3:24pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the Nationals are indeed taking offers on impending free-agent relievers such as Herrera, Madson and Kelley. However, Rosenthal adds that Washington is trying to pry more away from rival teams than it gave up to acquire Herrera in the first place, seeking top-tier prospects in return.
Passan, meanwhile, tweets that he’s heard even further since writing this morning’s column that the Nationals’ clubhouse is a growing problem, and organizational confidence in Martinez has faded. Nationals ownership has been notoriously fickle with its managerial preferences, and the reported discord between Martinez and higher-ups is merely the latest data point in that bizarre trend.
Beyond all that, Janes now reports (via Twitter) that the Nationals and Marlins have held “extensive” negotiations regarding Realmuto in recent days, but Washington still deems the price tag to be too high. At the same time, they’re also listening to offers on rental players whose subtraction would help to reduce payroll, she adds.
1:27pm: The 52-53 Nationals have emerged as one of the most interesting teams to watch with just under 26 hours remaining before the non-waiver trade deadline. The presumptive NL East favorites sit six games back in a divisional race that has seen them outplayed by the upstart Phillies and Braves to this point in the season.
It was reported late last week that the Nats were preparing for the possibility of selling some veteran pieces in the event that their four-game set against the Marlins didn’t go well. Washington took the first two games of that series, only to see Miami rally and salvage a 2-2 split. The Nats have actually made up a game in the standings since the time of that report, but the talk of a potential sale persists.
For instance, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan kicks off his weekly 10 Degrees column with a lengthy, fascinating exploration of the apparent disarray in the clubhouse of a Nationals team that has underperformed in a transitional year both in terms of on-field management (where rookie skipper Dave Martinez replaced veteran Dusty Baker) and in terms of ownership (after owner Ted Lerner ceded control of the organization to his son, Mark). One source bluntly told Passan that the Nats’ clubhouse “is a mess,” and three others backed that sentiment. The details are well worth a full read-through for anyone, though Nats fans in particular should take a look.
Broadly speaking, Passan goes on to suggest that the Nationals had hoped to win three of four games in the series they split with Miami this weekend, and though the one-game difference may not prove to be pivotal, ownership will be involved as the club weighs potential trades of short-term veterans. There’ll be a substantial swath of names for decision-makers to consider, with Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, Shawn Kelley, Gio Gonzalez, Mark Reynolds, Matt Adams, Daniel Murphy, Brandon Kintzler and Jeremy Hellickson all serving as potential free agents.
The Nationals have not, to this point, given any real consideration to trading Bryce Harper, Passan adds, which aligns with last week’s comments from Mike Rizzo to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, in which the general manager suggested that it’d take “something extreme” in order to consider trading Harper. Heyman, meanwhile, tweets that rival teams believe there’s virtually no chance the Nats will consider moving Harper, whom they hope to retain long-term.
Heyman adds, though, that other clubs expect the Nats to “investigate” possible trades of Herrera, Madson, Kelley and Of course, with so many relievers available on the market, it’s worth wondering just how much the Nationals could even extract for the majority of those bullpen rentals.
Given the sheer volume of rental players the Nationals could potentially peddle to other clubs, it’s also unlikely that there’d even be time to orchestrate an all-out sale. To that end, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post tweeted even after yesterday’s loss that she’d still be “stunned to see a major fire sale.” USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that other teams expect the Nationals to largely stay the course, perhaps preferring to try to pass some players through waivers next month. It’s possible that some smaller-scale moves will come together, but it hardly seems that the Washington front office is prepared for any type of significant tear-down.
In fact, it seems it’s not yet entirely out of the question that the Nats would make a significant addition. Heyman tweets that they haven’t completely closed the door on a late push for Marlins star J.T. Realmuto. More interestingly, he suggests that the Nationals would at least consider parting with prized outfield prospect Victor Robles or top shortstop prospect Carter Kieboom, but the Marlins have been pushing for both to be included in a deal (as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reported Saturday). Whatever talks have taken place have not been serious enough that anything has been brought to Marlins ownership, tweets Craig Mish of SiriusXM.
Though this isn’t any real indication that a Realmuto deal has a legitimate chance of coming to fruition, Josh Norris of Baseball America tweeted last night that Miami had vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo in Durham, where Robles and the rest of the Nationals’ Triple-A club squared off against the Rays’ top affiliate. As ever, it’s probably best not to read too much into one specific scouting assignment, but the timing of the two reports is of at least some note.
Suffice it to say, the Nats seem to have a number of avenues they can explore. While trading short-term veterans and acquiring a big-name player such as Realmuto would seemingly run counter to one another, the two ideas could coexist. Adding Realmuto would give the Nationals a boost for two years beyond the current season, as he’s controllable through 2020. Trading some veteran rentals, meanwhile, would modestly supplement the farm while saving some money that could be put toward adding to a core of Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Adam Eaton, etc. this coming offseason. With just over a day to make so many crucial decisions, the Nats will be at the center of much of the intrigue surrounding the 2018 deadline.