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What could the Nats do at the deadline?

Posted By Sam Diament On Jun 23 2010 @ 11:28 pm In Washington Nationals | 2 Comments

At this point in the season, it is painfully obvious that the Nationals will not be in contention for a postseason appearance come September.  The Nationals’ near-.500 record, especially their peak record of 20-15 on May 13, gave Nationals fans illusions of grandeur.  Realistically, the team should not win more than 75 games.  Keeping this harsh reality in mind, it will be fun to see how Mike Rizzo and company react between now and July 31.

Upon reading Harper’s take over at <a href=”http://natsbaseball.blogspot.com/2010/06/deal.html”>Nationals Baseball</a>, I became intrigued by some of his suggestions.  I agreed with some of the things he said, but others flat out confused me.  I guess the point of blogs, though, is to created discussion.

Harper’s first idea involves trading “‘garbage’ for whatever we can get.  They want Willie Harris, Alberto Gonzalez, Tyler Walker, Sean Burnett for a low A-ball ‘prospect?’  Fine.  Do it.”  Now I understand that every one of these guys is expendable, but can they all be easily replaced?  I am sure the team would have no problem using Jesse English and Joel Peralta in the bullpen for the rest of the year.  And Willie Harris definitely deserves to play for a team on which he will get more playing time.  Alberto Gonzalez, though, is under team control for 4 more years after 2010.  He plays good defense (despite large yearly fluctuations in UZR) and has become a decent pinch hitter.  Gonzalez is not the second coming of Alex Rodriguez, but he is by no means “garbage” who should be tossed out for a player with a marginal chance of making the major leagues.

I can more easily get behind the idea of trading Matt Capps.  There is a plethora of teams that could use bullpen help, like the Angels, Reds, and Marlins.  Each of those teams likely believes it has a chance of playing in the postseason and would give up some sort of prospect for a hot closer.  On the other hand, Capps is only 26 and is not eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season.  Given how bad the bullpen performed last year, is it smart to give up cheap, proven commodities?  Then again, the Pirates were dumb enough to non-tender Capps.  It is always possible that another team will make a similar mistake on which the Nationals could pounce.  Or, given the versatile nature of relievers, maybe Joel Peralta will have a big season in 2011.  My conclusion:  trade Capps at the deadline and promote Drew Storen to a higher role in the bullpen.

As Harper states, it becomes fishy after that (among fans).  Should the Nationals trade Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham?  I do not know if there is a definitive answer to that question.  It really depends on whether Rizzo sees these two players as part of the long-term team.  Willingham is 31 and Dunn is 30, both past their prime.  If a team desperately needs a bat down the stretch, both of these players could be valued highly on the trade market.  Willingham is obviously having a career year offensively while Dunn has been putting the ball in play more than ever (granted, at the cost of walks instead of strikeouts).  The only way the Nationals could trade Dunn is if they have a backup plan in place.  I do not mean simply for this year but for the next three or four years.  Whether that is Chris Marrero or Bryce Harper, there has to be some sort of arrangement at first base.

Outside of these few players, the Nationals do not have many tradable commodities.  Maybe Rizzo can sucker some team into taking Nyjer Morgan or Miguel Batista.  The best case scenario is one in which some team forks over a decent prospect for Livan Hernandez, but I don’t foresee that happening.

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