In trading away much of their current roster before yesterday’s trade deadline, the Nationals prioritized talent that was close to Major League ready. The hope and expectation was that many of the players acquired over the past few days will soon join Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and company in DC to begin shaping the next Washington contender.
As such, it is expected that Mason Thompson — acquired from the Padres in the Daniel Hudson deal — will be activated and placed on the active roster later today, while Josiah Gray — a key piece in the Max Scherzer trade — will be activated to join the rotation later this weekend, per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post (Twitter links). They won’t need a corresponding roster move to add Thompson, as the Nats played with only a 25-man roster for yesterday’s game.
Gray immediately becomes the most interesting starter in the Nationals’ rotation — as well as the most important. There’s little reason to hold him in the minors for any length of time, except for the fact that the 24-year-old has very little pitching experience in the grand scheme of things and only 15 2/3 innings at Triple-A. Looking to maximize the three-year window following this season before Juan Soto hits free agency, the Nats have little time to waste in letting Gray try to establish himself as a pro-ready starter.
Besides, the Nationals have very few options in the upper minors, and they need to fill two rotation spots after trading Scherzer and Jon Lester. Gray will slot right into the rotation behind Patrick Corbin and Joe Ross, with Erick Fedde and Paolo Espino likely to hold down the other two spots.
The same is true in the bullpen, where the departures of Brad Hand and Hudson leave glaring holes. Kyle Finnegan has stepped in as the closer for now, but in the long-term, the rest of the bullpen is largely up for grabs. Tanner Rainey has been off all season, though they certainly hope he can find himself again before the year is out. Wander Suero has long been a middle reliever who sometimes plays up into a setup role for manager Dave Martinez. Will Harris should be a key man, but he can’t seem to stay healthy.
Thompson, 23, should have every opportunity to carve out a role for himself. Baseball America ranked him as the Padres’ 15th-ranked prospect in the midseason report — and he figures to be considerably higher in a talent-poor Nationals system. BA pegged him for middle or late relief, noting a 94-98 mph heater, 12-to-6 curve, and above-average change-up.
All in all, it’s prove yourself season in Washington, where Thompson, Gray, as well as Lane Thomas, Carter Kieboom, Luis Garcia, and probably Keibert Ruiz should have the next two months to prove they are ready to be regular Major Leaguers.