PHILADELPHIA — The Washington Nationals entered the 2013 season thinking that their team was largely complete. A 98-win unit a season ago, they were widely considered favorites to repeat as division champions and, by many, as possible World Series winners.
As injuries, inconsistencies and underperformance have taken their toll, the Nationals, while by no means a lost cause, have endured a first half that has gone a bit differently than expected.
By acquiring Scott Hairston earlier this week, the Nationals made their first outside addition to their roster. They expected Tyler Moore to serve as their right-handed pop off the bench and repeat the success he had in that role as a rookie in 2012. He struggled, so they moved to rectify that issue by bringing in Hairston.
But with about three weeks to go until the trade deadline, the Nationals are still trying to evaluate their team before they decide on the need for more potential deals.
“I think the next couple weeks, more clarity will come to that picture,” manager Davey Johnson said Wednesday.
The Nationals have made no bones about the fact that their starting pitching depth at the upper levels of their system is thin. Already this season they’ve dipped into Double-A when injuries have arisen on the starting staff.
Dan Haren has been inconsistent and is fresh off a DL stint with shoulder inflammation. Ross Detwiler remains on the disabled list with his second back-related stint there this season. And they are widely rumored to be doing their due diligence on the starting pitchers that might be available at this year’s deadline, which should come as no surprise.
But they also like what they saw from Haren on Monday night in his first start back. And they expect Detwiler to be back, healthy and ready to slot into the No. 5 spot in their rotation after the All-Star break.
So the chances that they pay the steep prices for starting pitching — and particularly for three-month rental types like Matt Garza — are incredibly slim.
“After this year and early into next year, some of our young starters should be knocking at the door here,” Johnson said. “As far as making a move and picking up somebody, a lease just for the short-term, I don’t think that’s in our plans because I think we have enough talent here and enough coming that we wouldn’t do that.
“I’m sure (general manager Mike Rizzo) is looking at everything. I’m sure if anything becomes available that could help us, he’ll be on it.”
Could the Nationals go after anything else? Perhaps even another bench bat?
“It’s all about guys doing the things they’re capable of,” Johnson said. “ You know, (Chad Tracy’s) an outstanding left-handed hitter and he hasn’t done it. We had a young right-handed hitter and he wasn’t doing the things he did last year, so we made that move, because that gives Tyler Moore a chance to go play. So that was two-fold. It helped this club and it helped in his development.
“We should have Det back right after the break. It looks like Haren’s back on track. So I don’t see anything that’s out there that we would go spend a lot of money to get.”