David Huzzard: What will a closer cost the Nationals?

Believe it or not, the Nationals don’t have the worst bullpen in the majors. That isn’t to forgive or forget just how bad the bullpen has been and how many leads they’ve blown, or that with even a league-average bullpen the Mets’ recent hot streak wouldn’t matter one bit. It is simply a fact. The Nats don’t have the worst bullpen in the majors and it is going to cause them major issues when the trade deadline comes around.

By ERA, the Twins have the worst bullpen in the majors at 5.39. The Nats are at 5.19, if you were curious. Just outside the top 10 are the first-place Brewers and the Orioles, who will probably still be fighting for the American League East come the trade deadline. I forgot to mention the Cardinals also have a dreadful bullpen and are within striking distance of the Brewers. So all told, there are three first-place teams and a handful of teams fighting for division titles or the wild card with some of the worst bullpens in baseball. The Nats get the most attention because it is their one glaring weakness, but when it comes to making trades, they’re going to be trying to outbid all of these other teams and any selling team is going to know the position the Nats are in.

The perception of the Nats’ situation, combined with the sheer number of contenders with terrible bullpens, is going to make a trade pricier. Add in what the Yankees got at last year’s trade deadline in the Andrew Miller deal and it is unlikely that the Nats are going to be able to add a reliever and hold onto their top prospects. Players like Victor Robles aren’t included in trades for relievers, but every team that deals with the Nats is going to make that their first ask, and as other teams fill their bullpen needs, it is going to become more and more likely that Mike Rizzo is going to have to make what could be one of the worst deadline deals in baseball history.

The goal of baseball isn’t to win every trade. It’s to win a World Series. And if it takes Robles to get the closer the Nats desperately need, then it is a move that is going to have to be made. And while it is unlikely that any other team would make an offer even close to that and the Nats could match the opposing bids with lesser prospects, it still may not be good enough when the selling teams know they’ve got the Nats in prime position to rob them blind.

This trade deadline is going to be a lesson. Whether that is to Rizzo to spend the budget he’s given more wisely or to the Lerners to not ignore the margins of the team when deciding which deals to approve or not. There is no Michael Morse, Doug Fister or Trea Turner trade at this deadline. The Nats are desperate and there are plenty of other contending teams with bad bullpens and a couple of them will be willing to play ball where the Nats might not.

The Nationals bullpen is bad. It’s very bad, but it’s not the worst, and while the Twins might appear to be winning with smoke and mirrors, a couple of deadline deals and suddenly they’re a real good team with two months left to hold onto a division lead. The Nats could win the National League East with their current bullpen, but it won’t get them deep into the playoffs. This is the worst-kept secret in baseball and it is going to be used against the Nationals. They need a closer, everyone knows they need a closer and there are enough other teams in the same situation that the Nats won’t be able to steal a great player in the typical Rizzo trade. There is no surprise attack this time. The Nats are going to have to get their closer by using overwhelming force.

David Huzzard blogs about the Nationals at Citizens of Natstown. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHuzzard. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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 regular roster of writers.

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