Over the weekend the Nats and Braves split a four game series which means that the Braves remain 3.5 games behind the Nationals. After that series the Braves had a trade for Ryan Dempster all lined up before backing out. The big question was how much Ryan Dempster would have improved the Braves. By my calculations that spot in the Braves rotation will be getting 13 more starts to finish out the year and if they were pitched by Jair Jurrjens it would be worth roughly -0.5 WAR and if they are pitched by Dempster roughly 1.9 WAR. The Braves in this trade would have picked up 2.5 games on the Nats which still would leave them a game back of the division lead, and any day now the Nats will be getting Jayson Werth back, and that could help the Nats more than any trade they could make.
The Nats still have issues, but they had those issues this morning and the Braves making a trade for Dempster doesn’t change the Nats issues or how they should approach those issues. With Ian Desmond now on the shelf the Nats have no one on their bench who can back-up at short stop, and if something were to happen to both Espinosa and Lombardozzi in a game they could end up with DeRosa and second and Zimmerman at short. The Nats lack a viable back-up middle infielder.
The other hole the Nationals have is at catcher. Leon has played well in limited time, but Jesus Flores is a walking injury and could use an extended rest to let all of his wounds heal. Flores has done yeoman’s work behind the plate and his meaning to the Nationals is of high importance, but catcher has become an issue offensively and defensively for the Nats.
The good news for the Nats is that the same team has both those players and they are both signed to bloated contracts meaning that all it might cost is money. If a team can make a marginal upgrade at the deadline and not have to give up any prospects it is a clear win. Those players are Ramon Hernandez and Marco Scutaro of the Rockies. The Rockies are shopping both of them and while they are asking for prospects right now that price might change as no one offers it and they will accept minor leaguers and cash in order to have those bloated contracts come off the books.
The Nats other big issue this season has been production from the lead-off spot where Nats lead-off hitters have produced an abysmal OBP of .298. The good news for the Nationals is they might not even have to make a trade to fix this problem as Jayson Werth is rehabbing and will soon be returning from injury. Werth is not the typical lead-off type with high OBP and blazing speed, but he was hitting .276/.372/.439 before breaking his wrist, and that type of production at th top of the order would be a vast improvement over what the Nats have been getting.
The Nats don’t have many holes to fill, but they do have holes and they should do everything they can to fill them. At this point in time it would take a near disaster for the Nats to miss the post-season, and while the small sample size nature of the playoffs makes it hard to predict who will win it all. Teams can vastly increase their chances this time of year. Adding a catcher that isn’t a defensive liability and a black hole offensively as well as a back-up middle infielder would help the Nats greatly. They are both small moves and would be as flashy as adding a Greinke to the front of the rotation, but they may be the only move the Nats need.