As the season's second half unfolds and the non-waiver trading deadline approaches, the Nationals have some difficult personnel decisions facing general manager Mike Rizzo and company.
Do the Nats need to make a deal to beef up their roster for the stretch run? One school of thought suggests that they deal for a front-line starting pitcher to pick up whatever slack is created when Stephen Strasburg is shut down, someone along the lines of Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza. The cost of acquiring arms like that would be steep, even for an two-month rental. Is it worth moving two or three high-ceiling prospects for that?
I don't think so. In the postseason you really don't need more than four -- or even three -- starting pitchers. Even without Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler are all more than competent to get the job done. If you're concerned about a fifth guy in September, bring back John Lannan from Triple-A Syracuse or maybe Zach Duke, another former big league lefty who has pitched pretty well for the Chiefs. I'd give the nod to Lannan since his stuff is such a contrast to the other four guys, and he deserves a shot at pitching for a winner. Speaking of starting pitching, will Chien-Ming Wang ever start another game in a Nats uniform? Don't count on it.
What happens when Jayson Werth and Chad Tracy are ready to come off the DL? It initially appeared that Tracy would be back before Werth, but he had a setback in his rehab from a groin injury that required surgery. Tracy may still be back before Werth, and when that occurs -- before September -- somebody has to go, at least until rosters expand. Tyler Moore? Rick Ankiel? Mark DeRosa? That's going to be a tough one.
Drew Storen's rehab stint continues, and the ballclub has made it plain that his role will be limited upon his return. Tyler Clippard is the closer at the present time, and manager Davey Johnson has no intent of rearranging the bullpen again this season. Still, when Storen returns, who gets the ticket out of town? Mike Gonzalez? He has pitched pretty well all things considered.
Overall, I can't see the Nationals making any kind of deal this month that would jeopardize the chemistry of the current roster. It's never been quite as balanced as it is now. Johnson's track record of first- or second-season success with every club he has managed is intact, and the thought of a Washington ballclub playing in the postseason still seems a little unreal for those of us who were around locally in the 1960s. The fan base is responding the way many naysayers said it never would when baseball decided to give D.C. another ballclub. The fans have reached the point that they no longer need to be prompted when to cheer.
The Nats have traditionally been sellers at the trading deadline. Let's hope those days are a thing of the past.
Examiner columnist Phil Wood co-hosts the "Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" and is a regular contributor to "Nats Xtra" on MASN. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.