- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2017

For those not glued to baseball Twitter, here’s how fast trade rumors can spread.

Over the span of 12 minutes late Monday, people were trying to figure out if the Washington Nationals had just traded their top prospect, Victor Robles, for Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez.

“#Nationals prospect Victor Robles, who’s playing at High-A Potomac, left tonight’s game in fourth inning. Don’t know why,” Scout’s Max Wildstein tweeted at 9:54 p.m.

Followed by the Detroit Free Press’ Anthony Fenech’s tweet at 10:14 p.m.: “Noteworthy: J.D. Martinez has been pulled in the bottom of the sixth inning.”

It didn’t take long for people to try and connect the dots until Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal stepped in.

“#Nationals outfielder Victor Robles was pulled from his game at Class A Potomac due to a base-running mistake. No trade,” Rosenthal tweeted at 10:26 p.m.

Everyone stand down.

The Tigers soon after revealed Martinez left the game as a precaution with back tightness.

Did people jump the gun? Sure. But that’s what happens when baseball is just under two weeks away from the trade deadline.

While the Nationals made a move to acquire two relievers from the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, general manager Mike Rizzo did it without touching Washington’s top prospects. The Nationals could still be in the market for a closer, especially if Sean Dootlittle and Ryan Madson turn out to be setup men.

As the July 31 trade deadline nears, here’s a look at teams across MLB potentially willing to sell a closer.

Baltimore Orioles

The Cubs and the White Sox making a deal involving Jose Quintana showed geographical barriers preventing trades is an old-fashioned concept in 2017. If Chicago’s two teams can make a trade work, the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles should be open to discussing a deal.

Orioles closer Zach Britton will be a target across the league, and the Nationals would be justified in their interest in him. Britton has a 1.93 ERA this season in 13 appearances, while dealing with injuries throughout the year.

Britton, though, is regarded as one of the league’s top closers and Orioles manager Buck Showalter was criticized heavily last year when he failed to use him during the American League wild card game against the Cleveland Indians.

Rosenthal reported the Orioles are “exploring their options” for the trade deadline. Baltimore lacks a number of young prospects and are 43-49 this year.

Detroit Tigers

The Nationals may not be trading for Martinez — they don’t really need an extra bat or outfielder — but all reports indicate the Tigers (42-49) are ready to sell.

Tigers closer Justin Wilson (3-3, 2.39 ERA) is 29 and is under team control through 2018. The Nationals acquiring Wilson falls in line with a similar approach to the A’s deal: if Washington is going to give up assets, they’ll have options in the future. Washington wouldn’t be trading for a rental like the Chicago Cubs did last season with closer Aroldis Chapman.

There will be suitors for Wilson, however. The Detroit Free Press called Wilson the Tigers‘ most popular trade target. Besides the Nationals, the Cubs, Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers were all linked as possible trade partners.

Chicago White Sox

The name the Nationals have been linked to all season is still available: David Robertson.

Trading with the White Sox remains a tricky proposition because the Nationals already gave up two valued prospects for Adam Eaton in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Dane Dunning, Washington’s 2016 first-round pick, was also included in the Eaton deal.

Robertson, 32, has delivered another strong season with a 2.47 ERA and and 0.96 WHIP. He’s scheduled to make $13 million in 2018 and is making $12 million this year.

The White Sox have already demonstrated they’re inclined to sell. They dealt Quintana, their ace, for four prospects, including Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. Jimenez ranks as the fifth best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America.

Chicago is building for the future and reloading their farm systems, an approach similar to how the Cubs and the Astros have rebuilt. They certainly have their eyes on a player like Robles, but the better question is what are the Nationals willing to give up in order to get Robertson?

Washington has other options. The fast-approaching end-of-the-month trade deadline will force a decision one way or another.

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