Nationals

Rosenthal breaks down Nats' 'bleak' situation

Nationals

The Nationals have had a precarious season. After having one of the best months of the league’s season in June, Washington promptly dropped from second in the NL East to fourth thanks to four straight losses amid a 2-9 July.

MLB’s July 30 trade deadline is fast approaching, and with the Nats teetering between the playoff chase and falling to dead last in the division, decisions must be made. Ken Rosenthal, MLB Network Insider, tried to predict what Washington will do before the deadline -- specifically with ace pitcher and NL All-Star Max Scherzer.

“If they are buried [in the standings], yes, they could entertain selling. But trading Max Scherzer is something I still don’t see them doing, in part because he has a full no-trade clause,” Rosenthal said in an interview with FOX Sports. “His agent, Scott Boras, has said publicly to waive that no-trade clause and that Max is going to want a contract extension…that will take some work.”

Indeed, the way Scherzer’s present contract is constructed means that whichever team acquires him would be required to extend him. He’s currently in the final season of a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals. It is likely that Washington will be the club who wants to keep Scherzer in town, especially if a playoff berth remains possible closer to the deadline.

 

Scherzer aside, there are several other questions the Nats’ front office will need to answer in the next three weeks, Rosenthal noted.

“The other factor here is Mike Rizzo, their general manager. He is not a guy who likes to give up. Their ownership has not conceded in any particular pennant race,” Rosenthal said. “So, I don’t see them selling necessarily. The question is: can they play themselves into a position where they are actually buying?”

Washington has plenty of players set to become free agents at the end of this season, including Jon Lester, Starlin Castro, Brad Hand and Yan Gomes. How the team performs over the next two weeks will likely have a huge impact on the moves Rizzo and company make at the deadline. The Nats’ mile-long injured list doesn’t help, either.

“It’s looking bleak for them right now, let’s face it…You look at all the guys on the injured list, including [Stephen] Strasburg and [Kyle] Schwarber, and you say, ‘How the heck can they get back in it?’” Rosenthal posed. “They’re gonna take a look the next two weeks -- see where they are, like all teams, and they’re kind of like the [Atlanta] Braves. They want to see if the [New York] Mets get away from them.”

Washington is 42-47, six games behind the division-leading Mets. Nats fans will be hoping New York slips some, which could potentially give Washington a little leeway in terms of clawing back into the division race. With stellar seasons by the San Francisco Giants (57-32), Los Angeles Dodgers (56-35) and San Diego Padres (53-40) in the NL West, an NL wild card spot could be hard to come by for a team that can't finish well over .500.

The Nats, now nine out of the final wild-card berth, have a lot of work to do to get there.