A look at the Nationals’ lineup on Sunday provides a glimpse of why the next 24 hours is likely to be quiet for them before Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline.
Hitting third, fourth, and fifth respectively were Asdrúbal Cabrera, Eric Thames and Yan Gomes.
A caveat: Sunday day-game ensembles often feature lesser lineups. Especially after a Saturday night game. For instance, Howie Kendrick started the day on the bench to rest.
However, the lineup exemplifies where the Nationals are as the trade deadline approaches. They have too many holes to resolve at this juncture. The cost to fix them all in a 60-game, mish-mash season would be too high. Plus, they are on the edge of the playoffs anyway. There is no reward for a high winning percentage. They just want to enter the postseason one way or another.
Other teams began making slight moves Sunday morning. Mitch Moreland went from Boston to San Diego. Tommy Milone went from Baltimore to Atlanta. José Martínez went from Tampa Bay to the Cubs. Single-player moves often in exchange for players to be named later or lower-level prospects.
If the Nationals do make a trade, it will be along these lines, likely for a reliever. Renting Milone cost the Braves two players to be named later. The Nationals think they can replicate any performance Milone and his career 4.45 ERA would provide. The cost to acquire Texas starter Lance Lynn would be exorbitantly high because of his performance this season and meager $8 million base salary next season.
Another reliever -- as always -- would be beneficial. In particular, a reliever who can get left-handed batters out with regularity. Tanner Rainey is the Nationals’ best reliever. Will Harris is their most effective reliever against left-handed hitters. Daniel Hudson remains the closer. Sean Doolittle is wait-and-see.
“I always say you do the best you can with the players you have,” Davey Martinez said Sunday. “[Mike Rizzo] and his group up there, they’re always looking to make us better. They’re looking now. We picked up Brock Holt, which I think is going to be a good addition for us in this final stretch here. If we get a deal that’s going to help us in the long run, Rizz is not afraid to pull the trigger.
“That being said, it is different. It’s one month you’re getting a player for, unless you get a guy where he’s going to have a multi-year contract or you’re trying to do something big. I don’t foresee us doing that right now. I like the guys we got. We got to keep playing hard.”
The Nationals started the day with the second-worst winning percentage in the National League. But, they were also just three games out of an extended playoff spot. Stephen Strasburg is out for the season. Starlin Castro is probably out for the season. Carter Kieboom is at the alternate training site. The back of the rotation is mediocre. Victor Robles, Adam Eaton and Eric Thames all have an OPS below .670, yet play almost every day.
The ship is not sinking. Though, keeping it afloat has proven difficult and will be going forward. The Nationals have too many holes to become one of the better teams in baseball. They also have too much pride to just let things slide away. So, expect a move, but only a modest one.