The Washington Nationals' deadline-day trade of reliever Brandon Kintzler to the Chicago Cubs came as something of a surprise, considering the Nats still fancy themselves as contenders. But the genesis of the deal might not have been from his on-field performance.
Washington traded Kintzler because the team believed him to have leaked that the clubhouse was in dysfunction, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Kintzler celebrated his 34th birthday Wednesday by denying he leaked word of the Nationals' alleged dysfunction.
"I've never talked to that Jeff Passan guy (Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan broke the story Monday) in my life, so that's an interesting accusation," Kintzler told 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. "I know for a fact that someone got him to admit that his source was not a player, so it wasn't me. I've never talked to that guy in my life."
When asked why he thought he was traded, Kintzler replied: "I don't know."
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post's Jorge Castillo that Kintzler was traded both to open a spot in the bullpen for rookie Wander Suero and give the team some financial relief.
"It gives us financial flexibility, this year and next year going forward," Rizzo said of the trade. "And we felt it was the prudent move, like all the moves we make, with 2018 and beyond in mind."
Rizzo did not speak to the reports of dysfunction in the clubhouse, but other members of the organization have chimed in. Manager Dave Martinez told Svrluga that he sees "a lot of cohesiveness, a lot of togetherness" from his players, while outfielder Adam Eaton called the report a "load of crap."
Kintzler ended up being the only player traded by the Nationals on Tuesday, though there was some thought that other relievers, including Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson, might have been on the block. Speculation that superstar outfielder Bryce Harper would be traded also proved unfounded.
Washington did make another controversial bullpen move Wednesday morning when it designated Shawn Kelley for assignment after he allowed a ninth-inning homer during Tuesday's blowout win and slammed his glove to the ground in response.