Time to be realistic – No deadline deal this year
The Nats got swept by the Dodgers in two cliffhangers followed by a rout. They’ve slipped to two games below .500, and though they didn’t lose too much ground to the Braves who were 1–2 this weekend, the Nats are losing ground when they should be making it up.
There is still talk about the Nats making a deadline deal, perhaps for a starting pitcher. But with the Nats’ odds of winning the division now having slipped to about 4%, and of making the wildcard to about 7%, it’s time to concede that this probably isn’t the Nationals year. I’m not saying the team should give up – the odds say every couple of years one team makes up this much ground, and the Nats could be the lucky ones. But trading valuable prospects in a deadline deal usually doesn’t make sense unless the teams odds of making the post-season are at least 25%, in order for the deal to give the team’s odds a reasonable boost.
Now, it still could make sense to make a trade if it’s to fill a hole and the talent is cheaply available. The Scott Hairston deal made sense, and exchanging a C-grade prospect for some starting pitching depth might make sense. But giving up highly rated prospects in a dubious stab at making the post-season doesn’t make sense.
On the other hand, the Nats still have a chance, so they shouldn’t be sellers either. They really aren’t situated to be sellers anyway, with most of their players either in their prime or, for their older players, loaded down with expensive long-term contracts that make them relatively unattractive trade objects. About the only deal I can see is the possibility of trading away one of the relievers, as the bullpen is starting to get crowded with Ryan Mattheus due to return. But several of the relievers still have options, so it may make more sense to move one of them to Syracuse instead.
I continue to wish the team well, but I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re just one starting pitcher away from a successful season.