Sitting at the top of the NL East, the Washington Nationals are certainly in no position to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline. However, a log jam in the outfield could lead to an everyday starter being moved if the team cannot find a suitable rotation.
When Bryce Harper returns from his thumb injury in July, it appears that Ryan Zimmerman will be forced back into the infield. Manager Matt Williams will have to decide if he is willing to sacrifice defense to keep his best hitters in the lineup by allowing Zimmerman to return to third base, or if he will rely on another solution. To open up a full time position in the outfield or at first base the Nationals would have to trade Denard Span or Adam LaRoche.
Currently, General Manager Mike Rizzo insists that he has no intentions to trade either Span or LaRoche. But with this being the final guaranteed year on LaRoche’s contract, it will be hard for him not to at least field offers from other contenders. Though moving LaRoche could prove viable in the long run, it will be a tough idea to sell to Nats fans who want to win immediately.
The Washington starting rotation seems to be set for the rest of the year with no real question marks. The bullpen, however, may be in need of a long reliever. Ross Detwiler currently occupies this role, but he has struggled to a 4.97 ERA so far in 2014. If the Nationals do not believe he is comfortable in this role, they may trade him and allow Blake Treinen, or Xavier Cedeno to fill the long relief role.
If the Nationals are going to acquire major league ready talent at the deadline it is most likely going to be bench help. At the moment the bench seems set, but injuries or prolonged slumps could change a player’s standing in over a month.
For now I do not believe anyone within the Nationals organization has a set in stone plane for the trade deadline. If the bench stays strong, they may not buy even if they are in first place. If Ryan Zimmerman’s arm is not in third base shape, Rizzo may be motivated to trade LaRoche while he is on a hot streak.