MLB Trade Deadline: 5 Players the Washington Nationals Should Target

Kris Lokos@koko4lokopuffsCorrespondent IJune 18, 2012

MLB Trade Deadline: 5 Players the Washington Nationals Should Target

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    Despite the fact that the Washington Nationals have been plagued by injuries, they are still in first place of the NL East. With that being said, there is still room for improvement.

    The Nationals have the potential to be pretty active before the trade deadline on July 31st. There are a few things to look for to try and figure out what your team will do as far are trades are concerned.

    First, which teams are going to be buyers and sellers. Teams that are going to be out of playoff contention will most likely be looking to trade players to get younger potential talent. Teams that are still in contention will be looking to find that missing piece that will push them over the top. The Nationals will obviously be buyers.

    The next thing you need to know is where your team can improve, and the positions they are going to look at. For the Nationals, they will be looking for a catcher and a center fielder.

    Starting catcher Wilson Ramos will be out for the year, and Jesus Flores has not done the best of jobs behind the plate. The Nats don't have a solid center fielder, and have made it clear that rookie Bryce Harper is not a long-term solution in center. Rick Ankiel is getting older and has not been as productive as Washington would like out of the center field position.

    Lastly, you must look at what you have to offer, and what teams will be looking for. The Nationals have no shortage of starting pitching, and they also have four left fielders on the roster.

    With all of that in mind, here are five players that the Nationals should target in free agency. 

5. CF Michael Bourn

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    Michael Bourn has really stepped up his game this year. The Atlanta Brave center fielder is hitting .313 with six home runs, 21 runs batted in, and 17 stolen bases in the leadoff spot.

    Bourn is one of the fastest center fielders in the league, and has a good arm. At 29, he still has several good years ahead of him. The Nationals would be crazy not to try and sign him.

    Yet it is unlikely that Washington would be able to get him. Atlanta would have to feel that they were getting a great deal for Bourn to even consider it. With the Nationals four games up on the Braves in the NL East, trading him to help a division rival, particularly the team in first place, is unlikely.

    However, the Braves do need pitching, and the Nationals have a lot of that. In addition to having good young pitching talent in the minors, they have Ross Detwiler currently in the bullpen, John Lannan down in Triple-A, and Chien-Ming Wang as the fifth starter. The Nats would be willing to part with any of them; it just depends on whether or not Atlanta thinks it is worth the risk. 

4. C Ryan Doumit

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    Ryan Doumit would be a good player to go after. Currently playing for the Minnesota Twins Doumit's numbers are down this year. He is hitting .253 with six home runs and 30 runs batted in, which is better than Jesus Flores, the Nationals current catcher.

    Doumit has also been a bit of a utility man for the Twins, playing in the outfield and at first base a little as well. That would only increase Washington's interest. The fact that Doumit's numbers are down could be from playing for the Twins, who have a weaker lineup than most teams. A switch to a National League team with a better lineup, like the Nats, could help his numbers.

    Doumit is currently in a one year contract with Minnesota, which would make a trade a better option for both teams, with the Nationals having to pay less and the Twins at least getting some value for him before he becomes a free agent. The Nationals will probably take a look at him.

3. 3B Kevin Youkilis

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    So this may sound a little crazy, and it is. The Nationals have Ryan Zimmerman at third base, and Adam LaRoche is playing well at first, hitting .264 with 12 home runs and 43 runs batted in. And there is no DH spot waiting for him in the National League. Youkilis is hitting .215 with just four homers and 13 RBI. Why would the Nationals want him?

    Because it is the cheapest he will ever be. Youkilis is hitting far below his career average and it is clear that the Red Sox are looking to move him, hopefully for pitching. The Nationals have so many pitchers that major leaguer Lannan is in Triple-A and Detwiler is in the bullpen.

    Getting an all-star to help the lineup is never a bad idea. He could fill in at first or third, and either he or LaRoche would be the newest member of the Nationals "goon squad." Chances are Youkilis will get out of his slump, so it might be best to get him while he's cheap.

2. CF Denard Span

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    Denard Span is the first center fielder that the Nationals pursue. Span is hitting .287 out of the leadoff spot, a spot that the Nationals could improve.

    Span's speed is good, and his overall athleticism would be a good addition to Washington's lineup. It would also help in center field, allowing Bryce Harper to move to right field, at least while Jason Werth is out.

    Being that he is with the Twins, he is in a similar position as Doumit. The Twins would like pitching, and Span could be on the move. If the Nationals could find a way to pick him up, he would help a great deal.

1. Kelly Shoppach

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    Kelly Shoppach is the best catcher that the Nationals would have a good chance at getting. He is currently backing up Jared Saltalamacchia in Boston, which would make him a good value pick up. Boston has depth at the catcher position, and the Nats would love to have him.

    Shoppach is hitting .273, far exceeding anything the Nationals have. He is solid defensively, something that the Nationals do not have. His .883 OPS would also be a big help to a Nationals' lineup that struggles in that area.

    With Boston wanting pitching, and Shoppach just a backup, it is pretty likely that Boston would be willing to part with him. The Nationals easily can trade pitching without altering the starting rotation, something that will be good, considering they have the best staff in all of baseball.

    Look for the Nationals to have several talks with Boston in the coming weeks as they try to make a deal.