Adrianza, 32, signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Nationals in March. He spent 2021 with the Braves, playing in six positions during their title season. With Washington, he spent most of the year recovering from a quad injury sustained near the end of spring training. He appeared in 31 games and had a .179 batting average, .255 on-base percentage and .202 hitting percentage in 94 plate appearances. He was starting more recently, mostly for Maikel Franco at third base, possibly because the last-place Nationals wanted to field him before Tuesday’s deadline.
“I would have liked to see more of Ehire here because I know the kind of player he is,” manager Dave Martinez said on Monday afternoon. “He started slowly, and I really think it was because he got injured. He had a serious injury with his quad, and he really couldn’t go. But I loved having it.
To replace Adrianza on the active and 40-player rosters, the Nationals recalled infielder Ildemaro Vargas from Class AAA Rochester. Vargas, 31, is a fluid defenseman and light hitter who hits both sides of home plate. He was on four major league teams and had a short stint with the Chicago Cubs in May. To make room for Adrianza, the Braves picked Robinson Canó for assignment.
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Aside from Juan Soto, and with Adrianza back in Atlanta, Washington still has Josh Bell, Nelson Cruz, Carl Edwards Jr., Steve Cishek and Kyle Finnegan to potentially move before 6 p.m. Tuesday. And since Adrianza was something of a surprise trade chip, it’s worth remembering that it’s hard to fully know what the contenders need before the stretch race. In that sense, Monday’s trade was similar to when the Nationals traded left-hander Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Lane Thomas in 2021.
Harris hasn’t played above Class AA, meaning he’s well behind Thomas when he arrived in Washington – and hasn’t made his debut yet, under scrutiny team for six seasons once his service clock starts ticking. Generally, though, a depth arm is more valuable than a light-hitting utility drive.
The analog is that, at the last chance to get players from other clubs, the Braves have a specific role in mind for Adrianza and see a limited advantage in Harris. This has made them good business partners with the Nationals, although general manager Mike Rizzo prefers not to move players within the National League East.
For the past two seasons, Harris has been with Class AA Mississippi. And since 2019, the right-handed hitter has tried to rediscover what earned him the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best offensive player in the Atlanta system.
That year, Harris finished with a .323 batting average, .389 on-base percentage and .498 hitting percentage on three levels, smashing 14 home runs and 26 doubles. But a full-time leap to Class AA has proven difficult: Harris has had a .238/.338/.323 slant line in 220 plate appearances this season.
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His average and slugging percentage are down a notch from last year. His base percentage is a few ticks higher. A 32nd-round draft pick from Missouri in 2018, Harris played all three outfield positions with a share of his appearances on the right. MLB Pipeline ranked him the Braves’ 29th-best prospect.
As Nationals director of player development De Jon Watson recently noted, the organization is short on bats and Class AA talent. A thin, heavy system is highlighted by Rochester AAA-class pitchers and a handful of bats on the lower levels. And while the gap will be closed when Brady House, Jeremy De La Rosa and TJ White, among others, advance in the future, there’s no harm in picking up a flyer on a struggling hitter like Harris between- time.
The costs were minimal. So the next step for the Nationals is to see how many offers like this they can find.
“It’s the first,” Martinez said. “Who knows what will happen in the next 48 hours?