The Nationals have yet to play to expectations and are dealing with several injury and performance issues, as Jonah Keri of Grantland explains (in addition to breaking down several other clubs, particularly the A’s, Rays, and Pirates). In terms of potential deadline moves, the area that Keri highlights as needing improvement is first base. As he explains, Ryan Zimmerman has not performed at the plate and is now in the midst of a DL stint of indeterminate length as he deals with plantar fasciitis. Keri suggests that the Nats could go after a rental such as Adam Lind, reserving longer-term questions for the future. From my perspective, adding a left-handed power bat makes a good deal of sense: such a player could boost the team’s production now while ultimately serving as a bench bat and/or platoon mate for Zimmerman, depending upon how things progress, while also supplying some injury insurance.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Even as the Mets continue to try to practice responsible roster-building, the club risks legitimate criticism if it can’t find a way to improve its chances while the Nationals look vulnerable, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests. There are plenty of possibilities for bold action, of course, but Sherman says not to expect a change of manager. The promotion of young lefty Steven Matz is not the panacea some might think, says Sherman, but could make a difference. (From my perspective, that still seems the single most likely move to inject talent onto the big league roster.) As for trades, Sherman writes that the club may need to get creative, but should be prepared to turn in some of its resources (payroll & prospects) to make something happen.
- Of course, some have suggested that the Mets really ought to be taking a look at 2014 first-round draft pick Michael Conforto to help boost the team’s sagging offense. But the club is “not considering” that move at this time, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets. That’s probably not too surprising, really. Conforto is still only 22 and has less than a full season of professional plate appearances on his resume. He has been raking at Double-A, but has not even seen 100 turns at bat at that level and was producing solid but hardly overwhelming numbers at High-A.
- If the Phillies are serious about building an organization that can succeed in the long run, then they should open their upper management search up broadly before making a decision, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. President Pat Gillick was never expected to stay at the helm of the organization for very long, and it seems that one key function of his office is to find a more permanent replacement. One name that has come up, of course, is former Orioles, Cubs, and Twins executive Andy MacPhail. Murphy says that MacPhail may or may not be the best person to take over, but the club ought to make that determination through a process that includes “a thorough examination of other top candidates throughout the sport.”
- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg says he is aware of Chase Utley’s vesting clause terms but won’t allow it to dictate his lineups, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. The struggling veteran has lost time to Cesar Hernandez recently. Utley will be guaranteed $15MM next year if he reaches 500 plate appearances this season. He’s just one PA shy of the halfway mark, easily putting him on pace. But as things stand — Utley is slashing .179/.257/.275, and his hard contact and line drive rates have plummeted — the organization would be amply justified to curb his playing time.
- The Braves are not likely to sell off any significant pieces at the deadline, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes in response to a fan question, though they could ship out a few one-year veterans if they fall well out of the picture. Atlanta could still be a limited buyer, Bowman suggests, with the team potentially looking to bolster its bullpen.