Former top prospect Lucas Giolito understands why Nationals traded him away

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Ex-prospect Giolito understands why Nats traded him away originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

At one point in his amateur baseball career, Lucas Giolito looked like one of the next great aces in Major League Baseball.

A high school injury dropped his draft stock, and the Nationals were able to take advantage. Moving through Washington's farm system, Giolito remained one of the top prospects in both the organization and all of baseball.

Eventually, though, the Nats reached a point where they had to decide whether or not they wanted to go all in on trying to win a World Series, or to allow Giolito to take his lumps in the big leagues while he was still trying to figure everything out.

They chose to move on, and the trade has worked out well for both sides. And while co-hosting the Chris Rose Rotation podcast in an episode interviewing Max Scherzer, Giolito admitted he understands why Washington chose to move on from him. Even if he didn't appreciate it in the moment.

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"I had limited opportunities at the big leagues for the Nats, and it didn’t go well at all," Giolito admitted. "I was searching at that point. I was searching for something, whether it was mechanical, or mental, the edge I needed. And I hadn’t found it yet."

Giolito's career has taken off since joining Chicago. After two down seasons with the White Sox, Giolito broke out in 2019 while making his first All-Star Game at 24 years old. He's finished top-seven in Cy Young voting in the American League in each of the past two seasons and appears poised to be one of the best pitchers in the league for the foreseeable future.

But at the time, the Nationals weren't in a position to think about Giolito's future potential. They needed more immediate help.

"I mean, I got it," Giolito said. "The team at the time was like 'hey, we’re trying to win a World Series right now, you can’t help us. So we’re going to use whatever value you have left to try to get a piece that can help us in Adam Eaton.' So that was just kind of the way it went."

Today, Giolito has the benefit of hindsight. But at the time, the trade bothered him, something Scherzer admitted to also feeling when he was sent from Arizona to Detroit.

"I did feel pissed off a little bit initially," Giolito said. "But, at the same time, I kind of realized, do I want to be at an organization where I’m going to be up and down, Triple-A, big leagues, not really being able to figure anything out, or should I try to see this as an opportunity for a fresh start where I know I’m going to get more opportunity? Very fortunate to get that opportunity to just fail at the big-league level and learn from it."

For his former teammate, who was already a Cy Young winner while Giolito was still getting his feet wet at the big-league level, losing a potential future star was difficult. But, of course, the 2019 postseason run -- keyed, in part, by the player the Nats got in return -- eased the sting quite a bit.

"For us, watching him get traded away, it was like, ‘dang it, we’re trading away a guy that can really do it,’" Scherzer said. "But like, we’re getting Adam Eaton, and guess what? We got a ring because of it. So it’s all good."