The Nationals open tomorrow what promises to be the most compelling second half to a season since the franchise arrived in town in 2005, owners of the NL's best record but saddled with several major questions that need to be answered.
Today we're counting down the five most significant storylines to the remainder of the Nationals' season. Next up is storyline No. 3: Whether GM Mike Rizzo tries to bolster his roster before the July 31 trade deadline...
The Nationals have frequently been active around the trade deadline. They've just usually spent late July trying to move veterans to contending clubs in exchange for prospects.
Not so this summer. For the first time in seven years, they have no interest in selling at the July 31 deadline. But do they have interest in buying?
Perhaps not as much as you might expect for a team smack dab in the middle of a pennant race. Look up and down the Nationals' roster. There aren't very many obvious holes, certainly fewer than any other contending team in the National League, especially once Jayson Werth and Drew Storen return from the disabled list.
That leadoff-hitting center fielder Rizzo has coveted for years? There's no room for him, not with an outfield of Werth, Bryce Harper and Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche at first base.
What about bullpen help? The Nationals might have too many relievers as it is, with some quality arm (Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen or Michael Gonzalez) likely to lose his roster spot once Storen returns.
There has been some recent discussion of adding another starting pitcher, someone who could take over the fifth spot in the rotation for now and ultimately take over Stephen Strasburg's spot when the ace is shut down as planned in September. Is there a chance the Nationals could make such a move? Yes, there's a chance. But it's probably not as great as many would like to believe.
The addition of another starter would force Ross Detwiler back to the bullpen at least temporarily, which isn't necessarily a move the Nats want to make. Detwiler would rejoin the rotation once Strasburg is shut down, but at that point, the club might need a fifth starter only three or four times thanks to a couple of September off-days.
Given all that, the Nationals front office seems reluctant to go out and get another big-name starting pitcher, especially if that pitcher comes with a hefty price tag. One high-ranking club official said this week the organization will not raid its farm system in an attempt to rent a player for two months.
That doesn't mean Rizzo might not pull off a minor trade or two, perhaps for some bench help or even a veteran catcher who could help take some of the load off Jesus Flores.
But at this point, a major move on July 31 doesn't appear to be in the Nationals' plans.