The clock keeps on ticking

Good morning, Nationals fans. Your team currently stands alone with the best record in the majors.

With the Reds losing last night, the Nationals are atop Major League Baseball with a 61-40 record entering today's action.

And that's a large part of the reason why the team is unlikely to look much different (if at all) after this afternoon's 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline. Why mess with a good thing unless you can truly improve the on-field product without giving up too large a piece of your future?

There was one national report yesterday which had the Nats trying to acquire Cubs righty Ryan Dempster or looking to add another veteran starter prior to the deadline.

I've said for the last month that I don't see such a deal happening. And I still don't see it.

Dempster becomes a free agent after this season, meaning the Nats would be giving away a group of pretty strong prospects in order to acquire a pitcher for two-plus months of use.

Detwiler throws tall.jpgShould they trade for another starter, they will need to move Ross Detwiler back into the bullpen to make room for said starter, only to once again move Detwiler into the starting rotation once Stephen Strasburg is shut down, likely in early September.

If they keep up their strong play and reach the playoffs, they'll only need three, or, at most, four starters. Is a foursome of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ryan Dempster and Edwin Jackson really two-to-three quality minor league prospects better than a foursome of Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson and Detwiler?

Of course, the market for Dempster or another veteran rental could drop, and the Nats might view such a deal as a worthwhile investment. They could also bring in a starter who would be under team control past this season, which is a much-preferred option.

But as I've said in the past, I'd be quite surprised if either scenario ended up happening.

While it looks like the Nats might stand pat at the deadline, the Braves are doing no such thing.

Atlanta beefed up its pitching staff and bench last night, acquiring lefty Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson from the Cubs for two minor league pitchers.

Maholm has been on an absolute tear lately, going 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA over his past seven starts. His overall season numbers are more in line with the rest of his career, however; he's 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA this year.

The Nats shouldn't be too worried about having to face the veteran left-hander now that he's within the division. They've hit around Maholm to the tune of a 5.56 ERA in nine meetings with him. Maholm is 1-5 in those nine starts.

He goes from a Cubs team with no playoff aspirations to a Braves squad with legitimate postseason hopes. For now, though, Maholm and his new teammates are still looking up at the team with the best record in the majors.

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