- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Washington Nationals have plenty of veterans they would like to deal before Thursday’s nonwaiver trade deadline.

But are there any takers out there for the likes of Paul Lo Duca, Odalis Perez, Tim Redding and Felipe Lopez?

That’s where the process appears to hit a snag.

Despite the belief among members of the Nationals’ front office that those players should be enticing to contending teams looking to add another piece for the stretch run, the offers haven’t exactly been pouring in.

The Nationals player who drew the most interest on the trade market was closer Jon Rauch, whom Washington dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks last week for 23-year-old second baseman Emilio Bonifacio. Rauch, though, was a different kind of commodity, a 29-year-old reliever with a strong track record (he led the majors in appearances the last two years) and a reasonable contract ($1.2 million this season, $2 million next season).

The four veterans the Nationals are trying to deal now fit a slightly different bill, and that’s making it more difficult to find a match.

A player of Lo Duca’s stature - a four-time All-Star catcher with a career .286 average - would figure to draw significant interest, especially with the dearth of available quality catchers. But the 36-year-old has endured his worst season in the big leagues, battling a variety of injuries and batting just .233. And with Jesus Flores having firmly entrenched himself as Washington’s catcher of both the present and the future, manager Manny Acta has been forced to move Lo Duca to first base, where he has less value.

Lo Duca was given permission a month ago to seek a trade, and he has expressed a desire to go either to Florida or New York. But league sources said neither the Marlins nor the Yankees have shown much interest and certainly aren’t willing to pick up the remainder of the veteran’s $5 million salary.

There’s even less interest in Lopez, who makes $4.9 million and is struggling through his second straight subpar year both at the plate and in the field. The Baltimore Orioles did express some mild interest in the infielder last month, but those talks never went far, and there’s little reason to believe another team is going to come courting in the next two days.

That leaves the two veteran members of the Nationals’ starting rotation - Perez and Redding - as the most likely candidates to be dealt this week. The organization is agreeable to trading either or both, particularly because it would like to open up rotation slots for rookie Garrett Mock and other prospects who are close to being ready for the majors.

Perez, a left-hander with postseason experience, seemed like an attractive piece for a contender when his ERA was in the mid-3.00s and he was averaged six innings an outing. But over the last three weeks, he has made it past the fifth just once, allowed 14 runs and 26 hits in a 15-inning span and been fined $1,500 for accusing umpire Angel Hernandez of singling him out after calling two balks in one inning.

All of that appears to have decreased Perez’s value and made Redding the more attractive trade candidate.

The Nationals aren’t as eager to part ways with Redding, who remains under their control for two more years and has pitched well since joining the staff in the middle of the 2007 season. But his value might never be higher, especially after he tossed eight innings of one-run ball Thursday in San Francisco.

Any potential trade involving the Nationals may have to wait until the final hours before Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline. As one club official pointed out, Washington’s players are likely seen as fallback options for teams who can’t acquire their top targets.

“But I think between Lo Duca, Lopez, Perez and Redding, we should be able to trade one of them,” the team official said.

If not, the Nationals might face a dilemma by the end of the week. Needing to clear roster space for certain prospects who are set to make their debuts, the organization could decide to release a player like Lopez or Perez and eat the remaining salary.



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