A year ago at the non-waiver trade deadline, the Washington Nationals hit the jackpot, trading a reliever, right-hander Matt Capps, for a potential All-Star, catcher Wilson Ramos.
Might history repeat?
Numerous teams are calling on the Nationals’ two top relievers, closer Drew Storen and setup man Tyler Clippard, as well as a lesser right-hander, Todd Coffey, major league sources said.
The Nats are listening on Storen and Clippard, but will trade one of them only if they can improve long-term by filling a specific need, according to one source with knowledge of the club’s thinking.
The team’s No. 1 goal is to add a center fielder, preferably one who could bat leadoff. Potential targets include the B.J. Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays, Michael Bourn of the Houston Astros, Colby Rasmus of the St. Louis Cardinals and Denard Span of the Minnesota Twins, sources said.
A reliever alone – even one as good as Clippard or Storen – probably would not be enough to bring back a center fielder. The Nats, though, also are getting calls on second baseman Danny Espinosa and shortstop Ian Desmond, sources said.
The team will not trade Espinosa, a candidate for National League Rookie of the Year.
Desmond could be another story.
The Nats, if they traded Desmond, would be selling low; his .580 OPS is the worst in the NL. Club officials also are reluctant to give up on Desmond, whom they view as an improving defender, emerging leader and hitter capable of hitting .280 with 12 home runs and 70 RBI.
However, another dynamic is in play.
Some club officials would like to move Espinosa to short and promote Triple-A second baseman Steve Lombardozzi to play second, sources say.
Lombardozzi — the son of former major league infielder Steve Lombardozzi — has a combined .815 OPS at Double-A and Triple-A.
Desmond, who turns 26 on Sept. 20, ultimately could evolve into a super-utility man for the Nats. But several contenders are weak at short, and few quality players are available at the position.
The Baltimore Orioles just signed J.J. Hardy to a three-year extension. The New York Mets appear unlikely to trade Jose Reyes.
Desmond, even with his offensive regression, would qualify as an upgrade for teams such as the Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants and Milwaukee Brewers.
— Ken Rosenthal