That’s when Washington will probably find out if Rizzo can be as “creative and aggressive,” as he says he will be if the Nats still have major needs as the trade deadline approaches.
“Management has allowed me to do what I need to do,” said Rizzo, whose payroll is now up to $115 million. “We work through the process together. But they’ve really let me do what’s best for the franchise.”
If that continues, then the Haren demotion — sorry, injury — is probably the signal for future fireworks. Nobody knows exactly which pitchers will be on the trade market between now and the July 31 deadline. But everybody knows the high quality of the names that might be on the list.
Three clear candidates, all pitching well, all in their walk years for going-nowhere teams and all major Nat upgrades are the Cubs’ Matt Garza and Scott Feldman and the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco.
Tougher gets, which would cost more in trade but are possible if their teams become sellers, are Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo (signed through ’14) as well as two former Cy Young winners, the Phils’ Cliff Lee (guaranteed $50 million in ’14 and ’15) and the Rays’ David Price, under team control in ’14 and ’15 but having a bad year and on a rehab assignment in the minors.
Unless a Nats minor leaguer, Ohlendorf or Haren somehow steps up quickly and forcefully, the Nats absolutely have to acquire one of the best pitchers on the market before the deadline. Those 33,894 fans, and trending up, know that no team always wins but, to stay interested, they need to know that their support is matched by the team’s commitment to contend, even in a year of high expectations, pressure, injuries and yada-yada-yada.
One of the blessings of high expectations is that problems are addressed more quickly and bluntly. The Nats sent Danny Espinosa to Class AAA and now have him playing shortstop, showcasing him for a trade. That unleashed rookie Anthony Rendon, 30 for 90 and the second baseman in perpetuity.
The Nats released Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke. That revealed lefty Fernando Abad (1.42 ERA) and Ian Krol, the southpaw who looks like he’ll make the Michael Morse trade a steal — for the Nats. So far, Krol has fanned 12 in 82
3 innings and acts like the one hit and one walk off him were an oversight.
Washington baseball has moved to a new novel point in its history. Mediocrity, a goal for a century, is now unsatisfactory. When you stack the park for four days to see the Rockies, you can eat $13 million and not even belch. Now, we’ll find out what the Nats order for their next course.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns go to washingtonpost.com/boswell.