The Nationals “are still assessing what we have and the deadline,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters (including the Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty and MASNsports.com’s Byron Kerr) today about the club’s plans heading towards August 31. But while the Nats may not have their shopping list quite ready, Rizzo made it clear that his club is planning to be buyers.
“We’re here to win the World Series this year, and that never changes in my mind or in [manager Dave Martinez’s] mind or the owner’s mind,” Rizzo said. “We’re here to win, and we’re very, very competitive. If we see a place to improve ourselves in a deal that makes sense for us, we’re never afraid to pull the trigger.”
Today’s 9-3 victory over the Marlins improved the Nationals’ record to a modest 11-14, though like virtually every team in baseball, Washington is still in the playoff race in this shortened season. Rizzo doesn’t “think it’s anywhere near too late to make adjustments, but we have to play better,” recalling how the 2019 Nationals rebounded after a 19-31 start to the season.
“I have seen flashes of brilliance and mediocrity,” Rizzo said about this year’s Nats. “We have got to be more consistent….You got to play clean baseball, championship caliber baseball. We went through this last year and cleaned it up rather quickly after a slow start. We have to do the same thing now.”
Rizzo is no stranger to memorable trade deadline swaps, perhaps most notably the acquisition of Daniel Hudson at the 2019 deadline given Hudson’s key role in Washington’s 2019 World Series title. While the Nats’ bullpen was a glaring flaw last season, however, this year’s team doesn’t necessarily have such an obvious weak point, apart from maybe a starting rotation that Rizzo is bullish towards.
With Stephen Strasburg done for the season, Austin Voth and Erick Fedde have both played larger roles in the starting five, plus prospect Wil Crowe also recently made his Major League debut. The veteran trio of Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez have also had their ups and downs, with Sanchez in particular struggling prior to a strong outing in today’s 9-3 victory over the Nationals.
“We get calls about our starting pitching all the time and we feel very, very fortunate that we have that type of depth of young arms that can contribute at the big league level,” Rizzo said. “Very excited about the prospects of these young kids coming up. You look at the Voths and the Feddes, the way they performed last year in a world championship season and helped us the ship afloat and pitch extremely well in a pennant race. You run guys out there like a Wil Crowe and Seth Romero, who have shown their stuff plays in the big leagues. That is very positive news for us moving forward.”
If a new starter perhaps isn’t likely, acquiring more relief help would certainly seem like more of a possibility, and Dougherty also believes “a low-cost veteran bat would help.” The likes of Adam Eaton and Eric Thames have struggled at the plate this year, and Starlin Castro will likely miss the rest of the regular season due to wrist surgery. On the plus side, Juan Soto and Trea Turner have been tearing the cover off the ball, rookie Luis Garcia has filled in nicely for Castro at second base, and Asdrubal Cabrera has hit well to pick up the slack at the corner infield spots from Thames and Carter Kieboom.