Nationals Claim Jeter Downs From Red Sox


The Nationals announced they have claimed infielder Jeter Downs off waivers from the Red Sox. Downs had been recently designated for assignment by Boston. To create space on the 40-man roster, the Nats designated reliever Reed Garrett for assignment. Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post. reported the claim of Downs prior to the official announcement.

Downs, 24, is perhaps best known as one of the key pieces of the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February of 2020. Downs went to the Red Sox alongside Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong. At the time, Downs was a highly-touted prospect, featuring on the back end of Baseball America’s top 100 list in both 2020 and 2021.

Unfortunately, his stock has completely nosedived in the past two years. After the pandemic wiped out the minor leagues in 2020, Downs spent 2021 in Triple-A, getting into 99 games on the year. His power and speed were still evident, as he hit 14 home runs and stole 18 bases. However, he struck out in 32.3% of his plate appearances and finished with a batting line of .190/.272/.333 for a wRC+ of 62.

2022 was an improvement but only slightly. His strikeout rate dropped but was still quite high at 29.6%. He added another 16 homers and swiped 18 more bags, but his batting line of .197/.316/.412 added up to a 95 wRC+. He also got into 14 MLB games but hit just .154/.171/.256 in that small sample, striking out in 51.2% of his trips to the plate.

The Sox gave up on him by designating him for assignment last week but the rebuilding Nats will give him a shot. He’s still only 24, was a top prospect less than two years ago and has two option years remaining. He also brings defensive versatility, having primarily played shortstop but also some second and third base.

The Nats will have a young middle infield consisting of CJ Abrams at shortstop and Luis Garcia at second. Third base figures to be manned by Jeimer Candelario, though he’s only on a one-year deal and could be dealt at midseason if he’s performing well. Carter Kieboom is also in the mix for work at the hot corner though he’s struggled in the big leagues so far and missed the 2022 season entirely due to Tommy John surgery. Veteran Ildemaro Vargas is also on hand as a utility option, though there are avenues there for Downs to work his way into the picture if he can get things back on track.

Garrett, 30 in January, he has limited MLB experience, getting into 13 games with the 2019 Tigers and another seven with the 2022 Nationals with a stint in Japan in between. He posted a 6.75 ERA in the big leagues this year but was much better in the minors. He logged 47 1/3 Triple-A innings with a 3.04 ERA, 27% strikeout rate, 9.2% walk rate and 47.4% ground ball rate. The Nats will have one week to trade him or pass him through waivers. He still has a couple of option years remaining and had solid minor league numbers this year, which could lead to some interest from other clubs.

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