WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 22: Ryan Zimmerman #11 celebrates with Michael Morse #38 of the Washington Nationals after hitting a solo home run in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on July 22, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
If the Washington Nationals can find a deal before today's 4:00 pm EDT that helps them out long-term and doesn't force them to trade significant prospects for a short-term or rental player, the Nats have said they'll consider it. Principal owner Mark Lerner said as much when he talked to the Washington Post's James Wagner back in the first week of July. "'If [General Manager Mike Rizzo] feels there’s a part out there that he thinks will help us, we’ll talk to them,'" Mr. Lerner told the WaPost reporter, "But really, we’re not really interested in rentals.'"
The Nationals have been mentioned in connection to several high-end starters, but as the 2012 MLB Non-Waiver Deadline approaches they don't appear desperate to make a big splash. The Nationals are 61-40, they've won eight of the last ten games, and they're reportedly not interested in shaking up the chemistry they've developed over the course of the first 101 games of the season .
"'I like what we have here and I don't see any emergency move needed,'" Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters including the Washington Times' Amanda Comak recently, "It's always interesting to see who trades places. I imagine clubs that are probably trying to get to the top (unlike the Nationals who are in first place) will be more active.'" The 69-year-old skipper, in his second year in D.C., at the helm of the NL East's 1st place team, is as confident in the Nationals now as he was this past winter when he told reporters that winning the pennant was the goal and the Nats could fire him if he didn't reach it. "'I really meant that,'" Johnson told Cal and Billy Ripken in a recent MLB Network Interview, "If we don't get there they should fire my a**!"
"There’s not a whole lot of things that we’d like to upgrade,'" Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore in a July 17th article entitled, "Mike Rizzo: Nationals looking long-term at the trade deadline."
"'If there’s a way we can upgrade with a clear upgrade,'" the general manager told reporters, echoing the Nats' owner's comments, "'we certainly would exhaust all the ideas to try and do that.'"
Jayson Werth is on his way back sooner rather than later as he rehabs from the broken wrist suffered in May. Drew Storen is already back and building up arm strength as he works his way back from elbow surgery. Adding the outfielder and reliever to a first-place team is just like making a deadline deal anyway, right? There's a difference of opinion about whether or not the Nationals are in the market for an infielder or whether or not they're comfortable going forward with some combination of Jesus Flores, Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano behind the plate.
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, among others, still has the Nationals in the market for a starting pitcher since they'll eventually lose Stephen Strasburg to the as-yet-undetermined innings limit he's on. The ESPN.com reporter wrote yesterday in his "Rumblings and Grumblings" column that a rival executive told him the Nationals had positioned themselves perfectly as a "fallback option" should the Chicago Cubs fail to work out a trade for veteran right-hander Ryan Dempster. The last word on the subject from Mr. Stark yesterday came via Twitter (@jaysonst), where he wrote that, "One exec who spoke with #Nationals says: 'If I looked up and saw that Washington traded for Ryan Dempster it wouldn't be a surprise.'"
Most people in D.C. would be surprised if that or any deal happened before 4:00 pm EDT this afternoon. After that the Nationals play the Phillies in Nationals Park with Stephen Strasburg on the mound in the nation's capital against Cliff Lee... if the Phillies don't trade him beforehand...