The trading deadline looms with the Nationals knowing exactly where they are this year, unlike 2021 where they began July with a winning record. The “quick reboot” led by General Manager Mike Rizzo has the team in the seller’s role for the second straight summer after being a buyer for most of the 2012-2019 stretch.
But who goes?
Josh Bell has an expiring contract and his numbers (. 305, 14 homers and 57 RBI) make him attractive to any contender while Steve Cishek can provide bullpen depth. Nelson Cruz has a mutual option for 2023 and is hitting under .240.
Reliever Kyle Finnegan has a few more years of team control but bullpen arms are a luxury for last place teams. And then there is the continuing case of Juan Soto, the player most talked about even though he has two-plus years before reaching the market.
But just like the inclusion of Trea Turner into the Max Scherzer swap with the Los Angeles Dodgers seemed premature (he had a year-plus remaining before free agency) anything is possible regarding the Nats’ best player.
Digesting the Division — the New York Mets (64-37) won six straight to open up a bit of a cushion entering this upcoming weekend’s monster series with Atlanta (62-41), that also ends July on a strong note with three straight wins. Philadelphia (55-47) won five straight and is hanging on to the final playoff spot in the National League while Miami (47-55) owns a 12 1/2-game lead over last place Washington (35-68).
Break up the Birds? How do you best ruin a feel-good season for a franchise that hasn’t had one in at least seven years (keeping Zach Britton in the bullpen during the Wildcard Game ruined 2016)? The Orioles are 51-51 and 16-7 since July 2. Consecutive winning months after not having a winning month between August 2017 and May 2022 (discounting a 2-1 March 2018). They’re currently three games out of the final playoff spot. Do they make a go for the third wildcard spot? They’re three games behind Tampa Bay Toronto at this time. Or do they continue to build by swapping players for prospects? Both of their regulars with expiring contracts (Roughned Odor and Robinson Chirinos) are hitting under .200 at this time — not exactly. Do they deal one of their bigger bats like Anthony Santander (under team control for two more seasons)? And what to do with homegrown hero and cancer survivor Trey Mancini? He’s a year-plus away from free agency and would yield more than a few quality prospects, but would the Camden Yards faithful view the return as 30 pieces of silver?
Last Week’s Heroes — Lane Thomas hit .417 while Tres Barrera batted .400. Yadiel Hernandez hit .353 with a homer and three RBI. Josh Bell paced the team with six RBI and Cesar Hernandez scored a team-high six runs. Erasmo Ramirez went 2-0 out of the bullpen and tossed five scoreless innings over three appearances while Victor Arano (three scoreless over three games) and Hunter Harvey (four scoreless over four) also shined.
Last Week’s Humbled — Patrick Corbin allowed six earned runs over two-thirds of an inning (81.00 ERA for those not wanting to do the math) to drop the lefthander to 4-14 with an ERA of 6.49 this year. Anibal Sanchez allowed six runs over 5.2 innings in his third start of the season. Maikel Franco hit .083 while Ehire Adrianza batted .100.
Game to Watch — Tuesday the Nationals may very well might look markedly different from the club we’ve seen for the first 100+ games due to the trading deadline. It’s also the 2022 debut of Jacob deGrom who is finally coming off the injured list for the Mets.
Game to Miss — Saturday the Nats are in Philadelphia and Patrick Corbin pitches. Enough said …