The difference a week makes. We wrote in the State of the Nationals address a week ago that the team would need to take care of business with the Pirates and the Mets in the past week and go 18-9 leading up to the All-Star break to really cement themselves back into the race in the NL East, and they really took care of business going 6-1 this past week. The team was 7 ½ games from 1st place and are now 5.0 back.
By the strong showing this past week, the Nats are another good week away from making the teams in front of them, look over the shoulders. Now if the team from D.C. can go at least 12-8 until the All-Star break, they will really be in the pennant race and buyers at the trade deadline.
The Nats are on a 7-1 run since the end of the Giants series, and the Nats pulled this off without Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Daniel Hudson. With the exception of the Joe Ross dud on Saturday, the Nats pitching has been exceptional. In the past two weeks, the Nats entire pitching staff has been the best in baseball by a wide margin with a team ERA of 1.95, 0.98 WHIP and a .193 BAA. Again, you would think Scherz & Stras were leading this dominance, and they really have not.
On the offense, one name stands out: KYLE SCHWARBER. He is setting records, and tied the MLB record for 5 home runs in two consecutive games. At the start of the Giants series, Schwarbs had an OPS of .716 and today that is .843. To raise an OPS by 127 points in 8 games during the mid-season seems impossible — yet Schwarber did it. In the past week, he has 8 home runs, 15 RBIs and is slashing .400/ .441 /1.200 /1.641.
Over the past two weeks you see the current position players with at least 3 at-bats sans Luis Garcia who was sent back to Triple-A. Were the Nats too hasty with that move given that Josh Harrison has cooled off, Starlin Castro has been struggling for over a month, and the Nats need a left-handed bat.
Buyers, sellers, or neutral at the trade deadline?
The multi-million dollar question continues to be: Are the Nats buyers or sellers? Or should they do nothing and stand pat? Or should they be buyers and sellers simultaneously? If a team comes calling for one of your players with a return of player(s) that is hard to turn down, do you make the deal? There is going to be time to answer all of these questions with 39 days remaining until the trade deadline.
A week ago, most of the national media were pegging the Nats as sellers, and by this time based on all of the NL East matchups, expect a much different looking NL East standings. All the Nats can do is to take care of their own business.
If the Nats were buyers, where are the needs:
- Third base
- Second base
- Left-handed reliever
- Left-handed centerfielder
Let’s name names, and what we find are that the names are few, and come with their own levels of risk, and many of them would be costly in giving up propsects.
Eduardo Escobar – as a third base upgrade he is not much better than Starlin Castro depending on how you look at the stats with his .743 OPS. Escobar plays in a hitter friendly home field, and also plays in the thin air of the NL West. At least he is batting .500 in bases loaded spots (3-6) this season. He is a short-term rental.
First let me say, the Nats didn’t give Luis Garcia much of a chance to prove himself. He was good in the limited looks that we got.
Adam Frazier – he is an All-Star quality player and bats lefty. The Nats absolutely shut him down last week and made him look like a scrub. Depending on his cost, he is available for this season and next season. His .839 OPS is impressive.
Ryan McMahon – this lefty is a beast in Colorado and just so-so on the road with a .744 OPS. He’s 0-2 with bases loaded this season. He is under team control through 2023.
Jake Brentz – You have probably never heard of him because this lefty pitches for the Royals. He is the best lefty on lefty pitcher (0.50 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) you’ve never heard of. He is okay against righties too. He probably isn’t available as he is in his first year in MLB.
Chasen Shreve – He’s a veteran journeyman who has been great against lefties this year for Pittsburgh. He just gives up too many home runs to righties. This is too typical of the left-handed market.
Unfortunately the Nats fourth outfielder, Andrew Stevenson, has not been the answer as a spot starter and he is now injured with an oblique. The Nats called up Gerardo Parra who is more of an emotional leader than a long-term answer with a bat or glove even though he came through with a double in his first at-bat this season. It is very unlikely that the Nats make a move for a centerfielder, but current starter Victor Robles has only 7 RBIs this season, and his power has been almost non-existent with a .657 OPS.
Bryan Reynolds – This is the guy. He plays for the Pirates, and he is sooooo underrated. He is actually a switch-hitter. He is slashing .877 as a lefty batter. Here’s the issue: He’s under team control through 2025 and probably not available.
Ketel Marte – Another good Arizona player and his splits are great. He’s a switch-hitter and actually kills righties, and his lefty stats are good and he hits right at .800. He would basically push Victor Robles to the bench. He is under contract through next year with two team options after that.
The Trade Market:
The trade martet is not deep where the Nats are looking, and unless other teams fold, there are fewer teams that will match up as trade partners.
Do you have a name to add to the list?