The Nationals are in a very different place now than in previous seasons, but when it comes the trade deadline, “I don’t think it’s much different than in years past,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. He still views the next two weeks as an opportunity to upgrade for the long-term, not to sacrifice for a playoff push, even with the Nationals in first place rather than at the bottom of the division.
“We’re always looking for ideas that will make us better long-term,” Rizzo said yesterday in Miami. “We’re looking for long-term more than short-term. If it helps us and it fits into our plans going forward, then we’ll do it.”
When Rizzo looks at his roster, he does not see any glaring needs. Their infield is set, and their outfield will get crowded once Jayson Werth returns, likely at the end of July or the start of August.
“There’s not a whole lot of things that we’d like to upgrade,” Rizzo said. “If there’s a way we can upgrade with a clear upgrade, we certainly would exhaust all the ideas to try and do that. But we don’t have a whole lot of needs. And we’ve got a lot of young players that are going to be with us long term. We have control of the contracts, that type of thing.”
The Nationals could probably use more experience at catcher, a quality backstop to help out Jesus Flores if nothing more. Playing full-time in the majors for the longest extended period of his career, Flores seems to be wearing down. Since June 6, he’s batting .200/.222/.316. Unless the Nationals feel comfortable playing rookie Jhonatan Solano more often, Flores may return to the stronger form he showed earlier with another catcher in the mix and sharing time.
Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported the Nationals are aiming to land a starting pitcher to ease the blow of losing Stephen Strasburg, a notion Jason Reid explored earlier this month. The sense here is, the Nationals are more intrigued by the idea than committed to it.
The acquisition cost for the big-name pitchers out there – Zack Greinke, Francisco Liriano and Ryan Dempster – will probably be too high for the Nationals’ liking. All three will be free agents at the end of the season, which doesn’t fit into Rizzo’s aim to upgrade in the long-term.
The other issue is this: Strasburg will likely pitch into mid-September. The Nationals would be giving up a significant return in order to upgrade their rotation only for two or three weeks before the playoffs began.
In the time between when the Nationals traded for the new starter and Strasburg’s final start, what would they do with him? Ross Detwiler would have to move into the bullpen for a short while, then return to the rotation. In the playoffs, the Nationals wouldn’t need a fifth starter, anyway. Then again, too much pitching is never a bad thing, and a “problem” Davey Johnson would surely be happy to iron out.
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