The cost to acquire Shields would be steep, but the Nationals possess pieces the Rays would find attractive. Michael Morse would become expendable if the Nationals re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche, and the Nationals could discuss second baseman Danny Espinosa in trade talks. The Nationals could then make Steve Lombardozzi their second baseman, with the possibility of top prospect Anthony Rendon giving the Nationals more infield depth later in the season or in 2014.
Conceptually, dealing Morse and Espinosa for Shields works for both sides. In reality, talks between the teams about the deal have gained no momentum and seem unlikely to result in anything. Some in the Nationals organization would trade Espinosa with little hesitation and play Lombardozzi at second, but Rizzo and Manager Davey Johnson are major advocates for Espinosa. One Nationals official doubted any deal would happen because the Rays are “hard to work with” on trades.
Rizzo’s interest in Greinke is long-standing. In December 2010, the Nationals put the framework of a trade in place to acquire Greinke from the Kansas City Royals. Greinke met with Nationals ownership and Rizzo at a secretive meeting near the winter meetings in Orlando, and the Nationals prepared to offer him a $100 million contract.
Before they could complete the trade, Greinke turned down the offer, believing the Nationals would not contend if they parted with the talent necessary to bring him to Washington. Even though Greinke ultimately shot down the Nationals, the meeting left him feeling good about Washington.
“It wouldn’t have gotten as far as it did [with the Nationals] if it wasn’t appealing,” Greinke said in spring 2011. “The one thing I couldn’t get over was the fact that, here I was trying to get out of Kansas City because the team wasn’t good. Not saying [the Nationals] don’t have a chance, but I was trying to get to a team that was looking really good at the moment. And I believe [the Nationals] will be good eventually.”
The Nationals are good now, coming off a 98-win season powered by a rotation that, if Rizzo has his way, will only get better.