The Washington Nationals didn’t make any moves at Tuesday’s trading deadline, which means at least two things: General manager Mike Rizzo likes the makeup of his team, and Edwin Jackson is staying put for just the second time in seven years.
Not that Jackson — the starter in Wednesday night’s game against the Phillies — was worried about being shipped out. Growing up in a military family and pitching for seven teams in his 10-year career has made him extremely adaptable to new environments. Besides, he usually goes from sellers to buyers when traded, and the Nats clearly weren’t in sell mode.
Things worked out perfectly for Jackson last season, when the St. Louis Cardinals acquired him in an eight-player deal a few days before the trading deadline. Three months later, he was sipping champagne and being fitted for a ring.
“Everybody they got pretty much was something they needed,” Jackson said Tuesday, about 30 minutes before the deadline passed. “It wasn’t like they needed one or two pieces. They got multiple pieces, and everybody played a factor in us winning.”
The Cardinals used late-July trades to add five players to their 25-man roster, and the moves paid off in a World Series title. But in 2009, St. Louis was like most teams in most seasons. It fell short after making summer trades, including the acquisition of utilityman Mark DeRosa, now with the Nats.
Jackson and DeRosa, among the few Nats with playoff experience, have seen deadlines come and go in their combined 25 major-league seasons. DeRosa has felt the huge boost that a contender gets from a late addition. The trades don’t always work out, but they help forge a team’s identity down the stretch.
“There was a lot of energy last year in San Francisco when we got Carlos Beltran, one of the better players in the game,” DeRosa said. “A lot of big names moved today. It lets you know where you stand as a team, whether you’re going put your best foot forward and go for it, or whether you’re selling off pieces like the Phillies and going in another direction.”
The Nats could stand pat because they’ve been headed the right way all season. Even if they level off a bit, a postseason berth should remain within reach. Rizzo was able to browse at the deadline this year, opposed to frantically hawking his wares as usual. Yes, he could have added a little insurance here and a little depth there, but he wasn’t faced with any must-have needs.
“We’re in a situation where if we stand pat, we won’t be disappointed,” DeRosa said. “And if we got somebody, it’s just more artillery for the team. We feel good about where we’re at. We don’t have any real glaring holes.”
This is a foreign experience for Jackson, whose only postseason action before last year was with the out-of-nowhere Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. He has enjoyed the luxury of a full season on a team that’s pretty much set, and his performance (6-6, 3.52 ERA) has played a big part. But he never spends time thinking about whether his club should or shouldn’t make a move.
“Everybody’s different, but that doesn’t interest me at all,” he said. “I don’t follow [trade talk] because I can’t control it. If trades come along, I handle that as it comes.”
DeRosa can’t control trades either, but that doesn’t stop him from speculating. “A lot of the guys play GM a little bit, trying to figure out what we need and what we don’t need,” DeRosa said. “This is one of those situations where [Rizzo] is doing everything in his power to make us better but at the same time not disrupt what we’ve already done.”
Even with the best record in baseball, the Nats can be better. Chad Tracy’s activation from the disabled list will help, as will Jayson Werth when he’s activated shortly. And Rizzo still have the ability to improve the team through waivers and expanded rosters.
Deadline acquisitions are sexy and exciting for contending teams, and a sign that management is committed to win now. But no move was the best move for Washington. In fact, sitting this one out feels great.