The non-waiver trade deadline is 10 days away, but there has been very little mention of the Nationals in the national media with regard to being a player in the annual talent swap. Perhaps that’s a good thing.
With Monday night’s 7-2 win over the Colorado Rockies, coupled with the Braves’ loss to Miami, the Nats took over the lead in the National League East yet again. Their 54-43 record is good for first overall in the NL, percentage points better than Milwaukee (whom the Nats just took two out of three from to start the second half) in the NL Central and the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West. The Nats have played fewer games than any of those three teams.
The Nats are finally healthy and playing well, two reasons they might not be that active in the trade market. As long as Jordan Zimmermann makes his next start and is successful - after exiting his final start before the All-Star game and then missing the Midsummer Classic entirely - Washington is the healthiest it’s been all season.
The rotation is intact, with no starter ERA higher than 3.74, including nominal fifth starter Tanner Roark’s sparkling 2.91 ERA. The bullpen is deep and hasn’t been overworked. The back end, consisting of Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano, has combined for a 1.46 ERA in 111 innings. That’s unreal.
The batting order is finally as it was lined up on opening day. Ryan Zimmerman has been hot after a slow start back from the disabled list. Wilson Ramos is batting .295 in the No. 8 spot. And Bryce Harper, after adjusting his batting stance over the All-Star break, went 5-for-10 in the Brewers series with a home run and seems to have turned a page in his recovery from thumb surgery.
So what would you have the Nats trade for at the deadline?
We might see GM Mike Rizzo try to pick up another bat off the bench, one of those “hairy-chest guys” former manager Davey Johnson liked to have at his disposal. Currently, Nate McLouth is hitting .185/.296/.254, despite the Nats signing him for starter’s money (two years, $10.75 million) in the offseason. Kevin Frandsen checks in at .237/.283/.295. Danny Espinosa provides quality defense, but is hitting a paltry .210/.278/.337. Scott Hairston is the dean of the bench right now, but his .256/.277/.372 is certainly nothing to write home about.
So does Rizzo try to move a prospect, or perhaps underutilized lefty Ross Detwiler, in order to acquire a productive veteran bat? Should he? Or could the Nats turn to 26-year-old Steven Souza Jr., currently mashing Triple-A pitching to the tune of .364/.444/.608 for Syracuse? Would it be that much of a gamble to give Souza a shot instead of moving assets for a spare part?
In the grand scheme, Rizzo has a pretty easy job at this deadline. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. He put together a pretty good team at the start of the season. Now that they’re all healthy and performing, just let them do their jobs and hold onto the prospects for a later day.
Dave Nichols is editor-in-chief of District Sports Page and co-hosts the “Nats Nightly” Internet radio show. Read Nichols’ Nationals observations as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.