Not seeing right deal, Nats stand pat at Deadline
GM Rizzo says there 'wasn't a whole lot of necessity' for club to make trade
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals said all along they didn't feel like they absolutely had to make a deal at this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. So, they didn't.
"I never thought we were going to do anything," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. "I like this ballclub. Everything's functioning well."
Happy with its current club and unwilling to make a move that wouldn't lend itself toward long-term success, Washington stood pat as the 4 p.m. ET Deadline came and went, with every other playoff contender in the National League making at least one move to strengthen their clubs.
General manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals didn't see many holes to fill, and though he said several conversations took place, they were never close to making a trade.
"It's not about complacency. It's about making good, sound decisions and not taking the short route with rental players that could affect us long term," Rizzo said. "We feel we're in position to play meaningful games this September and beyond, and there wasn't a whole lot of necessity to make a deal.
"We made all our splashes this winter and put together and constructed this roster the way we have it right now."
The Nationals had been rumored to be in the market for middle-infield depth, a backup catcher and potentially a starting pitcher to fill in for Stephen Strasburg once the right-hander hits his innings limit.
But Rizzo said he only wanted to pursue a starter under team control for longer than two months rather than go out and acquire a pure rental to make a handful of starts. So, Washington will rely on its pitching depth -- most notably John Lannan in Triple-A and the injured Chien-Ming Wang -- to fill the gap -- however sizable it ends up being -- created by Strasburg's inevitable shutdown.
"If we could've made a deal that would've really upgraded us or impacted us for the long term, we certainly would've made it," Rizzo said. "We couldn't do that, so the deals that we could've made, we felt that we have a better in-house solution than going out and making a trade for the players that were available."
The Nationals' situation was made all the more interesting by their competition's moves.
While the Phillies and Marlins were trading veterans for younger players, the Braves beefed up their rotation with lefty Paul Maholm and added a strong bench bat in Reed Johnson. If Atlanta makes a push and grabs hold of the NL East lead, Washington will find stiffened competition for the two Wild Card spots as well.
The Reds picked up reliever Jonathan Broxton to deepen their already dominant bullpen. The Pirates made a series of moves to bolster their chances of finally getting back into the playoffs, too. The Giants and Dodgers went all in, with Los Angeles acquiring outfielder Shane Victorino, infielder Hanley Ramirez and reliever Brandon League, and San Francisco picking up outfielder Hunter Pence from Philadelphia.
The Nationals kept up with that busy trade market but didn't feel pressured to make a move simply because everyone else was.
"We don't make our decisions based upon what other teams are doing just to kind of keep up with the Joneses," Rizzo said. "We've got a plan and a vision in place, and we've stuck to it, and we're going to continue to do so. That's how we've made our decisions through this Trade Deadline, and through the ones in the past, also."
That decision could provide an emotional boost in Washington's clubhouse, too. The Nationals will return Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond from injuries fairly soon, but they're otherwise entrusting the stretch run of the season to the same group that has built up the best record in baseball so far.
"We believe we have enough, and we didn't need to go out and make a big splash in the deal because we've got our pieces in place," Rizzo said. "We'll have our full complement of players able to go forward from there, and really take it and see what type of team we have when we're at full strength."
That doesn't mean Rizzo will stop looking for ways to improve the Nationals' roster as they push toward the playoffs, of course.
Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.
"Sure, there's always opportunities," Rizzo said when asked about the possibility of a non-waiver trade. "And when there's an opportunity that fits our parameters and what we're trying to do, we'll certainly look at every angle and take advantage of them whenever possible."