In discussing whether the Washington Nationals would be buyers or sellers at the upcoming non-waiver trade deadline, GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies that he would try to evaluate the team objectively and decide how to move forward, though he said that there were plenty of examples of teams that have made up the ground the Nats would need to make up in order to win the NL East for a third straight season.
“I look at recent division winners that have dug themselves out of big holes like we’re in right now at this time of the year,” Rizzo said.
“The 2017 Cubs were two games under .500 after the All-Star Break, at 5.5 games back, the Dodgers in ‘16 were 6.5 back, the Rangers in ‘15 were 6.0 back, the A’s in 2012 were 9.0 games back and the Twins in ‘06 were 11.0 games back after the All-Star Break and came back and won their divisions, and that’s not counting the ‘15 Cubs, and ‘14 Royals, and ‘07 Rockies that were anywhere from 5.5 to 8.0 games out and went to the World Series that year.”
“So I think you have to trust the team that you have,” he added, “you have to make prudent decisions that are going to impact the team this year and beyond, and I still have great confidence in this team, I know that the coaching staff had great confidence in this team, and I know the players have great confidence in themselves.”
But... the 50-51 Nationals (now 51-51) started the series with the Miami Marlins on Thursday night 7.0 games back in the division behind both the Atlanta Braves (54-44, 1.5 games back) and Philadelphia Phillies (57-44), and they were 5.5 games out in the Wild Card race, so there were plenty of questions about what their approach will be in the lead-up to the July 31st deadline.
Sources: The Washington Nationals have started discussions with teams to gauge interest if they decide to sell. Of particular interest are Kelvin Herrera, Shawn Kelley and Ryan Madson, three free-agent-to-be relievers. Nats are telling teams they’ll know by end of weekend.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 26, 2018
It’s worth noting explicitly: The Nationals have not decided to sell. They’re doing what any prudent team in their position would: getting a sense of the market so if they do decide to sell, they can put together deals that normally take days in 24 hours. It’s the right play.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 26, 2018
The Nationals told teams early this month to keep an eye on them in case they took a downward turn, and that they might become sellers if necessary.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 26, 2018
Ken Rosenthal wrote at The Athletic that this weekend’s series with the Miami Marlins could go a long way to determining the team’s approach early next week, noting that the Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office, “...might need to win three of [their] next four games in Miami to stave off growing internal pressure to sell, according to major league sources.”
Rosenthal added that his sources said, “... ownership is pushing Rizzo to sell, particularly with the Nationals projecting to be over the $197 million luxury-tax threshold,” echoing sentiments expressed by Jim Duquette in an MLB Network Radio segment earlier in the day on Thursday:
Rizzo talked about putting pressure on both the Phillies and Braves with the Sports Junkies.
“By some act of God,” he said, “... we still have some type of puncher’s chance to win this division and I think we’re going to grasp onto that and run with that and see if we can put together a string of games that puts pressure on two really talented but young teams ahead of us in the Braves and the Phillies and a team that’s done it before, two years in a row National League East champs, four out of six years National League East champs, and this is going to be a new challenge.”
“We’ve got five games before the trade deadline, that’s an important milestone,” Rizzo said later in his interview. What will the Nationals do against the Marlins to force a decision one way or another?
Will Bryce Harper still be a National when the deadline passes? Which Nationals could go if the Nationals do sell... Ryan Madson, Shawn Kelley, Kelvin Herrera, Mark Reynolds, and Matt Adams were mentioned in Rosenthal’s article.
What do you think the Nationals should do before the deadline? Are you Team Buy or Team Sell?
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