Nationals trade rumors as deadline nears

WASHINGTON, DC - June 4:   Washington Nationals Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Scouting Operations, Kris Kline, (right) leaves the field with GM Mike Rizzo after watching batting practice prior to action against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 4,  2014 in Washington DC.   (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post) Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline now stands only three days away, and the Nationals are, as ever, somewhat hard to read. They “seem to be very busy on multiple fronts,” as one executive from a selling team put it. Or, “it’s seems pretty quiet right now,” as another person familiar with their thinking said.

The Nationals don’t need to make a trade given the lack of holes on their big league roster, and General Manager Mike Rizzo has said he won’t place the urgency of this season ahead of the organization’s long-term outlook. But the Nationals are still working in preparation for a possible deal.

They have been scouring for a reliever to deepen their bullpen, the most likely move they’ll make if they do make one. They’ve been looking for young shortstops, and their work on that now could be more laying groundwork for the winter. They could consider available infielders who could also fit on future rosters with Ryan Zimmerman currently out for an indefinite period of at least three or four weeks.

Here are a few notes and some dot-connecting as the deadline nears.

>>> The Nationals have inquired with the Astros about their relievers, one person familiar with the situation said, and the Astros scouted both Class A Potomac and Class AAA Syracuse over the weekend.

It’s not clear which reliever the Nationals would focus on, but left-hander Tony Sipp best fits the Nationals’ preferences. He wouldn’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season. This year, he has struck out 42 and walked seven (five unintentional) with a 2.37 ERA in 30 1/3 innings. Left-handed hitters have gone 5 for 51 (.098) against him, while he’s held right-handers to a .211 average.

Astros General Manager Jeff Lunhow told reporters last week he would “probably not” be able to trade any relievers, but the Astros would have to consider a deal given their position 13 1/2 games back from the AL Wild Card.

>>> The Nationals have been monitoring the Red Sox, who already traded starter Jake Peavy and at 48-57 stand 10 1/2 games out of first in the AL East. Per FOX Sports’s Ken Rosenthal, the Nationals had a scout in attendance for the Rays-Red Sox series in Tampa this weekend. That scout was just on his usual coverage. But the Nationals also had one of their top evaluators in Boston the previous weekend when the Red Sox were playing the Royals.

Left-handed starter Jon Lester, a free agent after this season, pitched in both series. But the Nationals were likely eyeing relievers Andrew Miller and Koji Uehara, both of whom are also free agents after this season. According to CBS Sports, the Braves have shown interest in Miller.

>>> In his Sunday notes in The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggested the Tigers could trade shortstop Jose Iglesias, who is out for the season with a shin injury, because they’ve been so pleased with his replacement, Eugenio Suarez.

The Nationals have been on the lookout for a young shortstop, and they have an indirect connection to Iglesias. Nationals International Scouting Director Johnny DiPuglia signed Iglesias out of Cuba in 2009, when DiPuglia held a similar role with the Red Sox. (The Tigers acquired Iglesias at the deadline last year in a three-team trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston.)

Iglesias is a defensive wizard who hit .303 with a .735 OPS as a rookie in 2013. Many evaluators projected him as an all-glove, no-hit shortstop, but DiPuglia has always believed in Iglesias’s offensive ability. For what it’s worth, the Tigers sent a scout to Class A Potomac last week.

(A bonus FWIW: The Nationals believe internally that DiPuglia has done great work turning around their pipeline of Latin American talent. One name to remember you probably have not heard is Reynaldo Lopez, a 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic. In seven starts at Auburn, the Nats’ rookie ball affiliate, Lopez has a 0.75 ERA and has allowed 15 hits in 36 innings.)

>>> The Rangers are an obvious seller with bullpen parts to move, and they had a scouting presence at Class AAA Syracuse this weekend. The Chiefs were playing the affiliate from the Braves, who also reportedly want relief help.

>>> One evaluator without ties to either the Nationals or Diamondbacks said second baseman Aaron Hill “makes a ton of sense” for the Nationals. Hill could play second while Zimmerman is on the shelf, but things would get tricky once Zimmerman returns. Next year, though, it could hit nicely: Adam LaRoche has a mutual option for next season, and if he leaves, Zimmerman could play first, Hill could play second and Anthony Rendon would move to third. Hill also has a connection with Matt Williams, who coached him with the Diamondbacks. Hill loved playing for Williams. The only question is whether Hill’s contract would work: Hill will make roughly $4 million the remainder of this season, then $12 million each of the next two years.

That’s only an outside opinion. Rizzo has also said he foresees the Nationals sticking with Danny Espinosa and Zach Walters to replace Zimmerman for as long as he may be out. And one person familiar with the situation said the Nationals have not asked Arizona about Hill or Martin Prado, another possibility.

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