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Washington Nationals Trade Deadline Preview: Nats In Market For Starter? Bench Bat?

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While reports out there have suggested the Washington Nationals need to go after a back-of-the-rotation arm, and others have claimed they're actively pursuing one, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo said this week that he doesn't anticipate the team trading for a starter.


The Washington Nationals are talking as if Dan Haren will return to the rotation when he comes off the DL. The 32-year-old right-hander is on track to come back on July 9th at which point it makes sense that if he's healthy, Taylor Jordan will likely return to Double-A Harrisburg (or maybe Triple-A?) after filling in admirably for each of what would have been Haren's last two turns in the rotation. The reports from Haren's bullpen session this week were positive, but at least one writer covering the team, the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell, argued before Haren threw his post-cortisone shot pen that the, "... Nats' first, and also biggest need, is to find a fifth starting pitcher to replace Haren."

"The Nats' first, and also biggest need, is to find a fifth starting pitcher to replace Haren." - Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell

While both Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo in the article and Nats' skipper Davey Johnson, in the press, have talked about Haren rejoining the rotation once he's ready, as the WaPost's Mr. Boswell wrote, with Jordan (on an innings limit), journeyman right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and a potentially "revived Haren," the options to take the ball every fifth day, "... none of them look like a half-season solution." How about Nathan Karns?

The WaPost reporter suggested they look elsewhere to the pitchers thought to be available going into the non-waiver trade deadline later this month like the Cubs' Scott Feldman (who was already traded to the Orioles), Matt Garza, the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco or even more costly options (in terms of money and the return) like the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo (who did not impress against the Nationals this week), the Phillies' Cliff Lee or even the Rays' David Price.

"'They’re calling everybody, trying to do something,' the exec said. 'They’re looking for pitching, and they’re being really aggressive.'" -"Rival executive" on Nats to the NY Post's Dan Martino

Haren was placed on the DL on June 25 for the second straight season after having never landed on the disabled list in his career. Between Haren's last start on the 22nd, the announcement that he would be placed on the DL the next day and his placement on the 15-Day DL on the 25th, New York Post writer Andy Martino published an article on the 24th in which he wrote that he heard from a rival executive that, "... while trade talk around the league remains mostly quiet and preliminary, as is typical with more than a month to go before the deadline, Washington has emerged as the most aggressive team.":

"'They’re calling everybody, trying to do something,' the exec said. 'They’re looking for pitching, and they’re being really aggressive.'

"The Nationals are a bit thin on rotation depth, with Dan Haren fading (he was ineffective this, year, and is now on the disabled list) and Chris Young sporting a 7.88 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse. The Nats’ need for help in that area is well known, and their Beltway buddies face the same problem; the Orioles are also calling around for starters, according to our source."

In his weekly appearance on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Mike Rizzo Show, however, the Nationals' GM was asked what Washington might be looking for as the July 31st 4:00 pm EDT deadline approaches, and pitching wasn't one of the things he said the team needed.

"You look at the ballclub," Rizzo explained, "I like our starting rotation. I like our bullpen. We're solidified at eight positions. Possibly tweaking of a bench player. Maybe getting a big pinch hit type of guy, left-handed or right-handed, that may help us. But we like the team we have and we feel like this team, as is, right now, if we play up to our capabilities, we should be playing meaningful games in September and beyond. That was our goal going into Spring Training. That's still our goal, that's our focus. And we feel that that's still a thing that we're striving for."

Lending some credence to the fact that the Nationals might be looking for a bat to come off the bench as Rizzo said, were reports by San Francisco Chronicle writer Susan Slusser that Manny Ramirez, after signing a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers, told the reporter he'd spoken with Washington:

As for pitching?

"I'm not anticipating trading for a starting pitcher. We think Dan Haren is going to pitch well for us down the stretch." -Nats' GM Mike Rizzo on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

Rizzo was asked directly on his radio show and he said he didn't think the team would be trading for the fifth starter everyone seems to think they're after.

"I'm not anticipating trading for a starting pitcher," the Nats' GM said, "We think Dan Haren is going to pitch well for us down the stretch. We feel that we've got great depth in our minor league system with Taylor Jordan, Ross Ohlendorf and Nathan Karns, could all come up here and have come up and pitched well in the big leagues and we feel that we have good depth in our rotation and we're counting on the five guys that we signed in the offseason. We think that it's as good a rotation as any in the big leagues and Davey's got great confidence in 'The Big Three' and Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler, as do I."