Nationals Baseball

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Quickie - Next problem up

The Nats won yesterday and the bullpen performed quite well, providing multiple innings and only giving up a couple of runs. The day before that they sealed the deal, a little shakily, in a one-run win. The game before that, with no margin for error they eventually blew the game with a run in the ninth.

All in all it was a series performance you'd probably take every time from the pen.

13IP, 10H, 3ER, 7BB, 16K.  That's an ERA of near 2.00 and an acceptable WHIP of 1.31

Of course there is a problem hidden in these stats - the Nats bullpen had to throw 13 innings instead of the ~9 you hope for over a series.  What happened? Well I'm sure you know what we're getting at but I don't want to gloss over the first thing that happened. Max went bad for a couple of innings.

Max started his game giving up back to back to back home runs. Over the next 11 batters he'd give up another 4 hits (2 doubles), a walk, a couple of line outs. He turned it around and ended his day striking out the side in the 5th but you can't help but wonder if there's something more here. If it wasn't for Sunday this would be the story going into the week - keeping an eye on Max's next start to make sure this was just one of those blips that happen during the course of a long season.

What happened Sunday was Strasburg left the game after 2 innings. He was a little wild, giving up 3 walks int he first two innings and reaching 3 ball counts which each of his last four batters. Still, it's something pitchers usually work through as a test of how to make it work when you don't have your best stuff.  Strasburg though took himself out, so you knew it wasn't just being off. It was confirmed later that he had an problem with his forearm. The positive spin was it was just precautionary, but let's look at just the facts.

Stephen Strasburg has only pitched 127 and 147 innings the past two seasons. He is at 121 for 2017 right now. At the end of 2016, Strasburg had to stop pitching because of a forearm issue, missing most of September and the playoffs.  He had mentioned that since the All-Star break he hasn't felt comfortable. (Reminder : he did not pitch in the ASG) He was worried enough about it yesterday to pull himself from a game just 50 pitches in.

Put that all together and you have good reason to worry. About what exactly? Well my first thought is a repeat of last year. Some sort of forearm strain that requires at least a month of rest. If that's it then you hope he's ready to go say... Labor Day weekend. You hope he gets right back to pitching how he has been. You hope that jumping right back into the major league schedule doesn't break him after a couple of starts*. 

If you are a pessimist of course the response is Tommy John. That would be terrible given the limited success of the second surgeries. But there wasn't the usual indications in his velocity or breaking pitches that this was the issue.  If you are an optimist, its just an issue of routine and some time in his next couple of starts his arm feels where it should be and at worst he has a couple more short outings.

I'll stick with my guess right now - he'll be out for a month or so. But I will add GET A GOD DAMN MRI.

In other news - Enny Romero was also pulled with back issues. That is what got Enny to the DL last year so now it's a persistent problem. Enny was kind of getting some nice praise from fans recently but his season has been one very good month (June) and two and a half bad ones (April, May, July). To me, he's no more reliable today, than he was at the beginning of the year. That doesn't mean he doesn't belong in a major league bullpen. It means though that he should be your last or second last option, working through his issues and trying to max out that talent in innings that don't really matter.

I assume we'll hear today whether he's out or not. You can't really sit on a bullpen injury. Especially this pen


*Remember even though he was deeemed ready enough last year for maybe the NLDS and probably the NLCS he never pitched. So he had all off-season to nurse the injury. We don't really know the effect of coming back in a month to it.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Going for it ^= ALL IN

OK it appears that yesterday's post was read as a plea for the Nats to go all in. I'd like to say I don't see where you were getting that - but I can totally see where you were getting that. This is what happens when you run through one draft and a quick editing check. I was hoping that saying that I didn't think the Nats should trade Robles would clarify that point but apparently not. So to clarify

I wasn't saying :
"OMG LOOK AT THE PRECARIOUS SITUATION THE NATS ARE IN FOR 2017! AND THE FUTURE BEYOND 2018 FEELS COMPLETELY UNCERTAIN!!!

THEY NEED TO GO ALL IN!!! LAST CHANCE!"

I was saying
"OMG LOOK AT THE PRECARIOUS SITUATION THE NATS ARE IN!  AND THE FUTURE BEYOND 2018 FEELS COMPLETELY UNCERTAIN!!!

It would be advisable if they address at least one of the three potential 2017 issues with a trade prior to the playoffs because while the chance all three come to bear is very unlikely, the chance that one does is not that far-fetched. Better to reduce the odds by attempting to eliminate one. Also, while looking into these issues, I would like it if I saw news that the Nats were addressing them in a way to deal with that uncertain future. I would love it if they could manage to address these issues without mortgaging the future in any significant way."

To put it into practical terms :

Fedde and Soto for Alex Cobb and Jay Bruce? RUN AWAY

Fedde and Soto for Sonny Gray and Andrew McCutchen? I'm listening. Doesn't mean I think this is available or that the Nats would do it but I it's the type of thinking that I want to hear the Nats are doing. Longer term thinking (which I think they do) not necessarily tied to payroll (which I think they are hesitant about)

Hope that makes my point a little clearer.

Another thing I want to note : Somewhere in the comments was a "With Werth gone the Nats have that money (21 Million) to fix some problems"  Well... no.  We can even ignore the Doolittle/Madson costs for now. Murphy is making 5.5 million more next year - 15.5 Million left. Bryce is making 8 million more. 7.5 million left. Eaton is making 2 million more. 5.5 Million left.  Do you want Adam Lind back? Of course you do. He mashes righties. He's due to make 4 million more. It's all gone pretty much! OK so you let Lind walk. Well then, you don't think Rendon (5.8 Million) and Roark (4.3 M) and MAT (580K) won't eat up 5.5 million in arbitration raises? (Spoiler: They will)

And like I said that's before you consider the 12 million that Doolittle and Madson will cost next year.  Oh and did I mention the best part? I didn't. Here it is.  That 21 million of Werth money is only coming off the books for luxury tax purposes. Werth actually deferred 10 million of his 2016 salary to 2018 so they are only paying 11 million less.

Basically the team you see today? That's the team that will be there in 2018 with some fringy edge changes, unless the team makes a deal or adds more payroll. But it's a good team! A playoff team.

And as for 2019 being cloudy, that's just the truth. The fact that after 2012, that 2013-2015 was pretty clear, and 2016 wasn't completely cloudy is the exception. Often you can't go more than a year or two at the best and feel confident. Three years feeling really confident and one sort of four years out? That's crazy! So 2019 being cloudy doesn't mean anything. It's typical. It's not bleak, it's cloudy.  You know what? 2017 was cloudy during 2015. Then Trea Turner kept developing like you'd hope. Then Joe Ross was unexpectedly good to finish year. Then Murphy was signed and magically became an MVP. Then Strasburg signed an extension. Suddenly, by May of 2016, 2017 (and really 2018 too) were pretty clear. It can happen just like that. 

So this is not gloom and doom. This is Nats are in a good spot for this year and next and there is the standard uncertainty about the future, which Rizzo and luck worked through once, beyond that.The Nats remain in a good position. I'm hoping Rizzo works and the Lerners pay now to make that true for 2019 and maybe beyond.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Going for it

Last year the Cubs traded for Aroldis Chapman. Some people didn't like the trade. It's too much. They didn't need him. They were young and good and would be in the playoffs for years to come so why bother?

Fast forward to 11 months later and the Cubs had to streak just to get within three games of the Brewers and are even further out of the Wild Card.

Chances are fleeting. Nats fans should know this. In 2012 they were presented with an amazing situation where due to luck and skill all this talent coming from drafts, trades, and free agent signings coalesced to create what seemed like would be a four to five year window of dominance. To best take advantage of that time frame the Nats sat down Strasburg, saving his arm for the inevitable need in the future. But then the Nats managed to make the playoffs only twice in the next 4 years and even when they did Strasburg was never the tipping point. They won the division with ease and Strasburg made no impact in the playoffs.


The offense, with Werth and Turner and Eaton all currently out, has collapse potential. It would probably take an injury to one of the big three but that wouldn't be unusual as all have recent injury history. The starting pitching, only going 3 deep now and reliant on a Strasburg who hasn't gone beyond 150 IP in a few years and a oddly competent Gio Gonzalez, is worrisome for a playoff set. The relief pitching, was so bad that bringing in two very good arms only gets you back to the point where you probably need one more arm.  There are still fixes to be made, if not for starters able to win you a division, then for depth that keeps the team able to compete in case of some bad luck.

You can do the playoff dance again. Get in see what happens. Technically that's your best bet. Nats are all but in now and no longer have a gaping wound on the mound in the late innings. There are no pressing needs. But we don't know what 2018 brings*. We REALLY don't know what 2019 will brings.**  I'd have loved to see the Nats make another move or two. Seeing the deal as it went down, it's obvious Robertson was there for a song. Did they let it pass by because of the money? Because they feel they are done?

I'm not advocating selling Robles. Never have (I don't think). He's too good and at this point they need him to come up next year. But there's no one else I feel that way about in the pen. Make some moves. Get some guys who should be good for this year and next and make a full play at the WS title you want before the chances inevitably fade away.


*Really I feel next year is more about the NL East than the Nats who should mostly be similar. It's very likely they don't get the performances from Gio, Zimm, MAT, Lind, that they did in 2017 and Werth could be gone, but a healthy Eaton and Turner likely keeps the offense chugging along as one of the better ones in baseball, and Madson and Doolittle here for another year means the pitching will likely be solid. 

**This has the look of the year they will come down, although 2017 had that look too before the Max signing, Stras re-signing, and Murphy becoming a superhero. At this point Gio is gone (always season staff reliable even if I don't trust him for big games), Madson gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if they let Doolittle walk with his injury history. Murphy could be gone - though re-signing is possible. One one hand - this marriage seems to be fruitful for both. On the other, he'll be 34 in 2019. And the big one, Bryce could be gone. Also at this point Max/Zimm are 34. You are really hoping Robles is a star, Turner is a star, they've re-signed someone and that something else has come along. Or the NL East is still garbage.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Second half worries

I was going to do this on Friday but it would have interrupted the trade stuff and I wanted to get that out of the way. The Nats have a pretty clear run at the NL East title but that does not mean that they don't have any worries. In fact if you squint hard you can find a worry anywhere.


Catcher - These guys stink. Wieters is hitting a measly .245 / .295 / .377  and since the end of April is "hitting" a "robust" .219 / .246 /.313. That's nearing "Inaugural Guzman" territory. Making things worse is Wieters is not good in the field either making him a complete failure. Making things worse than that, Wieters' god-awful last few months are still better than Lobaton who's hitting .140 / .202 / .267

First base -  Zimmmerman's montlhly OPS's
April : 1.345 (AMAZING!!!)
May : .905 (ALL-STAR!)
June :  .791 (Solid Starter, though maybe not at 1B)
July : .631 (RIP)

Zimm doesn't field well anymore so if he's not hitting he's not helping and he's not helping right now.

Second base - Daniel Murphy got injured last year. It could happen again. This is also the worry for Third base (Rendon) and Right Field (Bryce)

Shortstop - Trea Turner is out and Stephen Drew (.273 / .309 / .386 - eh) and Wilmer Difo (.258 / .336 / .325 - bleh) are in. Drew is a roll of the dice and Difo hasn't hit well since A+ ball. But you can't also just wait it out because coming back from a broken wrist is not easy. Turner had been hitting better but he still wasn't generating the same power as last year and the wrist means he's unlikely to do so this year either. So BEST case is he comes back healthy and is a good Singly Joe.

Left Field - Where is Jayson Werth? In the midst of capping out the contract with one more miracle year, Werth hurts his toe and is never seen again. As he's aged Weth has been more prone to injury and has found it harder to come back from them so expect that if he comes back he won't be the hitter he was to start the year.

Center Field - MAT looked to be finally settling in to at least a passable starter, if not better and then suffered an oblique injury and will be back who knows when with an injury recovery bat. His replacement Goodwin has shown flashes of impressive play but is hitting .227 / .324 / .420  since becoming a starter. Those aren't starter numbers.

You may ask - if all these guys suck so much why are the Nats crushing it right now? Well Number one - Reds.  Number two - here are how Rendon, Bryce, and Murphy OPS'd that series.  2.107, 1.524, 1.500.  "Great" you say. "but three guys alone can't do all that damage." You're right. There are other guys hitting really well the past four games. Their names are Adam Lind, Ryan Rayburn, and Chris Heisey. Want to depend on those guys?

Starting Pitching - The Nats don't have a 5th starter and Roark had a terrible June that ended with him being strategically punted out of the rotation for a cycle or two.  It is completely reasonable to worry that he won't have any better a second half.  Strasburg has two numbers associated with him you should remember - 24 and 23. These are the number of starts he has made the past two years. Gio has been pitching well but we're all waiting for the other shoe to drop on him.  Max? Well I suppose he could explode on the mound.

Relief Pitching - The Nats finally have some arms! Doolittle and Madson should be good. But it's relief pitching so they'll throw like 20 innings and there's no guarantee they have to be good. And neither of them were closing games for the Athletics this year. That's not a high bar to jump over. So great stats or not, neither of them might be suited for a closer role either. Despite saving 30 games, the A's did not like Madson as closer. Doolittle is great but has thrown 74 innings in 2 and a half seasons and is probably best used judiciously.  There's room for improvement even from here for sure.


Did I properly satisfy the pessimists and nay-sayers? Good.

Now for the optimists - Who cares about this!? The Nats are going to win the division. Enjoy the baseball or go to sleep for two months. Either way it's the Nats in the playoffs back to back for the first time ever and anything can happen once you get in. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mad, Son because they do little? Not anymore

The Nats made a deal to fix the pen.  How excited should you be?  Pretty excited.

The Nats are getting two great arms. Both Doolittle and Madson are having great years and have been consistently very good in recent history.

2017 Doolittle : 0.656 WHIP, 0.8 BB/9, 13.1 K/9
2017 Madson : 0.788 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 8.9 K/9

2015-6 Doolittle : 1.101 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 10.3 K/9
2015-6 Madson : 1.125 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 7.5 K/9

A lefty in Doolittle that is death to left handed batters (no hits to LHB this year) A right hander in Madson who is killer to righties (.177 / .226 / .253). Both though good against all batters. It's hard to see a downside with what the Nats are getting.

Of course we can try.  For Madson the worry would primarily be his age. Madson will be 37 soon and has already missed seasons worth of time due to a Tommy John injury. That was a few years ago and Madson has been fine since returning in 2015, but you still have to think of him as an old arm with a TJ surgery in the bank. That's not the best combination. We all saw how Joe Blanton dropped off a cliff dramtically and he didn't have the elbow history.  For Doolittle it's injury that should concern you. He has missed time in each of the past three seasons with the dreaded shoulder problems. So far rest has been enough to get him back on track but eventually it won't be. The other thing that might be an issue with Doolittle is that he wasn't all that good a righties last year. Both are over performing as well.

Those are the negatives. For Madson's age it's something to think about but hard to see how that's going to matter now 60% into 2017. I think it he was going off a cliff he would have already.  As for Doolittle, yes, that has to always be on your mind, but right now he's healthy and that's what matters most. His RHB numbers were never terrible so he doesn't have to LOOGY it unless he performs worse than usual. And while these two might, probably should, perform not as well as they have been, that really means they should be good to very good instead of great. There isn't much of a downside here for 2017.

So the Nats got two good arms. What did they give up?  Well Blake Trienen for one.  Based on the news from yesterday everyone lives Blake as much as the Nats did. He does have great stuff. High 90s heavy fastball. That's killer. His BABIP and LOB percentages suggest a bit of bad luck.  Last year Blake was one of the better middle relievers in the game.  He's not being paid and under control till 2021 (though he is older at 29).  Treinen could be very good.

Then again that's ignoring the elephant in the room, Treinen's history of pitching worse in more important situations. If the A's can't fix that the best you can hope for is one of the better 7th inning men in the game and that's not really worth all that much.

Sheldon Neuse is an overall talent who can do it all. Field, hit, run, pop. The question is if this jack of all trades can do any one thing well enough to be impactful. Luzado was a legit prospect who was Tommy Johned into a Nats bargain draft pick. He just came back and has been good but it's real early, he's real young and it's real low level.

Neuse reminds me of Max Shrock, the guy the Nats traded the A's for Repcynski last year. They are early in careers and still on the development path they should be. If they keep on that path, they will become useful pieces. If they surprise, and at this stage/age it's still certainly possible, they could be keystone players.  Luzardo is more of an "all or nothing" lowest of the low ball players.* It's the gamble Beane is taking.  Instead of taking the Billy Burns - guys you know are bench players or middle relief arms today - you take a chance to get something more.  But with players that you like to still be something even if they aren't.  It's sound strategy for a middle reliever.

For those that want to add Sonny Gray to the mix, a Sonny Gray would need something more. Something closer to a Robles or Soto. This will be true of nearly any starting pitcher that's not a FA next year or who the Nats aren't eating a large contract for.

This is exciting because the Nats needed multiple bullpen arms, at least two preferably three, and they've already gotten their two without giving up major prospect pieces. For those hoping they can add David Robertson this leaves that possibility completely open.  For those hoping they can add another rotation arm, this leaves that open as well.

Could it all fail? Sure. Anything can. But this is a far more sounder plan than relying on two talented guys that ended 2016 injured and a guy with one good year of middle relief in his history. When they all failed it was surprising. If Doolittle and Madson did it would be shocking.


*However give me lefty starters with stuff if you are giving this type of player because I like these guys transitioning into bullpen arms. Luzardo is this type

Friday, July 14, 2017

Starting Targets

5.27.
5.01.
These are the ERAs for Tanner Roark and Joe Ross respectively.

4.57.
That was the ERA for Gio Gonzalez last year when we fretted over whether it was a good idea to start him in the playoffs.

The point should be obvious. If we were worried about Gio last year, we need to worry about Ross and Roark this time.  Ross is an obvious problem, with his on and off injuries and inconsistency over the past 2 years. But squint and maybe you can see an acceptable season for Roark so far. The problem is that good season was based on an unlucky start.  For June and July Roark has earned his terrible season. You can bet on Roark turning it around (and also with Gio continuing to pitch well) or the Nats can go out and get an answer. This may be the year to get an answer.

The foundation guys 
Michael Fullmer & Marcus Stroman - It's not that often that top of the rotation guys of these ages (24 & 26 respectively) are available, but the Tigers understand their rebuilding process may take a long time and the Blue Jays would be in the same position if they sell. Stroman's stats aren't as impressive as Fullmer's but Stroman has been doing it longer which reduces the chances he's just a flash in the pan (like the don't strike any one out Fullmer). Stroman has already begun the arbitration process, so he both costs more (3.4M vs 550K for Fullmer), and is under control for less time (2021 vs 2023) But Stroman would still be a great get. Fullmer just has the potential to be a phenomenal one. Either one can be looked at as a solid #2 type for the remaining time under control.

Of course given all that, the deals have to be amazing and it is likely what was offered for Quintana wasn't enough for Fullmer. The Nats would have a hard time offering more unless Robles and Soto both go. The other option would be to eat some contracts. I'm sure the Fullmer deal would be more acceptable if a Verlander or Upton or ZNN were attached. Again, not the Nats way. It's not necessarily the fact the Nats couldn't make a deal like this but getting one of these guys makes fixing the pen harder as you have lopped off the top of your minor leagues and have to be concerned about cutting deeper.

Long term rotation fixes
Gerrit Cole & Sonny Gray & Dan Straily - you have three distinct pitchers here. Gray is an ace type who suffered an injury in 2016 that brought him all the way back down. However, he is apparently recovering and should be good the remainder of this year. Cole is a guy with the best pedigree but has regressed over the past two years and in 2017 is nothing more than an average arm. He's a year younger than Gray but both are under control for the next two seasons and cost under 4 million currently. Dan Straily was a guy with potential who has bounced around several places trying to get healthy and figure things out. It appears that this year he has done it. He's a year older than Gray, but under control for one more season and super cheap 550K.

Straily seems the ideal target for the Nats, but being on the Marlins complicates things. They aren't rebuilding per se and they need pitching so why would they trade this piece? Selling high and getting a great return would probably do it, but I think he's worth more to the Marlins than anyone else. Cole isn't a set piece and the Pirates are not exactly sure where they are, both for this year and the next couple. That means Gray will get the focus as he's doing the best this year and will have the highest price.  While these are the standard Rizzo targets I'm not sure the Nats can get these players and unless part of a larger deal (Gray/Doolittle, Cole/Watson) the price still may be too high and might have an adverse effect on the bullpen fixes. Of course the Nats have never been a team to shy away from getting the best player available and hoping everything else works out. So don't rule this out

Long term rotation somethings that cost a lot of money
Johnny Cueto & Jeff Samardzjia & Justin Verlander - I'll put these out there because they are available but I don't see any way the Nats end up with one of these guys. They are all 20+M dollar arms with contracts through 2020 (Verlander) 2021 (Samardzjia) and 2022 (Cueto). None have shown the current performance or stable performance you'd want to even consider bringing in an arm like this. For the Nats to even consider a guy like this it would have to be packaged with something young, cheap, in control, and great (and there aren't many of those) or the selling team would have to eat a ton of money.  I don't think SF is there yet. Detroit might do that I guess so if anyone is coming to the Nats I'd bet on Verlander but that's not a bet any one should make.

The no-good-reason names that are out there
James Shields and Edinson Volquez - They aren't cheap (10M, 9M) they aren't young (35, 33) they aren't good now and haven't been good recently. Maybe you grab one to fill out a rotation, but these guys are also under contract for next year too. Sometimes that's a plus, but not here. Pass. Pass hard, pass fast, bump off the road while passing.

The rentals 
Alex Cobb & Marco Estrada & Jeremy Hellickson & Scott Feldman & Derek Holland & R.A. Dickey - lots of variation here where you can pick and choose the rental you like the best. Want a guy you might be interested in signing long term? Alex Cobb is your man. Tampa will always sell a FA to be even if they are in contention. Cobb is under 30 and not expensive and if right, he's good. Is he right? That K/9 is low but other things look good. Want just a guy to give you decent innings at the back of the rotation? R.A. Dickey or Scott Feldman should do the trick. Both are having fine years and have been good enough recently that you can feel pretty confident in their performance. Neither are terribly expensive though Dickey (7.3M) is much more expensive than Feldman (2.3M). Just looking for a cheap fill-in to keep your young arms in the minors and your terrible arms wherever it is terrible arms go? Derek Holland is your below average 1.5M dollar man. Want an expensive gamble? Marco Estrada (14.5M) has the recent success that might convince you a change of pace will get him back going. Want an expensive gamble but more risk? Jeremy Hellickson parlayed one good year into a 17.M dollar deal and is currently just filling time in Philly.

Cobb will cost the most because of his value overall and to the team. Everyone else should be available fairly reasonably. If the Nats were just looking for an arm to throw innings to make sure they don't blow the NL East I can see them picking up one of these guys. But I don't think the Nats are in that position. I think they know they can win the NL East with what they have so why bother picking up one of these guys? Still the right deal can make the Nats better for little cost. Personally I'm most interested in R.A. Dickey. That change of pace from the Max/Stras duo would be big, assuming he's not terrible that day.

I think in the end the Nats will kick the tires on Gray and if they can somehow get him and not forfeit the bullpen fixes, they'll do it. Otherwise maybe they bring in one of those fill-in arms acknowledging that it would be better than Cole/Voth/pitching machine they got going now after Ross. There's no real clear favorite among the rentals though. All have plusses and minus and none are guaranteed to be used in the playoffs.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Starting Offensive Targets

There's a lot of starting pitchers out there! As a break to myself we'll go over the offensive players the Nats could go after first. The same rules apply to today as yesterday.  The big difference between relief pitchers and offensive players is that young, good, contract controlled offensive players that have already played in the majors are rarely offered up in trade outside of rentals. That's doubly true mid-season.  That means the guys available are usually either old, expensive, or both and also still cost a fair amount in prospects. It doesn't mesh well with the Nats trading philosophy.  I believe the best mid-season Rizzo offensive deal was for Kurt Suzuki.

Why is this? Because offensive players are generally more impactful and more reliable. That makes them the players you build around. Relief pitchers are not that. Having a relief problem is bad, but it is solvable through mid-season trade. That can't always be said about offensive problems*

Catchers
Alex Avila & Kurt Suzuki - Hey! Suzuki! Both these guys are FAs next year and making next to nothing baseball-wise in 2017 (2M and 1.2M) Alex Avila is having his best year in a long while and is vastly intriguing because he may be a product of the "launch angle era" He's a player who has always hit the ball hard, and because of it has always had a good BABIP. But being a slow catcher anything on the ground that could be reached was sure to be an out. This year he's hitting far fewer GBs (and striking out less). Of course like any good ballplayer Avila believes that he's just hitting fewer ground balls than he ever has in his career because he's healthy.  Sound familiar? If it's real you got yourself a great C bat. Defensively he's good behind the plate but has gone down as a framer in a way that you probably buy it being real. Suzuki is also having a minor resurgence but his is less revelatory. He's hitting more flyballs and a few more left the park than usual. Since he doesn't seem to be hitting the ball harder that's probably more luck than a real change. Which means Suzuki isn't a slightly above average bat but a slightly below one which is unsurprisingly what he's been his whole career.

The Nats are committed to Wieters for another season. They have to be, that's the contract. Because of that I don't think they will make a move at catcher.  That's fine as long as Wieters stays healthy. Avila is interesting but a gamble. Suzuki probably isn't much different than Wieters. But Lobaton is a garbage back-up.  Back-ups don't play that much so in theory it doesn't matter but if Wieters goes down the Nats are in big trouble.

Outfield
JD Martinez & Andrew McCutchen & Justin Upton & Melky Cabrera & Jay Bruce & Curtis Granderson & Nick Markakis  - All these guys are expensive. Let's get that out of the way. We're talking contracts over 10 million which makes it unlikely that the Nats will pick these guys up. Another strike against them is that there isn't a slick fielding CF here,* which is what the Nats need right now if they are going to bother to bring in an outfielder.Why list these guys then? Well because conceivably the Nats could use another OF next year as Werth departs. So grabbing a guy now for then... well it's a classic Rizzo think ahead move. They may like MAT enough not to do this and a Bryce, MAT, Eaton OF would be very solid defensively. Then again a very good and reliable bat might be too much to pass up.

Upton is not coming. He's a good bat and decent enough in the corner but his contract goes on forever. There's no way the Nats will pay it or the Tigers will eat enough of it.  Even though you get him next year and the Braves might eat some salary, Markakis makes little sense as he's not good defensively and only average at the plate. Bruce, Granderson, Martinez, and Cabrera are all rentals who head to FA next year. Martinez is the prize - a very good hitter who's been consistent. Bruce and Granderson are what they are - which is dependable. Cabrera is declining but still better than average. None of them, though, are even pretend CFs so picking them up means shifting Bryce. Martinez is probably the only bat you do that for but as the "best available" he will likely go for a lot to someone more desperate for help.

This leave McCutchen. He can play CF. He has bounced back offensively. He has a team option for 2018.  The Nats had flirted with getting him and not Eaton in the off-season. If If anyone fits it's Andrew. But do I see the Nats doing it? I don't know. I think if the price is right, they could be tempted. Honestly I don't think the price will be too high but I think the Nats will have expended too much toward pitching to really make an honest play here.

Shortstop 
Zack Cozart - It makes sense for the Reds to trade Cozart. He's a FA next year having a career year at 31 out of line with his history. You are trading high on something you very likely won't keep. He's a good defender as well so even if his bat declines in the second half back to his average history you are still getting an overall positive player. Oh, and did I mention he's making relative peanuts (5M) for this package? The good news for the Nats, if they are interested, is that the demand for SSs among contenders is low.** The cost for Cozart should not be pushed up by competing bids unlike starting and relief pitching.

If trading for anything outside of pitching, this is where I see the Nats going toward. You could even stick Trea back in the OF if you needed, when he came back.  All this being said the fit is not perfect. I can see them doing this but only if one of two things happen. They totally strike out getting pitching somehow or Turner is not coming back this season.  Both these things seems unlikely, so even the best starting offensive target remains a stretch for the Nats which is probably for the best.

*That's Lorenzo Cain who's team right now is not ready to give up 
**The same could be said for OFs but you can always stick a McCutchen somewhere or shift your worst fielding OF to DH in the AL.