Nationals reliever Brandon Kintzler was one of the team’s few trade deadline casualties on Tuesday, traded to the Cubs for a Single-A prospect, a relative pittance given the all-star set-up man’s production this season. The Nats were in a weird, hybrid, buyer/seller mode, one that necessitated considering a Bryce Harper trade, but moving Kintzler seems to have been about something entirely different. The Nationals, for unknown reasons, had reason to believe that Kintzler was spilling clubhouse tea to reporters.
From the Washington Post:
Kintzler was shipped out because the Nationals believed he was responsible for anonymous reports that painted Washington’s clubhouse culture as iffy.
(We don’t know which story or stories they think Kintzler played a part in, but Jeff Passan’s Yahoo piece on Monday did cite sources describing the Nats’ clubhouse as “a mess.”)
GM Mike Rizzo obliquely addressed the trade on Wednesday:
Now, that particular Passan blog cites multiple sources, meaning Kintzler couldn’t have possibly been the only one airing these grievances, and it certainly wasn’t the only story this year portraying the Nats’ clubhouse as an unhappy place. It’s a weird situation for a weird team, one in the middle of an underwhelming 53-53 campaign—which they started as one of the favorites to win the pennant. It looks like they’re really starting to crack down on that “iffy” culture, too—they also designated Shawn Kelley for assignment, a day after he threw a tantrum on the mound after giving up a homer, ostensibly showing up his manager.
Manager Dave Martinez is, per Ken Rosenthal, “widely viewed in the industry as overmatched.” Generally, turmoil has permeated this underperforming club, no matter how many times members of the organization deny that there’s anything wrong, though it’s impossible to say if correlation is also causation, and if so, whether the dysfunction is causing the mediocrity or the other way around. Another question is whether the rot goes deeper than a couple of allegedly bad apples. If Bryce Harper didn’t already have one foot out the door before this season started, very little that’s happened since makes for a convincing reason to stay.