2011 MLB Trade Rumors: How Every Team's Needs Have Changed
We're into June now and the division races are starting to take shape.
A clear picture is forming of which teams are emerging as buyers, and which teams are falling out of the race and will likely end up as sellers.
In some cases injuries have created new needs for teams that previously viewed certain positions as strengths. In other cases, financial instability has forced some franchises to trim payroll.
A few teams that were not expected to contend this season currently sit right in the middle of a pennant race, and some are leading the race.
Other teams have seen players they expected to be assets, turn into massive disappointments.
The outlook of each team has changed by varying degrees up to this point of the season.
Here's a quick look at each team and how its needs have changed.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Surprise Contenders Could Use Starting Pitching
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The Arizona Diamondbacks have emerged as surprise contenders in the NL West so far this season.
Currently sitting at 33-29, and just two games behind the San Francisco Giants, the Diamondbacks may need just a little rotation depth to make a strong push deep into the season.
The Diamondbacks are in a position where they could sacrifice a little offense in exchange for a front-of-the-rotation starter.
Arizona's pitching staff currently ranks 12th in the National League with a 3.91 ERA. They are 13th in home runs allowed with 63 long balls surrendered.
A team deep with pitching, such as the Oakland A's when they get healthy, could match up well with Arizona in a swap (depending on who the Diamondbacks would be willing to part with).
Atlanta Braves: Team Could Use a Center Fielder/Leadoff Hitter
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Fredi Gonzalez could use a new center fielder and leadoff hitter to write into his lineup on a daily basis.
The Braves are currently sitting at 34-28, just three games behind the Philadelphia Phillies, and definitely in the mix to be the NL Wild Card (although it is too early to start projecting wild-card winners).
The biggest need the Braves have if they are going to compete with Philadelphia throughout the season is a center fielder capable of batting leadoff.
Currently, Jordan Schafer is manning the position. Although he has only played in a dozen games, his .213/.327/.277 batting line is not the type of production the Braves need to contend.
The Braves could look at options such as Rajai Davis from Toronto, Coco Crisp or David DeJesus from Oakland or potentially Aaron Rowand from San Francisco (only if the Giants eat a huge chunk of his contract).
Atlanta could also try to make an offer to their division rivals, the New York Mets, for Carlos Beltran for the remainder of the season.
Baltimore Orioles: Clear Payroll To Sign Prince Fielder
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The Baltimore Orioles started the season hot. With the struggles of the Boston Red Sox the first two weeks of the season, it looked like maybe the Orioles could make a push this year and contend at least in the AL wild-card race.
They've fallen back to earth, though. Currently Baltimore is sitting at 29-31—last place in the American League East, and 5.5 games out of first place.
Technically the Orioles are still very much in the race, as 5.5 games are certainly not insurmountable in early June.
The Red Sox, Yankees and Rays are all better, though.
The Orioles can even the talent level a little next season by pursuing free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. They have been linked to him as a potential suitor when he reaches free agency following this season.
The Orioles can help their quest and stock up on some young talent by shipping some of their higher-priced stars to contenders and rebuilding towards 2012 and beyond.
Some players that could find new homes: Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds.
(Adam Jones would be their most attractive trade piece, but he fits with the team beyond this season).
Boston Red Sox: Pitching, Both Starting and Relief
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After an absolutely horrible start to the season, the Red Sox have rebounded and propelled themselves back to the top of the AL East.
Boston is currently tied for the second-best record in baseball at 35-26, and is one game ahead of the New York Yankees in first place.
However, the Red Sox pitching has not been what it was expected to be this season.
Their team ERA, 4.20, is 10th in the American League.
With Daisuke Matsuzaka now out for the remainder of the season, the Sox could benefit from some pitching depth.
A good setup reliever would also be a benefit leading up to Jonathan Papelbon as well.
Chicago Cubs: Salary-Dump Trades
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The Cubs, the lovable losers, are having another losing season.
At 24-36 and 11.5 games out of first place, the Cubs should start shedding high-priced contracts in exchange for whatever low- to mid-level prospects they can get in exchange.
The money they save will help them compete with St. Louis during the offseason for the services of All-Star first baseman Albert Pujols.
A few names the Cubs would like to ship out of town: Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena.
Chicago White Sox: Relief Pitchers To Help Hold Their Leads
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As awesome as an Ozzie Guillen tirade would be if he were relieved of his managerial duties, the White Sox are not completely out of the AL Central race. A reliever could help keep them in it (and allow Guillen to finish the season with his job).
The offense has been bad this season, but is showing signs that it has turned it around.
Chicago's slumping hitters are starting to come to life, removing that aspect of their game from the category of "needs."
The bullpen could use a bit of an upgrade, though, to help preserve some of their leads.
Chicago is still in that gray area right now between buying or selling.
By the end of July we should know which direction the White Sox are headed. An extra arm in the bullpen could make a difference in that direction, though.
Cincinnati Reds: Starting Pitching and a Clearer Idea of Their Playoff Potential
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At 32-31, the Cincinnati Reds are in a tough spot where their season could go in either direction.
They are a winning team, but they seem to hover around .500. They are just five games out of first place, yet they are in third place behind both Milwaukee and St. Louis.
The Reds have the offense to compete. They are currently fourth in the National League in batting average at .261, and third in home runs with 67.
They've been disappointed with their starting pitching, though, sending Edison Volquez to the minors, and placing Homer Bailey on the disabled list this season.
If the Reds can stay above .500 and within striking distance of the Cardinals and Brewers, they could become buyers at the trade deadline and make a push for either the division or the NL Wild Card.
Cleveland Indians: An Ace To Lead Their Rotation
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The Cleveland Indians are the biggest surprise in baseball so far this season.
Their young talent has propelled them, earlier than expected, into first place.
At 34-26, they are currently one game ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. The Detroit Tigers may be just be better over the course of a 162-game season, and will probably overtake the Indians at some point in the near future.
The Indians could make a longer push deep into the summer if they are able to trade for an ace to lead their talented, young rotation.
Cleveland is deep with prospects that it could use to attract a trade for a front-of-the-rotation starter. Their early success was largely without start center fielder, Grady Sizemore, opening the possibility the Indians could use him as trade bait as well, while still remaining competitive.
Colorado Rockies: Consistency
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The Rockies were expected to be the biggest competitors to the World Series champion San Francisco Giants this season.
They started out strong, but faded in May, finding themselves 5.5 games out of first place with a record of 29-32.
The Rockies don't necessarily need a switch with their lineup—they have the hitters.
They could benefit with a trade for more ground-ball pitchers, which would favor playing in Coors Field.
The Rockies pitching is much better on the road than it is at home, something that can't continue if they are going to compete this season for the NL West Division crown.
If they do become sellers, they could look to trade Ubaldo Jimenez. His away stats are drastically better than at home, and should warrant a contender parting with a package of prospects in belief that a change of scenery is all he needs.
Detroit Tigers: One More Bat
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The Detroit Tigers are currently just a game out of first place in the AL Central. By the end of the season they will likely be sitting atop the division and headed into the postseason.
There is a lot to like about this team.
They have a solid lineup, but you can never have enough offense.
Another bat to protect Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez would be a huge boost to the Tigers.
Carlos Beltran could be a target to replace Magglio Ordonez in the outfield and see some time at DH as well.
Florida Marlins: A Good No. 3 Starter
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The Marlins have a realistic chance at competing for the NL Wild Card this season.
They are currently 31-30 and 5.5 games behind the division-leading Phillies. Their top competition for the wild-card spot will likely be their division rival Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Marlins' strength is their top two pitchers, Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez. If the Marlins turn that 1-2 combo into a formidable 1-2-3 to compete with the pitching staffs of the Phillies and Braves, they could turn the NL East as well as the NL Wild Card into three-team races.
This is probably not a realistic suggestion, but the Marlins' former ace, Dontrelle Willis, is pitching well in Triple-A for the Reds. In nine games started he has an ERA of 2.45.
A return to Miami could be good for both Willis and the Marlins ticket sales. If he pitches well, he could be a big boost to the Marlins playoff hopes. He represents a "low risk, high return" type of acquisition.
Other teams that could make pitching available include the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays and perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays (in exchange for some offense).
Houston Astros: Rebuild, Trade Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence
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The Houston Astros are the worst team in the National League and will not contend in 2011.
The team would benefit the most from a fire sale to bring in as much talent as possible.
Shedding Carlos Lee's contract may be difficult, but he is producing and would benefit a contending team. If the Astros are willing to eat a little of his contract (or a lot), they could get a couple of good prospects in return for him.
Hunter Pence, if made available, would land a much larger package of prospects that could help propel the Astros back into contention much sooner.
Trading away their stars won't be popular, but it could make the team a winner much faster than if Houston chooses to stand pat and ride out a losing season in hopes for next year.
Kansas City Royals: Patience, Trade Veterans for Prospects
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The Kansas City Royals farm system is stacked. Very soon, years of frustration will pay off for Royals fans and the team will field a very talented young squad that will remain under club control for many years.
The Royals very easily could experience similar success to what the Tampa Bay Rays have experienced in recent years.
At 27-36, and 8.5 games out of first place, this isn't the Royals' season though.
Alex Gordon would bring a decent return from a team in need of an outfielder, or a team that thinks it can convert him back into a third baseman (the Oakland Athletics, perhaps).
Wilson Betemit is another player that would interest contenders, and should yield a respectable return. Betemit has been productive, and he is signed to a very team-friendly $1 million contract.
Jeff Francour and Melky Cabrera could also be traded as pinch-hitters off the bench to a contender.
Stockpiling even more young talent will only make the Royals that much better in the very near future.
Los Angeles Dodgers: New Owner
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Let's face it, looking into what the team needs on the field won't matter until the Dodgers handle their off-the-field problems.
Frank McCourt needs to be removed from ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers before we can realistically discuss what direction the team needs to move in.
At the moment, I would recommend they sell all of their high-priced players who could return a package of young, affordable and controllable prospects.
If McCourt is removed as owner, or sells the team, then the team could potentially keep some of its stars and acquire some support to help turn into a contender.
If they need to sell, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are the two biggest names that would bring the biggest package of prospects.
Jonathon Broxton, Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda would also bring a good return to the Dodgers, although their contracts would not necessarily be as beneficial to move at this point.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Relievers
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Mark Trumbo has filled in admirably for the injured Kendrys Morales, and the Angels rotation has lived up to expectations.
At this point in the season the Angels are in third in the AL West with a record of 30-34.
The losing record is not inspiring, but the AL West is probably the most unpredictable division in baseball right now. A hot streak and the Angels are right back in the race.
Their offense has the hitters, so if they start hitting to their baseball cards, they will be fine.
Their problem has been a lack of production from the bullpen.
Jordan Walden has taken over the role as the team's closer. The team could benefit from adding a reliable setup man who can step in if Walden were to get injured.
Could former Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez be a fit to return to Anaheim and fill a setup man role? Perhaps a change of scenery for the Twins' Joe Nathan?
Milwaukee Brewers: Shortstop
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The Brewers, 35-28, are just 2.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead.
The Brewers upgraded their pitching during the offseason, and have a solid lineup.
The one glaring deficiency in their starting lineup is at shortstop. Yuniesky Betancourt is batting just .230.
They could make a run at Jose Reyes from the Mets, and perhaps use the money they would have given to Prince Fielder to re-sign him after the season (assuming Fielder leaves for another team).
They could also match up with the Dodgers for either Juan Uribe or Rafael Furcal.
Minnesota Twins: A Fire Sale
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As big of a surprise as how good the Cleveland Indians have been is how bad the Minnesota Twins have been this year.
The Twins are currently in possession of MLB's second-worst record at 24-38 (0.5 better than the Houston Astros).
The Twins have several players that would attract pieces that could help them build towards the future.
Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome could all be attractive acquisitions to contenders.
It is unlikely that the Twins will part ways with their franchise player, Joe Mauer. His $23 million salary over the next several seasons could make it hard to trade him even if they wanted to, though.
New York Mets: Fire Sale
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At 30-32 and only seven games out, the Mets aren't out of the race yet.
They're probably not going to contend all season with the Phillies and Braves, though; even the Marlins look like they may have a better chance at contending this season.
Fred Wilpon's involvement with Bernie Madoff has caused them to publicly claim they may cut their payroll down to around $100 million next season.
The Mets may not be able to receive the same package they could have hoped for in return for David Wright now that he has been injured with a fractured spine, and the revelation that his team option for 2013 only applies to the Mets organization. Still, he should bring a nice return to the Mets.
Jose Reyes may have earned an offer from the Mets for next season with his hot play. The Mets will need to decide if he is in their long-term plans, and if they can afford him while still slashing payroll. If not, then they need to trade him for the largest return they can get rather than letting him walk for a draft pick.
Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez should also be dealt. If the Mets can find a way to trade Johan Santana, he should also go.
The Mets can build a talented young team while they recover financially, and then supplement those players with high-priced stars via free agency or trade in a few seasons when they are back to contention.
New York Yankees: Pitching, a Starter and a Lefty Reliever
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The Yankees may be getting Phil Hughes back soon, which if he pitches well, will be a huge boost to their rotation.
They have received a very surprising contribution from Bartolo Colon this season, which has lessened their need for rotation help, for now.
The Yankees are currently a game behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East, though, and can be expected to make a deal to overtake Boston if there is a deal to be made.
Roy Oswalt is an interesting name that the Yankees could target if the Phillies make him available. There is speculation they recently entertained the idea of platooning Nick Swisher with Chris Dickinson, and are considering letting Swisher walk in free agency rather than pick up his option.
They could trade Swisher to the Phillies, along with cash or other prospects, for Oswalt. Joe Blanton could be another target for the Yankees from the Philadelphia roster. Blanton is a workhorse, and would be valuable eating up innings for the Yankees.
Erik Bedard is another option if the Yankees can put together a deal with Seattle.
Oakland Athletics: Big Bat
The A's addressed one of their needs when they fired their manager. Now they need to address their more pressing need and find a big bat that is capable of putting some runs on the board in support of their pitching.
Even though they are currently 10 games below .500 at 27-37, and also eight games out of first place, they have not given up on turning their season around and contending in 2011.
The pitching started out hot, and has since been decimated by injuries. They will get Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross back from injuries soon, and could also get Rich Harden off the disabled list around the All-Star break.
Josh Willingham is the team's best offensive threat, though, and he needs some protection in the lineup.
The A's could upgrade at first base, shortstop, third base, the outfield or at designated hitter.
They would seemingly be interested in David Wright if his injuries recover, Carlos Beltran and potentially Aramis Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero to a name a few hitters that could wind up on Oakland's radar.
If the A's don't turn it around soon, they could have a fire sale. Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui, Mark Ellis, Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour and Michael Wuertz could all be made available.
Philladelphia Phillies: Additional Hitter
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The Phillies should win the NL East, as expected.
They can increase their chances of winning the division and advancing through the playoffs and into the World Series by boosting their lineup to replace the production lost when Jayson Werth signed with the Nationals.
Jimmy Rollins has also seen a drop in production and Chase Utley is not quite the same this year.
The strength of the Phillies is their pitching. Roy Oswalt would seem the most likely member of the Phillies' four aces that they would be willing to part with. I have questioned Oswalt's commitment to the team and preparation this season, but his value would still land them a valuable bat.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Veteran Experience
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The Pirates are a young and talented team. Unfortunately they are not currently capable of competing.
The Pirates will finish another losing season in 2011, but if they could acquire a veteran that is capable of leading the clubhouse, this team could gain invaluable experience that will turn it into a more polished team in the coming seasons.
If the Pirates sign their 2011 first-round draft pick, they will have a potential ace in the making. They should work on developing their other young talent.
With the right leadership, and a free-agent addition or impact trade in 2-3 seasons, the Pirates may be surprise competitors in the NL Central in 2013-2014.
San Diego Padres: Trade Pitching for Position Player Prospects
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The Padres are in last place in the NL West, and that is where they will stay in 2011.
One thing they will never have a problem accomplishing is attracting pitchers to Petco Park. The Park is a pitcher's paradise. The heavy ocean air, and deep dimensions make San Diego a great place for pitchers to go.
The Padres can use a down season like this one to their benefit by trading some of their top starting pitching in exchange for young position players who are affordable and can develop and improve with the Padres.
They are just one season removed from competing for the NL West Division title, and should aim to pick up a good young first baseman and perhaps upgrade at shortstop, catcher or in the outfield.
They can attract free-agent pitchers in the offseason to replace any pitcher that they trade away this season.
San Francisco Giants: Catcher, Cleanup Hitter
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This one is obvious. There really hasn't been a bigger story this season than the loss of Buster Posey for the remainder of the season.
The Giants lost their starting catcher and their most productive hitter on a single play.
They will be looking to replace Posey both behind the plate and in the lineup for the remainder of the season.
The Giants could pursue Ivan Rodriguez of the Nationals, or look to other teams with serviceable catchers.
The Giants can deal from a position of strength with their starting pitching, although they may be reluctant to give up top talent for a half-season rental. With Posey returning likely next season, the Giants don't need a top catcher that is locked up long-term either.
Ivan Rodriguez truly makes the most sense for the Giants.
Seattle Mariners: Offense
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The Seattle Mariners are another big surprise this season. After losing over 100 games last season, the Mariners were not expected to compete in the AL West this season.
The Mariners are currently in second place, though, behind their strong starting pitching.
The Mariners need another bat in their lineup to provide some more runs, to make a push late into the season.
Seattle could stand to upgrade at third base, the outfield and at designated hitter (where Jack Cust has been a disappointment with just two homers this season).
The Mariners are a team that could contact the Astros about some of their hitters and swap some prospects while eating a higher contract. They could also be in play for Carlos Beltran or David Wright.
St. Louis Cardinals: Starting Pitching
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With the injury to Adam Wainwright, and Chris Carpenter slumping, the Cardinals could use another arm in their rotation to help keep them atop the NL Central.
Currently the Cardinals are 38-26 with a 2.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Cardinals could afford to trade some offense in exchange for a top starting pitcher to help propel their club deep into the postseason.
The Cardinals could match up well with the Angels, or could choose to go after Erik Bedard from the Mariners in a swap that would benefit both teams (backtrack one slide and you will see that the Mariners need offense).
Tampa Bay Rays: Power Hitter
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The Rays are still a surprisingly good team considering the number of free agents they lost last season. They were expected to be good, but just 2.5 games out of first place may wind up being an overachievement by the time season is finished.
The Rays still have very good pitching and are just lacking the power hitter they thought they had signed in Manny Ramirez.
The Rays could help their chances by making a trade for a power-hitting first baseman, perhaps by bringing Carlos Pena right back to Tampa.
Derrek Lee is also an option for the Rays if they can get Baltimore to deal within the division. Reunite Johnny Damon with another of the "Idiots" and bring David Ortiz to Florida? (Probably not).
If the Brewers fall out of contention, the Rays could put together a package for Prince Fielder as well.
Texas Rangers: Depth
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The reigning American League champions and current AL West Division leaders' biggest need to help them repeat is depth.
The Rangers lost possession of first place briefly this season while dealing with injuries to Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Neftali Feliz.
The Rangers have enough offense to withstand an injury or two, but the loss to key members of their bullpen or rotation would be very hard for them to overcome.
They would benefit most from acquiring a setup man for Feliz, who is also capable of closing out games.
They could also use some rotation depth since the signing of Brandon Webb has not panned out at all.
Texas would be a good trade partner with the Colorado Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez. If Jimenez turned things around, he could be a huge boost to the Rangers pitching staff and the Rangers may not look back the rest of the season at the other teams in the AL West.
Toronto Blue Jays: Patience (and a Closer)
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The Toronto Blue Jays are a team that I really like as a contender as early as next season.
If Bud Selig implements a second wild-card team in both the American and National Leagues, then the Jays have an even better chance at the postseason in 2012.
That said, they won't contend this season despite their impressive lineup, the best hitter in all of baseball and a respectable starting pitching staff.
The best thing for the Blue Jays is to sit tight, perhaps trade a player such as Edwin Encarnacion for a pair of low- to mid-level prospects that could help out a few years from now and look to next season.
The Jays' biggest need moving past this season is a closer. The Mets could look to deal K-Rod to the Jays in exchange for perhaps a player like Rajai Davis and a low-level prospect.
The A's may be willing to part with Brian Fuentes. Joe Nathan is another potentially available closer that could just need a change of scenery.
Washington Nationals: Reversing Time To Prevent Jayson Werth Signing?
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The Jayson Werth signing may go down as one of the worst contracts ever—right up there with the contract the Giants gave to Barry Zito a few years back.
In all seriousness, though, the Nationals are not going to compete this season, but they do have a bright future with Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and this year's first-round draft pick, Anthony Rendon.
Ryan Zimmerman figures to be a cornerstone of this franchise for the next several seasons, and the Nationals hope that Werth lives up to that contract they gave him, I just don't see how that is possible, though.
The Nationals should take advantage of the Giants' desperation for a catcher and trade Ivan Rodriguez to San Francisco for the best package they can get out of Brian Sabean.
The best thing for the Nationals is to look to 2012-2013 when they should have both Strasburg and Harper in the majors, and be about ready to promote Rendon. The more prospects they can add to contribute to those teams, the better.
So long as they don't trade those three prospects, or Ryan Zimmerman, there should not be any untouchables in this organization.