After an MLB worst 36-60 first half that has seen a whopping 15 players head to the DL, including eight of the team’s nine opening-day starters, nobody could blame the Washington Nationals if they decided to recoup some of the team’s losses by selling their new ballpark’s naming rights to a local hospital.
It’s been a nightmarish season for the District’s ballclub, who will enter the All-Star break 16 games out of first place in the mediocre NL East. With any hope of playoff contention gone by the wayside, the Nats once again find themselves in the position of “sellers” at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Thanks to the team’s ridiculous array of injuries, GM Jim Bowden doesn’t exactly have a ton of trade bait that could fetch some high-level prospects from contending teams. Of the few Nationals that are not currently in the infirmary, here is a trifecta of Nats that could be changing uniforms at the trade deadline in a few weeks time.
1. Cristian Guzman (SS)
Rundown: Washington’s lone All-Star representative, Guzman has been one of the only offensive bright spots for the worst hitting team in baseball.
After being plagued by injuries the past few seasons, Guz has shown why Bowden signed him to a long-term deal in 2005 by posting an NL-best 126 hits going into the Midsummer Classic, while leading the team in batting average (.313), OBP (.341), OPS (.769), runs (54), and total bases (172).
Guzman has also been solid defensively, with a .975 fielding percentage and only 10 errors at the All-Star break.
Ideal Destination: St. Louis. No team in baseball would be a better fit for Guzman than the Cardinals, who are in desperate need of a shortstop and leadoff hitter, both roles that Guzman would easily upgrade. Guzman’s contract expires at the end of this season, giving the Cards flexibility to either sign him to an extension or pick up a draft pick if he heads elsewhere in free agency.
With their division rivals in Chicago and Milwaukee making significant moves over the past week, the Cards need to address this glaring weakness in their lineup if they want to stay in contention for the NL Central and NL Wild Card crowns.
Ideal Return: St. Louis’ farm system is middle of the pack, but the Cardinals do have some outfield (John Jay) and pitching prospects (Anthony Reyes) that might be of interest to Bowden. Jay has the potential to be a prototypical leadoff hitting CF, while Reyes projects as a quality mid-rotation starter.
2. Dmitri Young (1B)
Rundown: Watching “The Meathook” play first may be a terrifying (or hilarious) experience for Nats fans, but nobody can deny that the man still knows how to hit. Since coming off the DL (back stiffness) in mid-May, Young has batted .280 with an OBP of .394 and an OPS of .794.
His home run (4) and RBI (10) numbers aren’t exactly incredible, but Young hasn’t had much protection in the lineup due to the Nationals’ constant injury woes. He could still be a nice asset to an AL contender looking for a DH or bat off the bench for the second half.
Ideal Destination: Tampa Bay. The Rays were the biggest surprise in baseball during the first half of the season, but have lost seven straight going into the All-Star break. As a switch hitter, Young would provide a nice complement to the right-handed Cliff Floyd in the team’s DH spot.
He’s also a valuable veteran leader that would help lend guidance to one of MLB’s youngest rosters during their first pennant race.
Ideal Return: Tampa’s farm system is absolutely loaded with quality prospects that would make great additions to the Nationals roster. Young certainly won’t fetch any five-tool players, but you have to think that Bowden would pull the trigger on a deal for a mid-level pitching prospect that could help his ballclub next season.
3. Tim Redding (SP)
Rundown: It says something about a pitcher’s value to his team when a squad with the worst record in baseball can post a 15-5 record when he takes the hill.
Indeed, the right-handed Redding has become one of the most consistent starting pitchers in baseball by pitching at least five innings in all but one of his 20 starts in 2008.
At the midway point in the season Redding has thrown a team high 114.2 innings with a 7-3 record , 3.85 ERA, opposing batting average of .258 and 1.33 WHIP. He also leads the team in Ks/9 IP (5.8) and Ks/BB (1.97).
While Redding is not the type of pitcher to blow hitters away with his stuff, he’s the classic starter that knows how to locate his pitches and gives his team a chance to win every time he takes the ball. With a salary of just $1 million this season, Redding is a great option for a contending team in need of a solid fourth starter.
Ideal Destination: NY Yankees. Redding’s first stint with the Bronx Bombers didn’t go particularly well, but the Yankees picked him up at one of the lowest points in his career, when he was struggling mightily with his confidence. There’s no way that the Yanks are going to beat out Boston or Tampa Bay for a playoff spot with Darrell Rasner and Sidney Ponson as their fourth and fifth starters.
Redding has the ability to stabilize the back of New York’s inconsistent rotation and would endear himself to Joe Girardi with his competitiveness and pitching smarts.
Ideal Return: Years of ill-advised trades and expensive free agent signings have taken their toll on New York’s farm system, but the Yankees still have some solid AA and Single-A prospects that could develop into future Nationals down the road. As with Dmitri Young, Redding wouldn’t likely command anything higher than a mid-ranged prospect