The Washington Nationals are sending a couple of its top infielders to the National League Central to compete for the playoffs there.
The Nats traded second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Chicago Cubs and first baseman Matt Adams to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs are in first place in the Central division, and the Cardinals are in third but just 3.5 games behind the Cubs.
The Cubs are sending Minor League infielder Andruw Monasterio, 21, and a player to be named later or cash considerations to the Nats. Monasterio hit .263 for single-A Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League this season.
For Adams, the Cardinals are sending $50,000 to Washington.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and the team owners gambled at the July trade deadline, standing pat and expressing faith in the roster as constituted. The Nationals trounced the New York Mets 25-4 that night, but are 9-10 since, including a 2-5 road trip through Chicago and St. Louis that featured a 4-3 loss at Wrigley Field on a two-out, walk-off grand slam.
"We felt that coming off that road trip and into this most recent homestand was a time that was a litmus test for us ... and we felt that the timing was right to make the vital decisions that we had to make," Rizzo said.
Murphy, 33, began the season on the disabled list but has hit well since returning to the team in June. He is batting .300 with six home runs, a .341 on-base percentage and .442 slugging in 56 games.
"My thoughts are it's really bittersweet," Murphy said. "I sat at this podium probably 2 1/2 years ago. The Washington Nationals were the only offer I had. They took a chance on me three years ago, and I feel very disappointed in myself that it kind of came to this point, I guess would be the easiest way to describe it."
Murphy was a big hitter during his time in Washington. A postseason star in 2015 with the Mets, he signed with the Nationals that winter and was an All-Star the next two years.
Adams, 29, has shared duties at first base and provided good power, hitting 18 home runs and driving in 48 runs in 94 games. He is hitting .257 with .332 OBP and .510 slugging.
Asked how close the team came to including Harper — a free agent after the season — in the Tuesday deals, Rizzo said, "You have to get a deal that makes sense to trade one of the elite players in the game."
Harper, who struggled for much of the first half, is hitting .350 since the All-Star break.
"I've been part of this organization for seven years and I look forward to coming in and doing my job every single day and I had no fear of being traded or let go on waivers or anything like that," Harper said.
The Nationals were coming off two consecutive division titles under manager Dusty Baker, who was fired after last season and replaced by rookie skipper Dave Martinez.
Murphy expressed support for Martinez, without even being asked about him.
"Right man for the job here in D.C.," Murphy said.