The MLB Trade Deadline is approaching, and every GM in baseball is on the phone trying to improve their team.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, however, hasn't been on the phone as much as some other GMs.
Rizzo's Washington Nationals are 61-40 and tied with the Cincinnati Reds for the best record in baseball. The Nats have received some great pitching and some timely hitting, and they rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Brewers in extra innings yesterday.
Most people would think a team like this doesn't need much help at the trade deadline. Nevertheless, they would benefit from patching up some minor holes.
Washington's bullpen has struggled recently, as Tyler Clippard, Ryan Matheus, Craig Stammen, Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez have seen their ERA shoot up in July. Stammen has pitched well as a long reliever, although he has left a few pitches over the plate recently. The other four have struggled a lot.
If the Nationals wanted to shore up the bullpen, they could trade for Brandon League. According to Scott Miller of CBSSports.com, a lot of teams have interest in the Mariners' reliever, who could add some much-needed experience to the Nats' bullpen. League has experience closing games, and he could close down the stretch.
Right now, Clippard is closing games. He has struggled lately by blowing saves and allowing numerous home runs. Plus, he doesn't have any playoff experience. League doesn't have playoff experience either, but he is definitely an upgrade over Clippard at closer.
Even though Washington's bullpen has struggled, I doubt they will do anything about it. Their relief pitching has been strong for most of the year, and there aren't many cheap relievers in the market. Rizzo is aware of the team's inexperience, but the only way the players will gain experience is by playing in high-pressure situations.
What Should the Nats Do at the Deadline?
It looks doubtful that the Nationals will get a reliever, but they could still land Ryan Dempster. The Cubs ace is 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA, the second best in baseball. Dempster would add some depth to the Nationals' rotation, who will need a replacement for Stephen Strasburg if he is shut down.
The Dodgers look like the front-runner for Dempster, but Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reported that the Nationals could be a team for the Cubs to fall back on if Chicago and LA can't make a deal. If Dempster landed in DC, he would improve one of the best rotations in baseball.
Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler currently pitch in the Nationals rotation. Zimmermann has the fourth-best ERA in baseball, and his consistent pitching has helped the Nationals a lot. Gonzalez and Strasburg are among the league leaders in wins, and both continue to strike out numerous batters.
Jackson and Detwiler have been good, but the Nationals could use better pitchers in their rotation. If Strasburg gets shut down in September and Dempster doesn't land in Washington, the Nats would have to call up the inconsistent John Lannan. Lannan makes a lot of mistakes and gives up a lot of hits.
If the Nationals had Dempster, they almost wouldn't miss Strasburg. Since Dempster has experience and the Nats need that, they would be willing to give up a top prospect for him to make a World Series run in 2012.
Even though Dempster would help the Nationals a lot, it's very unlikely that they get him. Thanks to Ryan Zimmerman's dominance, the offense doesn't need any improvements. The Nationals are a very well-rounded team, and they are still World Series contenders just the way they are.
So, even though they may benefit from adding another pitcher, it looks like Washington will remain silent at the deadline.