There are two ways to add players from outside the organization. That is by spending money or spending talent. Most trades are completed by spending talent, but there is a way to spend money and make a trade that might present the Nationals with the best option for improvement this deadline. The rumors have begun swirling, and according to one writer’s source the Tigers have no interest in moving right-hander Justin Verlander and according to another writer’s source they aren’t shopping him but will listen. The holdup is said to be the Tigers still want prospects back and want the acquiring team to pay most of his contract. They won’t get both. If they decide that shedding payroll is more important than acquiring prospects, that is where the Nationals can jump in.
Justin Wilson has a 2.36 ERA in 36 appearances for the Tigers. The Nationals could lower the prospect cost in acquiring Wilson by agreeing to take on Verlander’s contract in full. This is only one scenario where this opportunity is present. The Marlins are also said to be interested in getting rid of Giancarlo Stanton’s contract and have a bevy of relievers that would interest the Nationals. Chief among them is closer AJ Ramos, who has a 3.51 ERA in 34 appearances.
With those two scenarios, the Nationals would be taking on a lot of money, but they’d also be getting upgrades at other positions. While neither Verlander nor Stanton are viewed as being worth their contract, they do offer upgrades for the Nationals. Verlander would also be shifting from the American League to the National League, which has historically been a positive shift for pitchers. A 4.73 ERA in 104 innings this season isn’t good and is even worse for a pitcher with Verlander’s track record. It is however better than Joe Ross or Tanner Roark, and one of them could shift to the bullpen to give the Nationals a second reliever in the deal.
In the second scenario of acquiring Stanton, the main reasoning would be that Jayson Werth is a free agent after this season and Bryce Harper after next, and a Stanton, Adam Eaton, Harper outfield in 2018 would be pretty good. Stanton is an interesting case of leading the NL in home runs with 26 and has a .933 OPS, but everyone is caught up on the contract, and with the Marlins being sold, they are looking to shed debt. The most interested team right now is said to be the Phillies, but they also want Christian Yelich in return. If the Nationals were to agree to take on Stanton’s contract and let the Marlins keep Yelich while instead asking for Ramos and Kyle Barraclough, that could be much more appealing to the Marlins.
One of the big hangups with the Tigers and moving Verlander is not a problem that Miami has. The Tigers are said to be reluctant to trade Verlander because it is a true signal that this era of winning that started in 2006 is over and Verlander is a Tigers legend. The Marlins don’t have fans to worry about and could trade Stanton in a straight salary dump and entice a team like the Nationals to take on the salary by giving them a couple relievers. And if you think the Marlins won’ trade within the division, just remember they traded Dan Uggla and Carlos Delgado in the division while they were still All-Star caliber players.
While the Nationals would be tying up a lot of money in Stanton and it might hurt them in the re-signing of Harper, Daniel Murphy or Anthony Rendon, they’d still get Stanton and the relievers they desperately need to make a run this season. There is no guarantee they can keep any of the aforementioned players without the $300 million-plus on the payroll. If the Marlins are serious about moving Stanton as a salary dump, Mike Rizzo has to make that call and see if they will part with the relievers for little return and the Nationals agreeing to take on the contract. The Nationals would be taking on a sizeable contract, but they’d be able to have a 3-4-5 of Harper, Stanton, Murphy for at least the next two seasons. That makes a lineup that is seven deep and scary to start 2018, just the bonus in getting the bullpen they need this season with Ramos and Barraclough.
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.