A few minutes after the 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline had passed, Nationals owner Mark Lerner hobbled through the clubhouse on crutches. Yesterday, Lerner underwent surgery to remove a calcium deposit in his left foot. “We need to trade for a new owner,” Ian Desmond joked.
Lerner did not have to worry about being dealt anywhere, and neither did anyone else in the organization. The Nationals stood pat on the trade deadline, sticking to their belief that their team as currently constructed can contend for a pennant and beyond. As General Manage Rizzo said, “We made all our splashes this winter.” They wanted only to make trades that would improve them in the long term, and when none surfaced, they held steady.
“All along we said we like who we are, and we like where we’re at and we like the composition of the roster,” Rizzo said. “We didn’t see a whole lot of holes to fill. It’s not about complacency, but it’s about making good, sound decisions – not taking the short route with rental players that could affect us long-term. We feel we’re in position to play meaningful games this September and beyond and there wasn’t a whole lot of necessity to make a deal.”
Across the National League, other contenders upgraded – of the seven NL clubs with the best records, only the Nationals did not make a trade. The Giants added Hunter Pence; the Dodgers got Shane Victorino and Hanley Ramirez; the Reds traded for reliever Jonathan Broxton; the Braves got Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson; the Cardinals added reliever Edward Mujica; and the Pirates added Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider and Wandy Rodriguez.
Rizzo chose to stick with his plan rather than respond. He did not want to make a trade just to make a trade. He also said that, in his mind, Jayson Werth’s return later this week will represent a deadline addition.
“We don’t make our decisions based on what other teams are doing, just to kind of keep up with the Joneses,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got a plan and a vision in place and we’ve stuck to it. And we’re going to continue to do so, and that’s how we made our decisions through this trade deadline and through the ones in the past also.”
The Nationals were most interested in possible upgrades in their depth in the middle infield and catcher. It is possible that they can still address those potential needs in the August trading period. The Nationals were rumored to be interested in a few starting pitchers to help soften the blow of losing Stephen Strasburg to an innings limit. They never found the right fit.
“If we could have made a deal that would have greatly upgraded us or impacted us for the long term, we certainly would have made it,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t do that. The deals we could have made, we felt we have a better in-house solution than going out and making a trade for the players that were available.”
While Rizzo inquired about possible trades, Manager Davey Johnson hoped the Nationals would stand pat. He told Rizzo that the Nationals were set as they currently stand.
“I never felt we were going to do anything,” Johnson said. “I like this ball club. Everything is functioning well.”
The Nationals could still add a player in August. It is tougher to trade for a player if he needs to pass through waivers first, but it is certainly possible. If they stay healthy, the Nationals still feel good about their team, even after their competition grew tougher.
“We’re going all the way with what we’ve got in this room,” Johnson said.