In an article last week looking at the potential buyers and sellers among major league teams as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, former general manager and current Sirius/XM host and ESPN analyst Jim Bowden listed the Washington Nationals among the "tweakers", teams that are "looking to improve with one or two smaller pieces."
The Nats, Bowden wrote, "would like to acquire another setup reliever, but other than that, they're good to go," with a number of their injured and currently unavailable players set to return over the next few weeks.
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman too wrote last week that the "pen is the main area of interest" for the Nationals, along with "some added positional depth," which "couldn't hurt considering the injuries," the Nats have dealt with in the first half.
Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo, in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column, listed the Nats as one of several teams along with the Mets, Yankees and Giants, with interest in Zobrist in spite of his decline in production and injury issues this season.
Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo spoke to reporters, including Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes, this weekend while Washington was in Baltimore, about the plan going into the trade deadline, explaining that the Nats would assess their needs and make a deal if the right one comes up, though, they would look at the, "internal answers we have first," and, "try to attack the trade market after that."
The Nationals, he explained, have, "... been aggressive in the past," when they felt there was a need, so they would evaluate where they are now and see what they could do to improve things going forward, though, he said, "... always keep in mind that we like our minor league system and we have internal answers to a lot of our questions, also."
Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell, in a chat with readers this afternoon, talked about the Nationals' need for an arm at the back of the bullpen, discussing Blake Treinen's issues and development and writing that the Nats need the right-hander to step up, "especially if they don't get a top set-up man by the trade deadline."
But he thinks they will get a bullpen arm.
Though the Nationals have relievers like Treinen, Aaron Barrett, Matt Thornton, David Carpenter, Felipe Rivero and Casey Janssen, "... [t]hey don't have enough to cover the 6th-7th-8th in the post-season as they are currently built," Boswell wrote. "It's obvious."
"I assume Rizzo knows it, sees it," he added, and, "would like to see some development in the next two weeks that fixes the bridge to Drew [Storen]."
The relievers they have could develop and provide what the Nationals need, and it would, "... be a nice movie. But it's a long shot. The Nats don't need a long shot. They need one more proven back-end arm," and Rizzo, in his opinion, has the pieces he needs to make a deal.
New York Post writer Joel Sherman suggested one potential trade on Monday that could address the Nationals' need for a reliable back-of-the-bullpen arm.
Earlier this season, Sherman suggested that they trade infield prospect Wilmer Difo and right-handed pitching prospect Reynaldo Lopez to the Cincinnati Reds for left-hander Aroldis Chapman.
This time around, he proposed a trade with San Diego for closer Craig Kimbrel in exchange for the same duo, Difo and Lopez, writing that this winter's three-team trade with the Padres and Rays put the Nationals in a good position to make a deal.
San Diego, "... gave Washington a better shortstop prospect than Difo (Trea Turner) and arguably a better pitching prospect than Lopez (Joe Ross)," he wrote, and though that deal might make the Padres "squeamish about doing this deal," it would help them begin to, "reassemble their farm system after a winter teardown."
The Nationals, he wrote, from what he hears from "executives from other teams," don't want to, "... have October come down to Drew Storen again," so it's "[b]etter to have a Storen-Kimbrel endgame."
If they could actually get Chapman or Kimbrel for Difo and Lopez, who were both on Baseball America's list of the top 10 prospects in the Nationals' system before the trade for Turner and Ross this winter, should they make that deal?
Chapman's under team control through 2016. Kimbrel is in the second year of the 4-year/$42M extension he signed with the Braves in the winter of 2014.
Do the Nationals have all the arms they need, or will they make a deal in the next few weeks? Will Rizzo stick with the bullpen arms the Nationals have, or strengthen a strength with an additional reliever?