[Related: Updated Nationals Depth Chart]
While the move isn’t an atypical mid-season transaction, it does carry some added trade deadline implications for the division-leading Nats. For one thing, Papelbon had shown some concerning trends on the year; for another, the organization has not received the production it would like out of the center field position.
Looking first at the pen, Papelbon has continued to get useful results, as he owns a 3.28 ERA on the year. But he hasn’t finished the year with an earned run average over three since way back in 2010, and the underlying numbers suggest a bigger problem. In particular, Papelbon is striking out less than seven per nine on a career-low 9.5% swinging strike rate and is averaging just 90.7 mph on his four-seamer.
Adding a quality reliever seems like a no-brainer for the Nationals regardless of how Papelbon shows upon his return from an intercostal strain. But his performance could help dictate just how desperate the team feels to improve. The pen has been good on the whole, and Shawn Kelley is far from the worst fill-in closer, but a team with World Series aspirations will surely want some more room for error.
Meanwhile, the demotion of Taylor comes as he continues to produce uneven results at the plate. While he was more productive in June after a dreadful start, he hasn’t seen much playing time in the last week and hasn’t been hitting when he has been in the lineup. With Ben Revere showing some signs of life, it seems that Taylor will be tasked with working on his game in a regular role at the Triple-A level.
Adding a reliever for an outfielder leaves the Nats’ roster out of balance, so this could well be a temporary move. Looking at the club’s current depth chart, dropping a reliever would likely mean parting with Matt Belisle — who has been rather effective — or sending struggling young fireballer Felipe Rivero to join Taylor in looking to get on track at Triple-A.
If and when the club dips into its system for another position player, top prospect Trea Turner could conceivably get the call. The middle infielder has now played four games at center for Syracuse, so he could potentially join Revere there while playing a super-utility role of some kind. Super Two status is no longer a concern in Turner’s case, so team need and player development are probably the only real considerations.
It’s worth noting that there are some potential player control issues here, but they don’t involve Turner. Entering the year, Taylor had 1.037 days of service, and he has picked up another 90 days thus far in 2016. That leaves him 45 days shy of reaching a second full season of service, so an extended stay in the minors could well leave the club with an added season of future control.