The Washington Times - July 31, 2009, 01:29PM

Good afternoon from Pittsburgh, where the 4 p.m. trade deadline is fast approaching, but there are no players from the local team left to trade. The Pirates have gutted their roster, moves that will leave them fielding a makeshift lineup tonight against the Nationals, who could have one major change by the time the first pitch is thrown.

The Nats have been talking all morning with the Marlins about a deal that would send Nick Johnson to Florida in exchange for pitching prospects. The Marlins first offered right-hander Ryan Tucker, a promising flamethrower who has battled injuries and poor performance at Class AAA this season. The Nats wanted more in return for Johnson, so the Marlins have added another right-hander, Aaron Thompson, to the package. Thompson is less-developed that Tucker and is still at Class AA. There’s also the question of whether the Nats would pick up any of the $2 million or so still owed Johnson the rest of the season.

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The bigger question, though, is how the Nats ultimately feel about Nick Johnson. As much as it would seem to make perfect sense to trade Nick, who will be a free agent at the end of he season and probably won’t qualify for draft-pick compensation if he walks away, there is some sentiment within the Nats organization to try to re-sign Johnson for 2010 (and possibly beyond).

Remember: This club has no first baseman for next season. Unless you consider Adam Dunn or Josh Willingham long-term answers at first base. And I don’t think many people do. Chris Marrero, the organization’s top offensive prospect, is still at Class A Potomac, and is looking at a big league debut in Sept. 2010 at the earliest. There’s no guarantee he’s going to progress and be the slugger everyone hopes he will become.

So perhaps the best strategy is to re-sign Johnson to a one-year contract, maybe with an option for 2011 to sweeten the deal. Or maybe this package of minor-league right-handers is better from the Nats’ perspective. They have about 2 1/2 hours to make that decision.

I wouldn’t expect too much else on the trade front today, though, which is a bit surprising. As much as we all thought there would be tons of talk about the likes of Dunn, Willingham, Joe Beimel and Willie Harris, the market for those players just hasn’t developed. Beimel seemed the most likely to go, I thought, but then the Cubs acquired John Grabow from the Pirates yesterday, leaving few potential suitors left.

So sit tight for the next few hours. I’ll update if and when I hear anything.