As we approach July 31, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
Washington Nationals: 54-36, 1st in National League East
Note: This preview was published just hours before the Nationals swung a deal with the Athletics for relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
The Nationals have begun the second half with one of the best records in the National League to go along with a comfortable 9.5 game lead over the second place Atlanta Braves. Although it appears that the Nationals will cruise to a first place finish in a less than stellar NL East, the club will certainly look to upgrade their roster as they prepare for a postseason run to the World Series.
As is the case with many teams, the Nationals have dealt with their fair share of injuries. They will be without outfielder Adam Eaton for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL as well as Joe Ross with a torn UCL, and they just recently lost star shortstop Trea Turner for the foreseeable future with a broken right wrist.
The team is also currently without outfielders Jayson Werth and Michael Taylor, and they are also missing bullpen arms Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.
The offense has been as good as advertised as Bryce Harper is once again playing at the MVP pace he played at in 2015, and Daniel Murphy is once again showing why he is one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. The club has also seen Ryan Zimmerman find the fountain of youth as one of the teams biggest stars as he hit .322/.369/.582 with 19 home runs and 63 RBIs to this point. His continued reemergence will be extremely important for the Nats going forward.
The bullpen has been the dark cloud over what has otherwise been a very productive season for the Nationals. General manager Mike Rizzo has been searching for a lockdown closer since last year’s Winter Meetings. His inability to get a deal done has spelled disaster for the Nationals’ bullpen in 2017 who has already seen six different relievers record saves. They also have a league worst bullpen ERA that sits at 5.18 entering play today.
In addition to bullpen help, the Nationals could also use a starting pitcher in light of the recent news that Ross will need Tommy John Surgery. The Nats insist that they do not need a middle infielder while they await Turner’s return, but they should be expected to be in the market for starting and relief pitching. The club may also determine that they could use an extra outfielder to help their depth down the stretch.
What moves have they made so far?
The Nationals have been working the market for relief pitching over the past couple of weeks. They recently signed DFA’d reliever Francisco Rodriguez, but have since decided that they will not be using K-Rod after they released him shortly after bringing home on board.
As previously mentioned above, the club also acquired relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in a five-player deal that included Blake Treinen and two minor leaguers. Despite making the first splash of the trade season on the reliever market, the Nationals are still searching for relievers, and may be interested in Justin Wilson of the Tigers.
Are they buyers or sellers?
With a commanding lead in the NL East, the Nationals are buyers at this year’s trade deadline without a doubt. They dealt some of their most talented prospects to the White Sox for Eaton this winter, but they still have a solid group at the top to make a splash if they feel compelled to doing so. The Nationals have one of the best rosters in the Major Leagues, but could use some upgrades to put them as not only the frontrunner of their division, but in the National League pennant race.
Who could they trade?
As buyers, it’s unlikely the Nationals would trade many, if any, players at the big league level. With that said, they do have prospects Victor Robles, Erick Fredde and Juan Soto that could headline a few deals along with prospects that are inching closer to the show. On the 40-man, the Nationals could elect to part ways with Rafael Bautista, Pedro Severino, Jose Marmolejos and Austin Voth, though such players may be less likely to see their names in trade talks.
Who will they target?
The Nationals have been linked to a number of relief pitchers, and most notably a duo from Oakland of Madson and Doolittle, who they recently acquired. Despite that deal, they could also take a look at All-Star lefty Brad Hand of the Padres and left-hander Justin Wilson of the Detroit Tigers - who is said to be one of their top trade targets. Another dark horse name to look out for is Zach Britton of the Orioles, whom the Nationals have called on, but that may be more of a long shot.
Clearly, the bullpen is going to be the focal point of the trade deadline for the Nationals, but they may also take a look at big name starters Sonny Gray, Justin Verlander or Johnny Cueto, though they have not been publicly linked to those pitchers.
It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Nationals will bolster their bullpen in some shape or form. There are plenty of highly valued arms on the market in the bullpen at this year’s trade deadline and Washington appears to be in the mix for all of them. Bullpen arms are coming at a premium in today’s game, so it may take more than the Nationals would like to give up, but they do seem to be going for it in 2017.
If the Nationals want to make an impact in October this season, they are going to have to upgrade in the bullpen. Any of the names mentioned above could come into the mix. However, the Nationals may not be in the market for relievers Addision Reed of the Mets and AJ Ramos and David Phelps of the Marlins due to the teams being in the same division. Still, there are plenty of viable options out there, and the Nationals are surely going to capitalize on at least one bullpen arm and may not stop at just one trade to improve their abysmal bullpen.