The Nationals stood pat today, letting the 4 p.m. deadline pass without making any trades, most notably keeping closer Drew Storen and not acquiring a center fielder that can hold the position for years to come. General Manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals came close to making a trade, but was not upset about not closing a deal.
“I wouldn’t describe it as disappointed,” Rizzo said. “We did a lot of work on it. We worked extremely hard to do the right thing, get the right player for the right return. It just didn’t match up. It’s frustrating at times, but you can’t make a deal just to make a deal. The players that we were going to have to give up in our minds, it didn’t fulfill what we were trying to do for the long-term.”
Storen endured what he called “probably the weirdest day of my career” waiting for the trade to happen or not. Rizzo was asked constantly about Storen, but never found a return suitable for dealing a player he has described as “a core piece” of the Nationals’ future.
“Drew was asked about by just about every team we talked to,” Rizzo said. “I’ve said from Day 1 that’s he’s a cornerstone of the organization. And he’s asked by every team that we talked – he’s the first thing that they want. It would have to be a special deal to make that work, because he’s a special performer at a premium position. It just didn’t match up to our likings, and there was no deal made.”
Down to today, Rizzo still had “ongoing discussions” with four teams. As the deadline neared, the Nationals came very close to one trade, but couldn’t make it work.
“We got to a very specific stage towards the deadline today,” Rizzo said. “But again, it was to the point where we would have had to have given into their demand of certain players, and we just didn’t feel good about doing it.”
Since the beginning of the season, the Nationals’ top priority has been acquiring a center fielder who could provide a long-term answer. The Nationals had discussions this month with the Rays about B.J. Upton, the Twins about Denard Span and the Astros about Michael Bourn, who was traded to the Braves today.
The Nationals’ search for a center fielder will have to wait for the offseason. Rizzo expressed confidence the Nationals could have a center fielder in their farm system, just not an immediate answer. Class A Potomac outfielders Eury Perez and Destin Hood could play center, and even Bryce Harper has time there.
“We’re always going to be looking out there to be creative in ways to try and find it,” Rizzo said. “We’re always trying to develop our own. We have several players in the pipeline. They’re not immediate answers right now. But we feel that we have future answers at the position. That was one of the reasons I didn’t feel like taking a short-term approach to the position. We’ve got guys in the system that will be fine everyday center fielders in the future. They’re going to be down the road a year or two. For us to bridge the gap with a one-year plan didn’t work for me for the players we had to give and the money that had to be spent.”
Just because the trade deadline doesn’t mean the Nationals are definitely done. The Nationals could make a trade in August by sending players through waivers, and candidates include infielder Alex Cora, reliever Todd Coffey and starters Tom Gorzelanny and Livan Hernandez.
“We’re a very aggressive staff here,” Rizzo said. “I’m an aggressive GM. And if it calls for us to make a deal that will improve us in the long term, we definitely will.”