There are less than 24 hours to go until baseball’s July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. By 4 p.m. tomorrow, the dust will have begun to settle and teams will have a better idea of what their personnel will look like for the season’s final two months.
For the Nationals, if things remain as they are, the next 23 hours or so figure to continue relatively quietly. Things can change, of course, and they often do in a flourish in the final hours before the trade deadline.
But the Nationals have maintained a pragmatic approach to this year’s deadline, looking for long-term fits and remembering that, with a share of the best record in baseball, they’re not in a position of great need.
Over the previous four days in Milwaukee, the Nationals front office gathered each morning for a few hours to discuss where they were at and spitball ideas. But as they packed up and headed home following a 6-1 road trip, all indications were they weren’t “hot” on anything at the moment.
We’ve been over the Nationals’ potential needs:
- They could look for some middle infield depth, though they seem convinced that shortstop Ian Desmond, who’s oblique strain has improved with the past week of rest, will not be out for an extended period.
- They could attempt to acquire a veteran catcher to solidify their corps, but Jhonatan Solano is also progressing from an oblique strain and if defense and experience is all the Nationals crave they do have Koyie Hill already in their minor league system.
- They could be bold and find a long-term deal to their liking when it comes to a starting pitcher, but we’ve discussed that topic ad nauseum as well.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson has said at every turn that he does not feel the team needs to do anything. He’s come out publicly against a high-priced rental player, knowing the Nationals have prospects he has no desire to see elsewhere for a two-month player, and when it comes to the type of additions they could make (i.e. infield depth or catching depth) they’d only be made to make the manager more comfortable with his personnel.
If Johnson is already comfortable, which it appears he is, that puts less pressure on the Nationals to make that type of move.
The only thing that might hasten their progress, particularly with regard to the infield, would be an injury to Danny Espinosa who, with Desmond out, might be the most integral player on the Nationals roster. In that vein, I asked Espinosa last week if he found playing shortstop more grueling than second base but it was an idea he categorically shot down, saying his body has never taken more of a pounding than it has at second base and he was feeling more comfortable with each game he played back at shortstop.
One final point I think is important to make as the next day drags on and the rumor mill goes from hot to aflame, is that almost everything the Nationals could be looking for or have a need for will likely be available after the non-waiver trade deadline passes.
For the next month, players can still be traded it’s just a more difficult process. Essentially once a player is put on waivers (which they likely will not know they are being put on) any team can claim him during a 47-hour window, and claims are awarded based on reverse records, though NL teams get the first crack at NL teams and likewise for AL teams.
If claimed, the player’s current team can pull them back (but you can only do that once) or they can attempt to work out a trade with the team that claimed him. They can also simply allow the team that claimed him to take him off their hands and assume the rest of his salary.
If no one claims a player who’s been placed on waivers, they can be traded as freely as they could be before the July 31 deadline. All players on the 40-man must go through waivers in order to be traded.
That’s all a long-winded way of saying some of the veteran type of insurance the Nationals might look for will likely be available through that process in the next month. Playoff rosters must be all but set by the end of August so any acquisitions intended for a potential playoff run must be on the 25-man by that point. Exceptions can be made for injuries.