Buyers or Sellers
Last year, the Nationals won 98 games, the most of any team in baseball. And though they didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs, it was supposed to mark the beginning of an era, fronted by top shelf, super young and (maybe most importantly) affordable talent like 24-year-old Stephen Strasburg and 20-year-old Bryce Harper.
Viewed through that lens, 2013 has been a disaster. But without those expectations, there is still plenty of hope. The Nationals are slightly over .500, 6.5 games back of the division leader and 4.5 games back in the race for the wild card. Strasburg and Harper are back after some injury scares. And it’s not like the Braves, who Washington is chasing in the NL East, have a recent history of rising to the occasion.
What They Need
If you listen to their GM, Mike Rizzo, they don’t need anything. “We’d like to get a big, left-handed bat. His name is Harper,” says Rizzo. “He’s on the horizon. We’d like to get a right-handed hitting catcher named [Wilson] Ramos. He’s on the horizon.”
But that isn’t entirely genuine. Nationals scouts have been tied to starting pitchers, such as the Cubs’ Matt Garza. The team sports three of the top starting pitchers in the National League – Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez – but the last two spots, particularly the one filled by Dan Haren, have struggled.
The Nationals have also lacked consistent right-handed power. Rizzo hopes that Ramos might be able to provide some of that when he returns from an injured hamstring later this week. Ideally, that power could also come from the well-compensated Jayson Werth, but he only has 201 plate appearances due to various injuries.
What Might Work
In case the name “Ramos” doesn't ring a bell, the Nationals and Twins have danced at the deadline recently more than once: besides the Ramos-Matt Capps trade, two years ago there were rumors about the Twins trading Denard Span to the Nationals. The Twins would probably love to pluck some talent from the Nationals well-regarded farm system, but its not clear they have the pieces the Nationals need.
If Washington is looking for an innings-eater to plug the hole at the back of their rotation, someone like Kevin Correia might be of interest, but they’re not going to pay much for him. And while the Nationals’ interest in a right-handed masher might have sounded promising last year, unless Josh Willingham can get healthy in a hurry, he’s no better (and in fact is quite a bit worse), than Werth.
There is one area the Twins might be able to fill, though the Nationals haven’t been rumored to be pursuing it. Despite having a strong bullpen highlighted by Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, they really don’t have any reliable left-handed relievers.
On TwinsDaily.com, we're also listing a few sleeper targets the Twins might target from the Braves organization and one "Dream Target." You can find them here.