As they begin their playoff push in earnest, what will the Washington Nationals do at the trade deadline? Will they make a blockbuster trade to significantly alter their team? Or will they make a minor deal to fine tune their line-up? And what other roster moves will they make to change the make-up of their squad?
Here are seven predictions for the Washington Nationals with trade deadline just hours away.
Bryce Harper has had a tough time the last few days.
The 19-year-old is mired in a 2-for-20 slump over his last five games, with no home runs.
Then, in the middle of this slump, Bryce contracted a stomach virus and had to sit out Saturday's game.
He was back for Sunday's game, but couldn't shake the slump, going 0 for 4 with two walks. He did score the game-winning run.
But Harper's frustration with his slump has grown to the point of him trying desperate measures to break it. He even tried swinging the bat without batting gloves. Bryce tried to explain the move in his post-game comments to The Washington Post, saying "I don’t know. I’m trying to feel the bat a little bit more, I guess. Just something different.”
One day off would do Harper some good—for his mind and for his body.
The last time Davey Johnson sat Bryce Harper down, it was to rest his sore back. But Harper couldn't even sit still for an entire game, and he convinced his manager to get him into the ballgame.
That worked out well on June 10 in Boston, and it carried over into the next series as well.
This benching will light the same fire under the competitive Harper, and he will torch his next opponent.
This may be the toughest decision the Washington Nationals will have to make this week.
When Tracy comes off the disabled list, Corey Brown appears the most likely candidate to be optioned back to Syracuse.
The toolsy outfielder has less major league experience than Tyler Moore, another possible candidate for reassignment. Before this weekend, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy had only 10 major league at-bats in light duty between this season and September of last year.
But Brown did his best to complicate the team's decision this weekend.
Corey recorded his first major league hit on Saturday, by hitting the ball into the Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen. He stayed hot on Sunday, going two for four with a double. His reward will be a return trip to Triple-A Syracuse.
But Corey Brown is one of many young players for the Nationals this year that have revealed the depth of the franchise's minor league system. He may be called on to do so again this season.
John Lannan gave the pitching performance of his life on Saturday July 21, stopping the Nats' three-game-slide as they beat Atlanta in the second game of a doubleheader. They salvaged a split of the four-game series the next day, and they have lost only one game since then.
Lannan, however, was only called up as a spot starter for that weekend's compressed schedule. The second half of the doubleheader was the Nationals tenth game in nine days since the All-Star Break. Despite his heroics, Lannan was summarily reassigned to Triple-A Syracuse.
The Nationals will call on his services again, and this time, he'll stay longer.
John Lannan will move into the rotation as the fifth starter, as he formally auditions to be Stephen Strasburg's replacement when the All-Star is shut down.
Lannan's move into the rotation means someone is moving out.
Ross Detwiler will be moving back into the bullpen.
Detwiler began his season as the fifth starter, beating out John Lannan during Spring Training. He was then demoted to the bullpen after struggling, making way for Chien-Ming Wang. But Detwiler returned to the rotation when Chien-Ming Wang struggled and was himself demoted.
Overall this season, Ross has been good for the Nationals as either a starter or a reliever, and his versatility will be useful later in the season.
Detwiler is 5-4 with a 3.24 ERA in 97.1 innings pitched. He has made 15 starts and 21 total appearances. Detwiler has a .253 opponents' batting average and a 1.24 WHIP.
This is not a demotion for Ross Detwiler but rather a strategic move by the ball club.
This has been an up-and-down year for Henry Rodriguez, to say the least.
After a strong finish to the 2011 campaign, Henry received an expanded role this season. But he struggled with the pressure of being the closer, and it shows in his stats. He is currently 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA in 34 appearances. He has blown 3 of his 12 save opportunities, and he has 20 walks in 28.0 innings pitched.
But Henry has arguably the best stuff in the Nationals' bullpen, and that's saying a lot. His talent shows up in his stats, too.
He has 30 strikeouts in those same 28.0 innings pitched, and opponents are batting only .172 against him. He won't be jobless long.
When you can throw 100 mph, your services will always be coveted.
Not as sexy an acquisition as Ryan Dempster, but the Washington Nationals need some depth at catcher.
The Denver Post says Ramon Hernandez was one of several players likely to be dealt by the cellar-dwelling Colorado Rockies, in addition to Marco Scutaro who was already traded to the San Francisco Giants on July 27. Troy Renck of The Denver Post further reported that the Washington Nationals were at Chase Field in Phoenix on July 25 to scout the Rockies as they played the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Washington Nationals have been plagued by injuries to their catchers all season long, most notably by losing starter Wilson Ramos for the season with a torn ACL. Jesus Flores has been a revelation while filling in for Ramos, but the grind has begun to wear on Flores, earning him the nickname "The Human Bruise".
Ramon Hernandez will provide just the depth that the Nationals need. The 14-year veteran from Caracas, Venezuela would actually be a defensive upgrade from both Jesus Flores and Wilson Ramos. The two Nationals catchers have career caught stealing percentages of 25% and 27% respectively, while Hernandez has a career caught stealing percentage of 31%.
Hernandez could potentially replace some of the power the lineup lost when Wilson Ramos went down.
Ramon is a career .264 hitter, with 165 home runs and 741 RBI, although his average and power numbers have dipped this year in only 34 games. Hernandez has been to the postseason six times with three different teams, most recently with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010. Ramon is a career .211 hitter in the postseason.
Ramon Hernandez would be a welcome addition to the Washington Nationals as they push towards what would be only the second postseason appearance in franchise history.