In a mid-July MLB Network Radio interview, Washington Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo talked about the starting depth in the organization and the rotation in particular with the signing of Max Scherzer, before the 2015 campaign, and the extension of Stephen Strasburg earlier this season.
"We were happy to have [Strasburg] in the fold for the long-term," Rizzo explained.
"With Scherzer and Stras signed long-term, and some young guys with [Tanner] Roark and [Joe] Ross and [Lucas] Giolito and [Reynaldo] Lopez and that group of guys, I think pitching-wise we have some depth and it bodes well for us long-term and immediately."
With today’s Non-Waiver Trade Deadline weeks away at that point, Rizzo was asked about the Nationals’ needs.
"I like the club we have," he said. "We're certainly not a perfect team and like all the contenders that I've talked to and what I've read about, we'd like to -- if possible upgrade our bullpen situation if we could find a value somewhere that not only gives us some help in 2016, but beyond a little bit. We would certainly consider that..."
On Saturday, the Nationals did just that, acquiring closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates in return for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league lefty Taylor Hearn, who was drafted by the Bucs in 2012, but didn’t sign.
Melancon gives the Nationals a more reliable closer than they had with Jonathan Papelbon struggling in the late-inning role.
As for the rest of the roster?
"We like our bench as it is and they're playing extremely well," Rizzo said then.
"Our rotation is deep and solid and our bullpen [has been] performing admirably.
"Offensively we're probably not as efficient as I'd like us to be, but we're kind of finding ways to score some runs and different players are getting hot at different times and we think that if [Ryan Zimmerman] comes back to being Zim and [Bryce Harper] gets hot again we feel that there's some upgrade that we can have there.
"We like the team that we have," he continued. "We don't think there are any major moves that we have to make, but if opportunity presents itself to become a better team we'll certainly look into it and we've shown in the past we're not afraid to pull the trigger and make a trade to help ourselves, but it has to be the right opportunity and not making a trade for trade's sake, but to improve our club."
Asked this weekend where the Nationals stood as the deadline drew closer, Rizzo reiterated his stance, telling reporters including MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, that he remained open the all possibilities.
"We’re always looking, always working," [Rizzo] said. "If something presents itself, we’ll certainly look into it."
Apparently the right deal didn’t present itself, because the Non-Waiver Deadline has passed and as of now no additional deals have been reported.
Does the talk of hoping players like Zimmerman and Harper playing "to the back of their baseball cards" (to paraphrase) remind you a little too much of last season, when the Nationals hoped injured players like Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Denard Span and Jayson Werth could return and give the offense a jolt?
Was the addition of Melancon to the bullpen enough?
Did the Nationals miss out on an opportunity to strengthen their roster?
Will Zim, Harper and Ben Revere this time, rise to the occasion going down the stretch?
Will Daniel Murphy be able to keep it up? Is Trea Turner the solution at the top of the lineup and in center... or maybe at short?
Will the Nationals look to make post-deadline moves like they have in the past?