- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A week ago, the Washington Nationals looked poised to play a major role in trade talks leading up to today’s nonwaiver deadline.

But the signings of veterans Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard to two-year contract extensions, combined with general manager Jim Bowden’s hefty demands for other players on his roster, could leave the Nationals as nothing but bystanders when today’s 4 p.m. deadline arrives.

Young and Belliard were two attractive pickups for contenders in search of affordable veterans, but no one was offering Bowden top prospects in return for either, so he signed both to extensions in the last week.

Washington’s most-marketable commodities now become relievers Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch, and — to a lesser extent — outfielder Ryan Church.

Bowden has fielded offers for Cordero and Rauch but again has insisted on receiving a top-tier prospect or two for the relievers. New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya, formerly of the Montreal Expos, has had a longstanding interest in Cordero but won’t part with outfielder Lastings Milledge or right-hander Mike Pelfrey to acquire the 25-year-old closer.

Rauch, who leads the majors with 56 relief appearances, could be a more affordable option for teams in search of bullpen help. Bowden, though, continues to set the bar high for the 28-year-old right-hander and doesn’t appear to be in any rush to trade him.

Bowden’s demands aren’t as high for Church, who has experienced an up-and-down season while getting his first chance to play every day. The 28-year-old likely would be thought of as a fourth outfielder on another club, which could make it difficult for the Nationals get what they believe would be fair compensation in return.

Thus, few observers would be surprised if Bowden stands pat during the final hours before today’s deadline and completes no deals, as was the case a year ago when he hung on to Alfonso Soriano when no one was willing to give up a top prospect for the slugger.

Team officials have been quick to point out that the Nationals made three August trades last season, with all participating players clearing waivers before the deals went through. Washington sent right-hander Livan Hernandez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitchers Matt Chico and Garrett Mock and swapped veteran bench players Marlon Anderson and Daryle Ward for pitching prospects Jhonny Nunez and Luis Atilano.