Normally, at this time of year, with the trade deadline approaching, there would be rumors swirling around the nation's capital with speculation about how the Washington Nationals will address their needs. This year? Not much really. FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote a few weeks back about the Nats being in the market for, "... a young shortstop, one who could inherit the position if Ian Desmond departs as a free agent after 2015."
In discussing the possibility, Rosenthal wrote that Danny Espinosa could potentially take over at short should Desmond leave once the two-year deal he signed this winter is over.
A club official quoted in the story says the Nationals like and would, of course, prefer to keep Desmond.
"'We're not going to discuss who we're looking at,'" the official said, "'we're always looking for all sorts of good young players.'"
Rosenthal mentions 25-year-old catcher Sandy Leon, who was in the running for a role as Wilson Ramos' backup before Jose Lobaton was acquired this winter, Steven Souza, 25, who's crushing Triple-A pitching (.371/.449/.615, 21 doubles, 14 HRs), but blocked at the major league level right now, and 24-year-old infielder Zach Walters, who has a .284/.342/.592 line, 16 doubles, 13 HRs, 17 walks and 60 Ks in 53 games and 232 plate appearances at Triple-A this season after hitting 32 doubles and an International League-leading 29 HRs for the Nats' top affiliate last season as players who could potentially be dealt for whatever the Nationals believe they need.
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman suggested earlier this month that Ross Detwiler, "... could be of interest as a trade target for teams," in the market for a starter, though the 28-year-old, '07 1st Round pick has enjoyed more success as a reliever as he's settled into the role over the last two months and put up a 2.12 ERA and a .172/.238/.2017 line against in his last 17 innings on the mound.
ross detwiler could be of interest as a trade target for teams. pitching well in relief for #nats but could start for most.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 2, 2014
If the Nationals were to deal Detwiler, however, where would they get another left-hander for the bullpen? Would they have to acquire a major-league-ready lefty in any such deal?
Could they bring up Xavier Cedeno? Cedeno, 27, does have a 2.82 ERA, 2.40 FIP, nine walks (3.63 BB/9) and 31 Ks (12.49 K/9) in 22 ⅓ IP at Triple-A this season, but the Nationals haven't used him as much more than a fill-in and roster-filler over the last two seasons.
After that among the left-handers in the organization? Matt Grace?
Outside of a young shortstop, what other needs could the Nationals be looking to fill at the end of the month?
If there's any bad news about the starting rotation over the next few weeks could the Nats go after pitching help?
Where else could Washington make additions at major league level?
When 3B/1B/LF Ryan Zimmerman was due to return from the DL a few weeks back, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked about potentially dealing from the talent at the major league level, as Rosenthal, among others suggested, he dismissed the idea of their being too many players available now during a season in which the Nats have dealt with numerous injuries.
"When the prognosticators come out and say we have too many good players, we should move one of them, " Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier, "those are really short-sighted type of ideas, because the minute that you move a pitcher because you have too many starters or an outfielder because you have too many players... sure enough the situation remedies itself by somebody going down or somebody's lack of performance and that type of thing and you look back and need that guy."
The situation with Zimmerman's return was remedied by moving Espinosa back into the utility role the Nats' 27-year-old started the season in, and when Ian Desmond injured his hand last week, the former Cal State Long Beach shortstop drafted in the 3rd Round in 2008 took over at short for a day to let Desmond rest up and recover.
Right now Espinosa's the backup at second and short, he's relatively young and cheap and he's an above-average defender.
If they're looking for a young shortstop could Espinosa be available? What if Desmond misses any significant time? Do they trust Walters?
Zimmerman's back at third. Anthony Rendon's back at second. Denard Span remains in center. Jayson Werth is crushing in right. Matt Williams says he sees signs Bryce Harper is coming around offensively. Wilson Ramos is back and producing at the plate. Lobaton's back to backing Ramos up.
Desmond's at short for at least the next two seasons. Adam LaRoche is under contract through the rest of the year.
It might be a quiet end of July for the Nationals this season, because this time around they're concentrating more on August, September and October. But Mike Rizzo is always thinking about the future too...