The Big Read: From Elijah Dukes to Bryce Harper: How the Nats made it to the top

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Yesterday I called the Nationals the best team in baseball. Today Joe Posnanski explains how they got there. But first he reminds us of how truly wretched they were just a few short years ago:

Their right fielder, Elijah Dukes, had been involved in so many off-field incidents, the team hired a former police officer to watch him at all times (though not too well since Dukes would talk later of smoking pot before Nationals games) … Their best player, Adam Dunn, was so bad defensively in left field and at first base that despite hitting 38 homers and posting a .398 on-base percentage, the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic still rated him worse than a replacement player (his minus-43 fielding runs is the worst fielding performance in baseball history).

The starting pitching was such an irreparable mess that, in desperation, they signed 34-year-old Livan Hernandez, who had pitched for five teams the previous four years. And one of those teams was the Washington Nationals.

When it gets this bad, what do you do? Where do you even begin? And how does it then become baseball’s best team in three years?

Joe walks us through how. And, as always, The Big Read is a good read.

White Sox trying to trade Avasail Garcia

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A wise man once said that a wise mad said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The White Sox are not prepared to miss their shot: Mark Feinsand of MLB.com says they are “actively trying” to trade Avisail Garcia.

Which seems like a super difficult shot given that (a) Garcia had knee and hamstring injuries this past season; (b) hit just .236/.281/.438 when he did play; and (c) is arbitration eligible and stands to make more than the $6.7 million salary he made in 2018. You put those things together and you have a guy that the Sox are almost 100% going to non-tender rather than take to arbitration, thereby making him freely and cheaply available to anyone who wants him as long as they can wait until November 30, which is the tender/non-tender deadline.

Garcia, who somehow is still just 27 years-old, is one year removed from what many considered a breakout year, in which he hit .330/.380/.506 in 136 games, but I don’t think anyone is going to bite at him in a trade. Assuming he’s in decent shape and recovered from injuries, however, he could be a useful player in 2019.