Nationals reach trade deadline with clear-cut needs

The Nationals have known for the better part of four months now they were going to need to upgrade their bullpen before the July 31 trade deadline. And for four months, they've tried every trick in the book to address their most glaring need without breaking the bank or dealing away top prospects.

Today we finally find out if they're willing to do something bold and fix this problem area once and for all.

The countdown to the 4 p.m. trade deadline is on, and the pressure's on general manager Mike Rizzo to make a move that helps his team's chances of catching the Braves for the National League East crown, not to mention its chances of winning more than two games in October for the first time in club history.

It's not nearly as simple, though, as it sounds. Rizzo must find a quality reliever or two who can be had for something less than elite prospects like infielders Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia and right-hander Mason Denaburg. He must not take on enough extra salary to push the Nationals over the luxury tax threshold for the third consecutive season. And he must outbid perhaps a dozen other contenders in search of bullpen help, with only a handful of non-contenders willing to sell right now.

Mike-Rizzo-NLDS-presser-sidebar.jpg"I think just about every team that's looking to make the playoffs is looking to upgrade themselves, and oftentimes that's in the bullpen," Rizzo said last week in his most recent session with reporters. "And I think this year is no different than any other year that we've had."

There is one major difference this year. Today is the one and only trade deadline in 2019. The August waiver trades that for decades offered teams a second go-around are no more. It either happens today - or it won't happen.

Because of that, the most interesting teams in baseball today might well be those that are on the fringes of the pennant race and now must decide if they're buyers or sellers.

And no team fits that description more than the Giants, who entered the season in rebuild mode but have turned red-hot over the last month and now sit only 2 1/2 games out of an unexpected wild card berth. San Francisco has no shortage of attractive relievers - lefties Will Smith and Tony Watson, righties Sam Dyson and Reyes Moronta - and if GM Farhan Zaidi is willing to move any of them at the expense of trying to win now, the Nationals look like ideal trade partners.

Other teams that could be shopping relievers include the Tigers (Shane Greene), Mets (Edwin Díaz), Pirates (Felipe Vázquez, Francisco Liriano), Orioles (Mychal Givens), Blue Jays (Daniel Hudson) and White Sox (Alex Colomé).

The Nationals, whose 6.01 ERA and 1.55 WHIP rank last among all major league bullpens, may need to try to address other needs before this afternoon. Their rotation depth has turned dangerously thin, with Erick Fedde and Joe Ross now holding the Nos. 4 and 5 spots until Max Scherzer (and perhaps Jeremy Hellickson) return from injuries. They could also potentially seek another bench player, particularly an experienced utility infielder.

But the bullpen has been their primary concern throughout the season, and it remains their primary need on July 31.

As much as they've been boosted at times in the last month-plus by the unexpected performances of Fernando Rodney, Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero, the Nationals know how much bigger a boost the acquisition of one of the aforementioned trade candidates would be within the clubhouse.

"When you're looking to add people, it's good because it gives people a sense of: 'Hey, we're in it! Here we go!'" manager Davey Martinez said Tuesday. "On the other hand, when you're not and you're hearing trade rumors about getting rid of players, it can be a little downer. At this point right now, I know the guys are hearing we're trying to add, add, add. That only means that we're playing well. We're in a pennant race. And that's good."

Anthony Santander is emerging as a future nugget f...
Teheran's action on fastball made Nats' at-bats to...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to