There are about 50 hours left until the non-waiver trade deadline in Major League Baseball, and if you thought the rumor mill on the Hill was busy, the baseball rumor mill has it matched. The last two days ahead of the trade deadline are often the busiest of the season, with deals getting done well into the midnight hours. So what might we expect from the Nationals? According to Sports Illustrated, GM Mike Rizzo has said that the Nats are “buyers and sellers,” and “If we think there’s a good trade out there that helps this team, we’ll make it.”
What do they need?
The needs of the Nationals are significant. While they’ve shored up a few areas, it’s hard to look at the day-in/day-out lineup and see anything other than some holes. The starting pitching is a particularly rough place, with each of the Nationals starters with significant weaknesses this month, but that’s hardly the worst of it.
What the Nationals need most, though, is a leadoff hitter. That’s what they seem to be focusing their current round of negotiations on, with trades in the works, according to rumors, for the Rays’ B.J. Upton, or the Twins’ Denard Span. The price, though, may be more than the Nationals will stomach. The Twins apparently want closer Drew Storen, which is a fairly large price for a player that has spent the last 8 weeks on the DL with a concussion. If he’s healthy, that’s one thing, that makes him a career .289/.366/.391 guy that you put in center for his defense, and at the top of the lineup to boost the Nats’ sullen offense. Concussions are a tricky business, though, and that has to hurt his trade value. It’s not worth giving up Drew Storen. Perhaps Roger Bernadina and a good long reliever like Ryan Mattheus, but not Drew Storen.
B.J. Upton is a bigger target. His .752 OPS is heavy on the slugging side, and it’s no question he needs a change of scenery to move up to the next level. It’s rumored that the Rays’ demands are a bit larger, asking for Ian Desmond or Wilson Ramos, which would be a significant loss for the Nationals’ defense.
Is it worth it?
One need only look at the standings to see that the Nationals are six games under .500 and largely out of contention for the season. The front office is going to have to decide if they want to take a risk on moving one of their known quantities for a new player with significant talent but a major flaw. It’s unclear how Upton would deal with the move to Washington, and it’s unclear how Span would recover from the concussion. Both of those question marks has me thinking that straight up trades are unlikely, and that the only way these trades were to make sense is if they can do it for lesser pieces.
The Nationals have hit the skids hard since the All Star Break, and this certainly isn’t a team that I’d want to keep together in its current form. There are too many holes in this lineup as it stands, so a trade to deplete the bullpen in exchange for some hitting would make sense, as long as they’re standing pat on Clippard and Storen. I’d hate to lose Bernadina, because he’s a lot of fun to watch, but the Nationals could do a lot better, both offensively and defensively.
Look for one trade before the deadline, but only if they can do it without losing one of their “core” players.