The Washington Nationals have gotten off to a disappointing start to the 2020 season and now they are staring down the trade deadline. They would miss the playoffs if the postseason began right now. Still, they are the defending champs and can throw a strong rotation at a high seed in a three-game series if they make the playoffs. There's no reason to sell and instead every reason to buy. They'll try to add.
Here are the Nationals' biggest needs, targets and trade chips ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline.
Juan Soto is doing a pretty incredible job holding up that triple slash line for the team, particularly the slugging part. Of the Nats' regulars, five players have a sub-.400 slugging percentage and Carter Kieboom is in the .200s. The only players who have more than two home runs are Soto, Asdrubal Cabrera and Trea Turner.
Also, the pitching depth has been an issue and that has been compounded with Stephen Strasburg out for the season. The rotation behind Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin is mostly a mess. Sean Doolittle being hurt and Daniel Hudson's struggles mean the bullpen could also use some help.
In terms of a big bat, there is an excellent fit sitting in Boston, where it looks like the Red Sox are going to completely tear things down before attempting to build it back up as a contender. J.D. Martinez would be an amazing fit. Think about a top four in the order of Turner, Adam Eaton, Soto and Martinez? That's pretty scary.
A much smaller splash from the same team would be Mitch Moreland, who is crushing the ball this season. If the Giants could somehow be convinced to move Mike Yastrzemski the Nats should jump all over that. Yes, their outfield is full, but there's a DH spot now. If not Yaz, there's Alex Dickerson, also from the Giants. JaCoby Jones from the Tigers is another outfielder who is likely available.
Could they be the team to finally pry Whit Merrifield away from the Royals? It doesn't solve the slugging issue but more good hitters are always going to help. A less expensive fit at second base might be Jonathan Schoop.
Another bargain shopping option who could DH: Colin Moran of the Pirates.
Rotation help is going to be tough to come by this deadline season, I believe.
As for the bullpen, there will be a lot of run-of-the-mill relievers on the market and the Nationals will simply be looking to hit on a few. The big prize could be Ken Giles, but it would take a lot. Otherwise, you're looking at names like Greg Holland, Mychal Givens and Richard Rodriguez. Would they give Trevor Rosenthal another shot after the 2019 disaster? He looks to be his pre-Tommy John self and surely he wouldn't mind getting a second chance in D.C.
There's also the mindset that getting Doolittle and Hudson right means they should more focus on a bat and rotation depth piece. They only have so many resources, after all.
Would they include Carter Kieboom or Victor Robles? That might be required for a blockbuster type move with Martinez or even Merrifield. They likely don't want to do this, obviously, but all options should at least be discussed if you're talking about landing Martinez or Merrifield.
Some mid-level prospects that could be included in any deal:
- Catchers Isreal Pineda, Tres Barrera
- First baseman Drew Mendoza
- Middle infielders Yasel Antuna, Jackson Cluff, Sammy Infante
- Outfielders Jeremy De La Rosa, Roismar Quintana
- RHPs Will Crowe, Cole Henry, Eddy Yean
- LHPs Tim Cate, Seth Romero, Matt Cronin
Obviously, that's not a comprehensive list. I do, however, believe general manager Mike Rizzo is going to be extra aggressive in trying to grab a big bat and pitching depth.