The Nationals have held onto Robles for years, despite other clubs reportedly trying to include him in trades for players. The Nationals opted to forego cashing in on his peak trade value and leaned on him as a future building block of the franchise. Yet Robles is still struggling, and with the recent acquisition of Lane Thomas, Robles’s future with the team is coming into question. The question on everyone’s mind is what is next for Robles and will he or should he be part of the Nationals Future?
Will Victor Robles be a part of the Washington Nationals Future? We say YES. Even though Robles has been struggling over the past two seasons, the Nationals lack depth in the outfield, with Andrew Stevenson as the only current backup for the outfield. That is a recipe for disaster, as we have seen how players can get hurt in a split second, and that is the main reason why I believe that the Nationals will hold on to Robles in the short term until the team can really address another hole in the outfield (there is still no solid left-fielder for Opening Day on the roster).
Being that we are at the start of Rizzo’s “re-tooling,” I can’t imagine that the team will want to deal with filling another hole while they have to rebuild so much of the team from starting pitching to bullpen help and beyond. There is just too much on their to-do list and Robles comes with a pretty low salary. According to MLB Trade Rumors, they projected Robles salary to come in around $1.7 million.
Additionally, while Robles has been struggling over the past two seasons, I can’t imagine a situation where Rizzo and Co., do not cut bait with Robles and trade him in the short term, as we have seen Rizzo and Co. stick with a player even though they might not be the best fit (I am looking at third base and Carter Kieboom) and hope that he improves over time.
Another reason Victor Robles will be part of the Nationals future is that we saw how talented Robles is defensively in the outfield however, even those metrics have been slipping. In 2019, Robles showed that he could play elite defense in center field, showing off impressive range (+23 Defensive Runs Saved) and a strong arm (12 outfield assists).
While he took a step back during the pandemic-shortened 2020 and this year, one has to ask, is he still a projected Gold Glove-caliber outfielder moving forward? The answer to that question is a bit murky. Robles has had trouble at the plate and on the base path in 2021 and 2020. During the shortened 2020 season, according to Baseball Savant, Robles’ average exit velocity was in the first percent title, and he was in the 20th percent in strikeout percentages.
If you look at the same stats in 2021, Robles, unfortunately, didn’t improve his strikeout percentage, which went up to the 40% title, and his exit velocity ranking stayed the same. Another stat that is concerning is the drop in percent title for Outs Above Average. In 2020 Robles ranked in the 80th percentile, and in 2021, he ranked in the 72 percentile. Robles went from the 100 percentile in 2019 to 72 percent this year; that’s a pretty big drop in outfield performance.
Additionally, after hitting an impressive .165 ISO in his rookie year in 2019, Robles’ troubles at the plate continued into the 2020 season and was under .100 for the second straight year with a .092 ISO. In addition to his poor performance at the plate, Robles’ baserunning wasn’t so great, actually, it stunk.
Should Victor Robles be a part of the Washington Nationals Future? We say MAYBE. The key answer to this question lies in Lane Thomas and how he performs in Spring Training and beyond.
If outfielder Lane Thomas maintains his production for the Nationals it will make it even harder for Robles to come back to the majors at least in a Washington Nationals uniform. I believe that it is very possible that Robles becomes the next Michael Taylor who is called upon when the Nationals are in a situation where they need some solid defense in the outfield in a critical game or series.
Over the past few years, GM Mike Rizzo has turned down offers from many teams to trade center fielder Victor Robles; however, after struggling in 2020 and 2021 and being sent down to Triple-A, add on the great performance of Lane Thomas, who was acquired from the Cardinals for Jon Lester at the trade deadline, the future of the once “un-touchable,” Robles is in question and it might be time to move on from the centerfielder.
But can the Nationals actually make the move? We will see.