In case you didn't know, the Nationals are playing great baseball.
They seem to have no weakness. Everyone at every position has stepped up, and as a result, the Nats are comfortably in first place (in the NL East) with a National League best 49-33 record.
Even though the Nats are dominating, they could definitely still improve. Washington is up by 4.5 games, but the Mets and Braves, two very good teams, are still in the mix. The Nationals are young, so making some moves would help.
Here are four players the Nationals should target at the trade deadline.
Even though the Nationals have the best pitching in the major leagues, they could certainly use an upgrade to their rotation come playoff time.
Edwin Jackson is known for being inconsistent, and while he pitched on the Cardinals, the 2011 World Series champions, he didn't play a huge role in the team's success. Ross Detwiler is pitching well, but he isn't someone who the Nationals would want pitching in the postseason.
The guy they need is Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke.
Greinke is pitching well, but the Brewers are struggling, so Milwaukee's ace is headed for the trade block. Greinke strikes guys out, but he rarely walks guys. Plus, he is fairly consistent, as he is 9-3 with a 3.17 ERA.
If the Nationals decided not to shut down Stephen Strasburg in September, Greinke would really benefit Washington. The Nats would still have Gio Gonzalez and Greinke, and their pitching staff would still be dangerous.
Washington has a great pitching staff, but they would benefit from getting another starter.
Ryan Dempster is that starter.
Dempster has a 2.11 ERA and is pitching today against the Mets in his return from the DL. Dempster is very consistent and he has been pitching amazingly well. However, the Cubs are not a good team.
Chicago is out of the playoff race, and they are looking to rebuild for the future. Washington could trade prospects for Dempster, who would welcome the move to Washington. Despite his amazing ERA, Dempster has a 3-3 record.
The Nationals wouldn't get Greinke and Dempster, but they would certainly benefit from getting another starter in case Strasburg is shut down. Since the Nationals have a great farm system and the Cubs have a great starting pitcher, the two sides could definitely work out a deal.
The Nationals have a good bullpen, but they would benefit from getting a closer.
Drew Storen will be back soon, but he could help the Nationals as a middle reliever. Huston Street is 2-0 with 13 saves, no blown saves and a 1.17 ERA. He is dominating in San Diego, and the Padres really benefited from picking him up.
However, San Diego also happens to be out of the playoff race.
Washington has a good farm system, so they could trade prospects for Street. Washington has a lot of guys capable of pitching the ninth inning, but when the playoffs roll around, it becomes harder. Street would give Washington the shutdown closer they will need in the playoffs.
Just like Street, Ryan Cook is a thriving reliever on a struggling team.
Cook has a 1.46 ERA and eight saves. His ERA would be a lot lower, but he was rocked by the Giants in one outing. However, Cook is very consistent and would definitely help the Nationals' bullpen.
This year, Cook has pitched 37 innings and allowed just six earned runs. Cook has walked 21 batters, but he has only allowed 13 hits. He has a phenomenal 0.92 WHIP, and he could definitely close until Storen gets back.
Or, he could be the guy who comes on with two outs and runners on base to get the final out of the inning and strand the runners.
Again; Washington wouldn't get Cook and Street. However, adding Street would help the Nationals have a shutdown closer for the postseason, and adding Cook would help the Nationals add another shutdown reliever who can help the team in many ways.
Oakland is in a tough division and has a very small chance of making the playoffs. They would be looking to upgrade their farm system, so Washington would have to trade prospects. However, since the Nats have a great farm system, they could definitely work out a trade.