One day remains until baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline and whether the Nationals will be active or stand pat remains to be determined.
The pitching staff is just fine, and entered play today leading the majors in ERA. Maybe the only obvious area for improvement is second or third base with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring) now out for the foreseeable future.
But there’s no guarantee that a move will make sense. Manager Matt Williams answered a series of questions regarding the deadline before this afternoon’s game at Marlins Park.
Williams said he has been in constant contact with general manager Mike Rizzo as they look at possible moves.
“We’ve been talking every day, sometimes twice a day about potentials and who could be and who would be a long shot or who we think that may be a possibility and what it would take, and all of those things,” Williams said. “There’s nothing certainly that we’ve decided on yet and things can change drastically over the next 24 hours. But yeah, I’ve been talking to him every day about it and he’s been extremely busy, speaking with a number of people around the league about potentials.
“So we’ll see what happens in the next 24. It always comes down to the 11th hour anyway. So kind of all of those frying pans are going right now and we’ll see what we can come up with, if anything.”
Williams didn’t point to a specific area when asked what he feels the Nats might need for the stretch run.
“There’s certainly needs all over the place. It depends on who it is. Mike will not make a trade just to make a trade and he’s concerned with the long-term longevity of this organization and as well, having a chance to add if we can this year,” Williams said. “So the needs are kind of depending on who’s out there. Does this guy make sense if he’s available?
“If somebody calls Mike and says, ‘Hey, we’ve got this guy available. What do you think? Does he make sense for (your) club?’ And that’s the evaluation process that we go through every day. Needs? I don’t know. Certainly, anybody that comes to us and says, ‘Hey, this guy may fit on your club,’ we’ll take a hard look and that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
When Zimmerman strained his hamstring, Williams indicated the injury could affect the Nats’ deadline plans. Even with just a day to go, the manager isn’t sure whether that will be the case.
“Well, we don’t know yet. To trade just to trade doesn’t make any sense,” Williams said. “It’s got to be an impactful, meaningful trade if Mike’s going to do it. So that’s kind of where we sit right now. Do we want to have somebody that’s going to make an impact? Sure. But he may not be available or it may not be the right move for Mike to make. So we have to evaluate all of those things.
“We’ll see what happens in the next 24 hours or so, and it’s amazing how things change in that time period - price of a guy, regardless of major league player or minor league players often changes within that 24-hour period. So we just kind of wait and see what happens. There’s some guys that are out there. There’s some guys that we’ve taken a hard look at. We’ll see how it goes. But right now, we don’t have anything concrete.”
If the Nats don’t make a move, they could need to stick with their current alignment with Anthony Rendon at third and Danny Espinosa at second with both Kevin Frandsen and Zach Walters being worked into the mix.
Williams said he’d be comfortable with Espinosa playing the majority of the time at second if the Nats don’t add anyone.
“We’ve played the majority of the year that way, and we are where we’re at,” Williams said. “We’ve got a chance. He’s helped us have that chance, and whether it’s Danny or Franny or Zach or a combination of all three or whatever it is, whether it’s Franny at third sometimes and Anthony back over there or Zach over there, it’s part of the process you have to go through.
“If nothing happens, then that’s the way we’ve played the majority of the season anyway. So everybody would be comfortable with it. We still have to do things right and go win games.”
Williams also discussed a couple of non-deadline topics, starting with right fielder Jayson Werth’s return to the lineup.
Werth didn’t start Tuesday because of a sprained right ankle, but he’s back today.
“He’s better, yeah. I think he could’ve played last night, the whole game if he needed to,” Williams said. “Got a text from him this morning and he said, ‘Let’s go. I’m ready to go.’ So I said, ‘Yes sir,’ and I put his name in the lineup. ...
“There’s no issue with him today. He’s ready to go. Again, he may be a little bit sore. But he told me this morning, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go.’ So we’re putting him in the lineup. We need him in there.”
Williams also talked about Bryce Harper, who has recorded multiple hits in each of the last two games for his first consecutive multi-hit performances since April 24-25.
In his first 21 games back from thumb surgery, Harper batted .209. Over his last two games, he’s 4-for-7.
“I think he’s seeing it really well,” Williams said. “The last at-bat last night for him, he had a hanging slider that he just missed, but he certainly handled (Henderson Alvarez) really well last night. He’s got great career numbers against him and got a couple of hits, and seeing the baseball good. He walked. So I think he’s right where he needs to be, right where he wants to be, and it’s just going to get better and better the more at-bats he gets.”