Nationals claim Jeter Downs off waivers after Red Sox DFA
Jeter Downs is no longer a member of the Boston Red Sox organization.
On Thursday, the Washington Nationals claimed Downs off waivers, bringing an end to a brief, but significant tenure with the Sox.
Downs was the top prospect acquired in the Mookie Betts trade in February 2020, and as such, there was immense pressure on him and the organization. Upon his arrival, he became the No. 2 prospect in a weak Sox farm system. How he developed would be key to determining how balanced or unbalanced the exchange had been.
The infielder didn’t get a chance to play for his new organization until the 2021 season, as the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancelation of the 2020 MiLB season. Ahead of the 2021 season, he ranked 49th in MLB Pipeline’s top prospects, though Baseball America put him 71st. In July 2021, he and top pitching prospect Brayan Bello represented the Sox during All-Star week’s Futures Game.
Unfortunately, across 180 games with Triple-A Worcester over the last two seasons, Downs only managed a .193/.292/.368 line, drew 76 walks and struck out 230 times. He scored 95 runs, drove in 72 RBI, and collected 125 hits, including 20 doubles and 30 home runs.
Downs made a brief debut with the Sox this year, but he brought his Triple-A struggles with him. In 14 games, he struck out 21 times and only collected six hits and one walk. He’d impressive with speed and tenacity on the basepaths in Triple-A, stealing 18 bases in each of the last two seasons, but didn’t attempt to swipe one during his time in the majors.
The club still has Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong, but the decision to DFA Downs revived the never-really-dormant discussion of their most impactful transaction since Babe Ruth. The way Downs’ tenure with the Sox ended is so much bigger than him. It’s a reminder of the choices the Sox made that put them in a position where they felt the need to trade Betts. It’s an indictment of the organization’s inability to unlock a top prospect’s potential. Most importantly, calls into question Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom’s ability to evaluate talent, a topic of much concern in light of their handling of negotiations with Rafael Devers.
Downs is the second top Sox prospect the Nationals have grabbed this month. They selected Thad Ward with the first-overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft.