Outfielders Jayson Werth and Michael A. Taylor are battling their respective injuries with no timetable for their return. Chris Heisey (groin) just landed on the 10-Day DL this weekend.
In spite of continuing issues with their outfielders, and the temporary absence of Ryan Raburn, who went on the bereavement list, GM Mike Rizzo told reporters on Sunday, after outfield prospect Andrew Stevenson was called up to make his MLB debut, that he didn’t think the Nationals would need to pursue another outfield bat.
“I think we have confidence in the guys we have, and as long as the core of our lineup is healthy and hitting on all cylinders, I think we can make it through until Jayson and Michael get better,” Rizzo said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, adding, “I don’t see that being too far of a distance.”
In an attempt to bolster their relief corps, the Nationals added left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle and right-handed reliever Ryan Madson in a trade with the Oakland Athletics last weekend.
Rizzo did say on Sunday, however, that the Nationals will continue to survey the market looking for deals that could help the bullpen.
“I think we’re going to continue to do our due diligence,” Rizzo said, according to The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes, “... and if something appeals to us that makes sense, we’ll consider it.”
Later that afternoon, Stephen Strasburg left his outing against the Diamondbacks with what was described by the starter as “achiness” or “stiffness” in his right forearm.
Strasburg expressed confidence that he would be able to work through the issue and be ready for his next outing, but if there is any sort of long-term problem with the 29-year-old starter?
According to a report by MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, the Nationals could pursue a starter, and, not surprisingly, considering their trade history, the Oakland A’s are viewed as a potential trade partner.
“Sources say the Nationals are prepared to trade for a starting pitcher if Strasburg's discomfort becomes a long-term issue,” Morosi wrote.
“Sources say the A's and Nationals have remained in contact since finalizing the deal that sent relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington earlier this month,” he added, and with Joe Ross already out for the season with a torn UCL, the Nationals will be watching Sonny Gray, whose name has been mentioned in connection with a number of teams over the past few weeks, including the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and Houston Astros.
According to Morosi, the Athletics, “... are said to be focusing on teams that could build their offer around a young outfielder.”
The Nationals, of course, have highly-regarded outfield prospects in Victor Robles (who was ranked No. 8 on Baseball America’s Midseason Top 100) and Juan Soto, (who is on the DL at the moment with Class-A Hagerstown, but was ranked 95th on BA’s list), and Rizzo and the A’s have a long history (11 trades since 2009) of working together on mutually beneficial deals.
As his name has been bandied about in the press, Gray, 27, has won four of five starts for the Athletics, posting a 1.62 ERA, seven walks (1.89 BB/9), 27 Ks (7.29 K/9), and a .155/.203/.267 line against in 33 1⁄3 innings over that stretch.
Before the injury concerns with Strasburg came up, Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies last week he thought the Nats had the starting depth to get by without Ross.
Edwin Jackson earned the first opportunity to fill Ross’s spot in the rotation, he said, but if the veteran right-hander (who put together a solid start against the LA Angels last week) didn’t work out, there are other options in the organization.
“We’ve got very capable guys behind [Jackson],” Rizzo said. “A.J. Cole, although his numbers aren’t as strong as they’ve been in the past in Triple-A, he’s throwing the ball much, much better. You’ve got Austin Voth, who is coming off the disabled list, we moved him to Double-A to get his feet back on the ground, [he] is on the roster, and we also have been stretching out Erick Fedde to return to a starter. He threw three solid innings his last start in Triple-A and he’s building off that to get him to 100 pitches, and if we need to we certainly would not be afraid to go grab him to make his major league debut.”
Adding one of those starters to the mix with Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark might work. If Strasburg mixes significant time, however, would a trade for a more proven, reliable starter make sense?