In a rumor-filled article earlier this week, FOXSports.com's bow-tied reporter Ken Rosenthal wrote that with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching (on August 1st this season instead of the traditional July 31st), the National League East's first place Washington Nationals, "... are expected to look for bullpen help and another bat before the deadline."
The bat, Rosenthal suggested, would, "... preferably a left-handed hitter, given that first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and left fielder Jayson Werth both are right-handed."
"Zimmerman was much better in May than in April, but Werth actually was worse. The Nationals, who have barely outscored the rebuilding Brewers, rank eighth in the NL, averaging 4.26 runs per game."
As for the bullpen help? Nationals' relievers have the lowest combined ERA in the NL (2.63), the lowest FIP (3.03), the fifth-highest K/9 (9.31), lowest BB/9 (2.69) and the second-lowest total innings pitched (137 IP).
So why are the Nationals looking for bullpen help? MLB.com's Bill Ladson shared his thoughts in an article yesterday.
As the non-waiver deadline approaches, the Nationals, he wrote, "... will look to get better by trying to acquire bullpen help. As one baseball source put it, "Bullpen help is the top priority before the deadline."
While noting that the Nationals are not close to making any deals, Ladson writes that, "they are hoping [New York] Yankees relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman are available before the deadline."
While, "[Jonathan] Papelbon is still the Nationals' closer," he adds, the source he spoke to said, "they feel they can do better."
Papelbon has saved 14 games in 16 opportunities, with a 2.91 ERA and a 2.85 FIP, but his strikeout rate is down for the fifth straight season, his velocity is down a tick his Swinging Strike % is down as as well from 12.3% and 12.4% in the last two seasons and a 13.2% average in his career to 10.3% so far this season, with opposing hitters putting up a .298 AVG on his fastball and a .286 AVG on his slider.
Will the Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the front office once again try to find a late-inning upgrade?