How Nationals dismantled 2019 World Series roster: A timeline of high-profile exits, from Bryce Harper to Juan Soto

“How to Destroy Your Team in Four Easy Installments!”

If there’s a blueprint as to how note to follow up on a World Series victory, the Nationals have successfully crafted it over the last two seasons. With Juan Soto being shipped out to the Padres at the deadline, Washington’s 2019 parade is turning into a funeral march of epic proportions.

Really, Washington’s slide from perennial contender to pretender started before their World Series run, with the departure of former top pick and MVP Bryce Harper. There was a safe reason for letting Harper walk, though: His name was Juan Soto.

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That “safe reason” turned out to be … not so safe.

Over the years, Washington turned from big spender to penny-pincher, leading to trades of Soto, Trea Turner and the departures of other stars in recent years.

Here’s how it happened:


Departure of Bryce Harper

Harper wasn’t long for Washington with the arrival of Juan Soto. The outfielder finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .292 with 22 home runs over 116 games and looking every bit the part of cornerstone.

Following the season, Harper decided to take a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. Reports indicated that Harper was offered a 10-year, $300 million deal from the Nationals that included $100 million in deferred money that was to be paid out until he was 60 years old. Not exactly the wisest move for the once and future NL MVP.

MORE: Juan Soto trade details

The deferred money is something that the Nationals made a staple of big-money deals: They paid deferred money to Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and offered deferrals to Harper. Curiously, they didn’t offer deferred money to Soto.



Departure of Anthony Rendon

After winning the World Series, Washington was faced with a difficult choice, of their own making: Keep Stephen Strasburg or Anthony Rendon?

If you’re forced to keep one, it was a tough call. Strasburg, though often injured, just capped off a masterful playoff run with a World Series MVP. Rendon was a keystone to Washington’s lineup, and in the middle of his prime.

In the end, Washington extended Strasburg (seven years, $175 million) and let Rendon walk (probably run) to Los Angeles on a seven-year, $245 million deal. Washington reportedly offered a seven-year deal for $215 million, reports said.

It seemed like a win-win for both sides: Washington keeps its ace while Rendon gets his much-deserved and earned payday.

Both players are dealing with injury issues, though. Strasburg has pitched just 31 1/3 innings since 2019, while Anthony Rendon has played in just 155 games over three seasons with the Angels, dealing with lengthy IL stints in each year.



Trade of Max Scherzer, Trea Turner

Max Scherzer, a pending free agent, was attached to trade rumors for years before he was ultimately moved in 2021.

One of the latest in a series of somewhat nonsensical moves, packing Scherzer with Trea Turner was somewhat befuddling at the time and more so after: Turner still had another year and a half of team control, meaning he wasn’t a rental, and attaching him with Scherzer probably should have yielded a higher return than what they got.

Washington did well enough to get back two of LA’s top-five prospects in catcher Keibert Ruiz and pitcher Josiah Gray, who were both on Washington’s roster this year. They also got back Gerardo Carrillo and Donovan Casey: Carrillo is an A-ball pitcher while Casey is a quadruple-A outfielder.

Still, it feels like trading away both, even in hindsight, was a wave-the-white-flag move, rather than something to really retool the roster.

No — the white-flag move wouldn’t come until Aug. 2, 2022.


Trade of Juan Soto

The last move is the most confusing, nonsensical and whatever other adjective you want to use to describe it.

Soto, a superstar in the making, has drawn Ted Williams comps in his early career, and the numbers match up to that. Sadly, that didn’t mean much to Washington, who decided to move Soto with 2 1/2 years left of team control. That came after Soto turned down a reported 15-year, $440 million contract offer from Washington. Sticker shock aside, that runs out to $29.3 million per season — essentially a team friendly deal for Washington, especially over the long-term.

MORE: Juan Soto trade grades — Padres win big

We won’t know how the deal works out for a few years, considering two of the prospects they received are in A-ball. MacKenzie Gore could be a very good starter, but “could” not play when you’re trading a superstar talent like Soto.

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