseman Nick Johnson to the Marlins and sent lefty reliever Joe Beimel to the Rockies. At first blush, he didn't get much back, but that's not the point. Neither NJ nor Beimel were part of the future, and even if the trio of kids the Nats got back only have a 5 percent chance of helping the team in the future, that's 5 percent greater than the chances of NJ or Beimel helping long-term over these final 60 or so games.
For Nick the Walking Stick, the Nats got minor league lefty Aaron Thompson. Thompson was the Fish's first-round pick back in the 2005 draft. Then a high-schooler, Thompson has developed slowly, pitching the last season-and-a-half at Double-A.
He's your typical Mike Rizzo acquisition: pitches to contact, likely keeps the ball on the ground, relying on his defense to do the dirty work for him.
Given his marginal minor league performance, there's probably not much of a huge upside to him, maybe a fourth starter in his best seasons. But you never know. The Nats control his rights for a long time, and if something clicks and he becomes a league average starter, that's a decent return for a first baseman who's going to be a free agent in two months.
Ironically, the Marlins are acquiring NJ because they fell out of favor with another former Nat, Emiliano Bonifacio. Boni went to the Fish in the Willingham/Olsen deal, and has been easily one of the worst players in all of baseball. This move gets him out of their everyday lineup (at least 'til NJ breaks again).
Beimel was sent to the Rockies for two minor league players, another move that had to be made. The Nationals received right-handers Ryan Mattheus -- A 25-year-old Mattheus who was 1-3 with a 3.81 ERA in 19 minor league appearances this season before having ligament replacement surgery in July -- and 23-year-old Robinson Fabian, who is 3-6 with a 6.24 ERA in 24 games, including 12 starts, at Class A Asheville. The Rockies also got cash to pay part of Beimel's contract.
For a long time, it looked like GM Mike Rizzo wasn't going to make any moves, preferring to let things ride with the current roster. He didn't, and the team is better for it, even if the chances that the players acquired never get more than a cup of coffee in the majors.