The July 31st MLB Trade Deadline could end up being very different for the Washington Nationals in 2021.
Instead of that yearly tradition that has Mike Rizzo adding a bullpen arm (or three), it could very well be uncharted territory in Washington -- selling at the deadline.
Okay sure, we still have enough time on the schedule for the Nationals front office to change that mindset if they can turn things around on the field, and as Rizzo said recently, there's still time to assess the team before next month's deadline.
That being said, Rizzo and the Nats may need to think big picture with the future of this aging team, and they have some assets should they decide to go that route.
Here are some names that could help the Nationals bring back some young talent and build a new core.
The easy and obvious name. The 36-year-old ace is 5-4 with a 2.22 ERA in 12 starts this season. In fact, he's been the only member of this rotation the Nats can even count on so far. His contract is also up at the end of the year. Of course, fans would be furious to see him go, but the organization might have to make a tough decision if they want to help build the foundation for a brighter future.
Corbin wouldn't be a rental like Scherzer, which could appeal to some teams looking for more than a few starts out of their new pitcher. Corbin struggled last year, as many players did in that weird 2020 season, and this year has had its ups and downs for sure too. Corbin seems to be showing some signs of trending in the right direction though, which could come at just the right time should the Nats look to gauge the market.
The power the Nationals had hoped to get from Bell hasn't really been there so far. It doesn't help that Bell was part of the group that's essentially been playing catch up after that start-of-the-season COVID situation. June has been Bell's best month so far, another possible player trending upward that might entice another team in a division race to send some young talent back in return.
If the Nationals plan to continue their current pattern of not paying their young stars that aren't pitchers, then maybe they need to rip off the bandaid and think about trading Turner. He won't be an unrestricted free agent until 2023, so a team would get an arbitration year before that happens. Would trading him be good business? No, since he's the only one that can seem to hit a baseball consistently, but you'd definitely get a tempting amount back in return.
Similar to Bell, Schwarber was brought in on a shorter deal with the hopes he'd add that needed power to their lineup. He's second on the team in home runs, but hitting just .220 heading into the Giants series.
Hand, tied for eighth in the National League in saves with 10 on the season, obviously brings value to a team in the Nationals that always seems to need more bullpen help, but he could also bring value to another team in that same spot. Hand would also be a rental, but organizations looking for a dependable arm out of the bullpen for the postseason would definitely be intrigued by what Hand could bring.
Okay calm down, this is really unlikely. Mainly because he has a no-trade clause. But... let's just say Zimmerman was willing to waive it and make one last World Series run, his eight home runs in limited at-bats this year might be enough for a team looking to add depth to its lineup. Just sayin'.
Also a free agent-to-be, Castro is second on the Nats in hits. His ability to play multiple infield positions would definitely help plenty of teams.
Of course, this list isn't the total number of players that could find their way to new homes before the deadline.
The next few weeks will determine whether we hear their names mentioned more in rumors, or the Nationals decide to keep pushing forward, hoping to get back into the postseason.