As the month of July winds down, the trade deadline is now only a few days away. At this time of the year most teams are grouped into one of two categories, buyers, or sellers. The Washington Nationals however, fall somewhere in the middle.
Currently sitting 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings, any sort of a rental player does not seem like a viable option to Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson. But with the amount of talent the Nationals currently have on the roster, they are not quite ready to give up on this season. Coming into the season, the Nationals were picked by many as World Series contenders and Manager Davey Johnson infamously announced “World Series or bust”. Though the roster appears to have talent in many areas, there are clearly areas that can be improved upon, but a trade will only be made if General Manager Mike Rizzo does not believe it compromises the future of the franchise.
One area where the Nationals have an opportunity to make an addition at the trade deadline is starting pitching. At the moment, the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation are up for grabs. The current occupants of those positions are Dan Haren and Taylor Jordan. Jordan is coming off of Tommy John surgery and just like every other member of the organization who has had the surgery, is on an innings limit. The exact number has not been announced, but it is believed that he will throw 20 to 30 more innings this year, roughly 4 or 5 more starts.
Haren signed to a 1-year, $13 million deal in the offseason but has not lived up to expectations up to this point in the season. He has a record of 5-11 and an ERA of 5.49, but Saturday’s start against the Mets showed promise. Haren threw 7 innings and only allowed one run, ending an 11 game streak in which the Nationals had lost Haren’s starts. Ross Detwiler also has not repeated his solid 2012 season. This year, Detwiler has a 2-7 record and a 4.04 ERA. He has been on the DL often and will be there at least one more month. As the deadline approaches, Haren’s recent quality start and the emergence of Ross Ohlendorf may deter Rizzo from adding another starting pitcher.
Another area where the Nationals could potentially add is a left handed bat off of the bench. Last year, the bench was a key to the Nationals success but this year it has underachieved. Down years from Chad Tracy, Roger Bernadina, and Tyler Moore have left Johnson in a difficult position when it is time to call for a pinch hitter. Earlier in the month, Scott Hairston was added in a trade with the Chicago Cubs to provide another right handed bat off the bench. With the struggles of Tracy and Bernadina, Rizzo may love to add another lefty to the mix. A trade however may not be likely due to the organization’s strong disapproval to rental players and unwillingness to trade quality prospects.