Chances are that the Washington Nationals have already made their big deadline move. Adding depth to the bullpen seemed like the most patchable hole for Mike Rizzo as the deadline approached. He addressed that issue on Tuesday, trading AA starting pitcher Nick Pivetta to the Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon. While Papelbon has taken over the closing duties in D.C., his acquisition has a ripple effect throughout the bullpen.
Drew Storen now becomes one of the best setup men in baseball. A pair of solid setup men like Matt Thornton and Casey Janssen are now freed up to be used more in the middle innings. Tanner Roark can focus on remaining the long man in the bullpen. Aaron Barrett and Felipe Rivero both have a ton of talent, but they can now be groomed into larger roles more slowly rather than being forced into high leverage duty because the Nats don't have better options.
It's safe to assume that Mike Rizzo is done adding to the bullpen. David Carpenter is expected to be back before the end of the season. Blake Treinen is tearing up the International League with a 10:1 strikeout to walk ratio in 6.1 shutout innings since beign demoted. Of course, Rizzo has a history of making exactly the move that nobody is expecting, so who knows.... maybe he will try and add another reliever.
It's more likely that if Rizzo does anything at all, he'll try to add a bat that could improve the bench. We've discussed the main spots that look like they need improving offensively quite a bit over the past few weeks. The returns of Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman over the past week certainly do provide a sense of optimism that the Nats may improve those two weak spots at first base and in left field. However, before their injuries, Werth and Zimmerman were responsible for quite a bit of the sub-replacement level production that they got out of those spots. While both (particularly Zimmerman) looked healthy in Miami this week, is it really safe to assume that they're going to be full strength?
Werth isn't only recovering from a broken wrist, which will likely sap his power production a bit. He's also 36 years old. We've certainly seen his defense show signs of eroding the past few years. While Werth's bat hasn't really show any signs of age-related decline the past two seasons, it's logical to think that age is going to catch up to him there as well.
Zimmerman is recovering from an injury that usually takes at least a full year to heal. He looked fine running during the Miami series. Then again, he'd had instances this season where he's looked fine for a few days only to have the Plantar Fasciitis flare up without warning (or an apparent cause that may have aggravated it). When the Plantar Fasciitis was flaring up, it didn't just affect his ability to run. It also seemed to muck up his swing mechanics. He didn't seem to be using his normal leg kick; He didn't seem to be driving through the ball. Can we really trust that he's going to stay healthy?
Since we wrote that piece three weeks ago, another weakness seems to have cropped up as well. The catching tandem of Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton now combines for a .230/.273/.358 line. Both have been positives with the glove and absolute zeros with the bat. Ramos is batting a paltry .237/.263/.368. Lobaton hasn't been any better, and finds himself batting .202/.302/.321 as we hit deadline day.
Rather than doing the massive trade target piece that I did with the relief pitchers, let's take a look at a handful of names that could be on the market that might help improve one (or more) of these spots. I'm going to limit the players we look at to teams that figure to be sellers..... Let's look at the Brewers in this article.
Jonathan Lucroy (C/1b - Brewers)
After leading all catchers with a .373 OBP, 73 runs, and 6.2 fWAR last season, Lucroy has struggled in 2015. He started off slowly in April before breaking a toe and missing about six weeks. His season line is a rather unimpressive .257/.316/.353 at this point. Lucroy has gradually gotten better since recovering from the injury, though, including a .295/.364/.443 line so far in July that looks awfully close to his 2014 production.
It's hard to imagine the Brewers letting Lucroy go cheaply. The 29-year-old has an extremely club friendly contract, is in the prime of his career, and is just a year removed from being arguably the best catcher in baseball. Lucroy is making just $3 million this season and is scheduled to make $9.25 million over the next two years (combined) assuming that his 2017 option is picked up.
Still, Milwaukee is in clear sell mode after dealing away Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers on Thursday night. Aramis Ramirez is gone. Francisco Rodriguez and Adam Lind still figure to be names that are in play for contending teams as well. While Lucroy's contract is fantastic, Milwaukee may not be able to contend by the time his deal is up in 2017. He'll likely have plenty of value next year at the deadline as well, but the Brewers could probably get an even bigger haul by dealing him today.
It's hard to think that he wouldn't improve upon Wilson Ramos behind the plate. He's also spent a fair amount of time at first base over the past three years in Milwaukee (36 games, 28 starts) because the Brewers wanted to keep his bat in the lineup. In other words, he could insure against a Ryan Zimmerman injury, too.
Throughout most of his career, Parra has been a decent hitter with an outstanding glove. That's not the case this season, though. His defense has dropped off the table a bit the past two seasons, but he's been tremendous in the batter's box. He's batting about forty points better than his career average (.328) so far this season while slugging about sixty points above his career average (.189 ISO). He's also running more effectively, and has converted nine of his twelve stolen base attempts.
The funny thing is that Parra was expected to begin the year as Milwaukee's fourth outfielder. He wasn't going to supplant Ryan Braun or Carlos Gomez, and Khris Davis figured to get the bulk of the work in left field. Injuries happen, though, and they opened a door that Parra ran right through. He's a free agent at year's end, so the Brewers should be trying to capitalize on his red hot start to the season. While his age (28) tells us that Parra is in his prime and should be having one of the most productive seasons of his career, his .372 BABIP is an indicator that there may be some regression on the way.
Parra's glove has taken a hit over the past few years, but he's capable of playing all three outfield positions. He'd almost certainly be a defensive upgrade over Jayson Werth in left field, but that's not saying a whole lot.
We discussed Adam Lind at length on Monday. One of the primary suitors for a first baseman seems to be out of the market, as St. Louis acquired Brandon Moss from Cleveland on Thursday.
Will the Nats try and get something done here?
I really like Lucroy. He's an outstanding defensive catcher who is just a terrific all-around hitter. My gut tells me he's too expensive, but adding Lucroy would qualify as "something big" that nobody is really thinking the Nats will do. I love the Buffalo, but Lucroy is better and his ability to play first base (if necessary) would be a major boost for the Nats in case something happens to Zim.
While I'd like to see the Nats try and insure themselves against Werth performing poorly, I don't think that the corner outfield spot is as important as first base. Michael Taylor looks ready to produce enough offensively if Werth doesn't improve so that his glove would offset the holes in his offensive game. I'm a bit more skeptical of Clint Robinson and Tyler Moore backing up Zimmerman.