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Nats finish up strong in Arizona Fall League

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Nats finish up strong in Arizona Fall League

While most of the country is busy preparing for Thanksgiving -- or watching a whole lot of football, as the case may be -- there were a select few professional baseball players still in action over the weekend.

The latest edition of the Arizona Fall League wrapped up Saturday when the Peoria Javelinas toppled the Salt River Rafters, 4-3, in the annual championship game, one that featured several Nationals prospects on the losing end.

Though their team came up short in the title game, a couple of Nats acquitted themselves quite well out in Arizona over the last six weeks.

Let's start with Anthony Rendon, who after a slow start to his AFL season finished strong, posting a .338 batting average, 10 doubles, 11 RBI, 15 walks and a .930 OPS in 22 regular season games. The 2011 first-round draft pick then went 1-for-4 with a triple in Saturday's championship.

For Rendon, this was both a successful AFL stint and also confirmation of his advanced skills. The 22-year-old third baseman had appeared in only 43 professional games before heading out to the desert but by all accounts wasn't fazed facing top Class AA and Class AAA talent.

Rendon still needs to prove he can stay healthy over the long haul while facing more experienced pitchers, but his performance this fall certainly suggests he's not far from being big-league ready. If all goes well, there's every reason to believe we'll see him in D.C. no later than September.

Matt Skole probably won't be showing up at Nationals Park in 2013 ... unless he's there to receive another organizational player of the year award. But the 23-year-old appeared to prove his stellar regular season (27 homers, 92 RBI in 101 games at low-Class A Hagerstown) was no fluke.

Skole, the Nationals' fifth-round pick in 2011, hit .305 with three homers, 15 RBI and a .944 OPS in 17 regular-season games for Salt River. He went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in the championship game but made a couple of sparkling plays at first base, a position he had never manned as a professional.

Salt River manager Matt Williams was so confident in Skole's offensive ability, he had the slugger batting third on Saturday (one spot ahead of Rendon).

At the top of Williams' lineup was another Nationals prospect, Brian Goodwin, who wound up part of one of the game's most significant plays. Goodwin, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, led off the bottom of the seventh with his third triple in 21 AFL games. Representing the tying run, he tried to tag up on a subsequent flyball to right field but ultimately was called out on appeal for leaving third base too early.

Costly mistake or not, Goodwin made a name for himself during the AFL season. His average settled at .238, but he posted 11 extra-base hits and a .340 on-base percentage. If nothing else, the 22-year-old center fielder confirmed he should be considered someone who could crack the Nationals' lineup in 2014.

Not everyone in a Nats uniform thrived out in Arizona. Right-hander Ryan Perry, trying to refashion himself as a starter after pitching out of the big-league bullpen this season, was given the ball for the championship game but was rocked for four runs on eight hits and two walks in only three innings. Combined with six starts during the AFL's regular season, Perry finished with a 5.84 ERA.

Fellow right-hander Cole Kimball didn't pitch on Saturday, but he did make 11 appearances and establish his throwing shoulder is healthy again following major surgery that sidelined him for 14 months. Kimball also was named winner of the AFL's Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, given annually to the player who "best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work, and leadership."

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Nationals trade Danny Espinosa to Angels for two minor league pitchers

Nationals trade Danny Espinosa to Angels for two minor league pitchers

WASHINGTON -- The Los Angeles Angels have acquired shortstop Danny Espinosa from the Washington Nationals for two minor league pitchers.

The Angels sent right-handers Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin to the Nationals on Saturday night for Espinosa, who presumably lost his starting job when Washington obtained outfielder Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.

Washington traded three top pitching prospects to Chicago for Eaton, with the intention of shifting NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Trea Turner from center field back to his natural shortstop position.

The 29-year-old Espinosa hit .209 with a career-high 24 home runs and 72 RBIs as Washington's starting shortstop last season. In seven major league seasons he has batted .226 with 92 home runs and 285 RBIs.

McGowin was ranked as the Angels' 20th-best prospect.

MORE NATIONALS: Harper's 'Wow' tweet could mean a lot of things

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Bryce Harper sends 'Wow' tweet after Nationals trade for Adam Eaton

Bryce Harper sends 'Wow' tweet after Nationals trade for Adam Eaton

Nationals star Bryce Harper has had an eventful week, which included finding out that he might not be the Nationals star much longer. 

An anonymous club executive said that the Nationals won't meet Harper's demands for a 10-year, $400 million contract, and are prepared to let him walk when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season. 

That happened on Monday, then on Tuesday Washington missed out on trading from White Sox ace Chris Sale, who ended up going to Boston. 

And then on Wednesday, the Nats ended up trading their pile of top pitching prospects to the White Sox anyway, but instead of getting Sale, they got centerfielder Adam Eaton

Eaton, 28, has never been an All-Star. But he finished last season with a .284 batting average, .362 slugging percentage, 59 RBIs and 14 home runs. He's also an asset defensively in the outfield. 

But the pitching prospects Washington gave up – Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning – amounted to a steep price for Eaton. So steep that the Nats reportedly offered almost the same package of prospects for Sale. 

Within minutes of the Eaton trade news breaking, Harper tweeted this. 

He followed it up with a message of welcome a few minutes later.

Obviously, the initial tweet is what grabbed peoples' attention. But who can really say if Harper meant it as a positive or negative reaction to the Eaton trade? Frankly, it might not have anything to do with the trade at all. 

Plenty of other "wow" things happened this week. 

MORE NATIONALS: Dusty Baker takes part in “Play Ball” clinics in D.C.