Before the season even started, most Nationals fans were pretty confident in the direction that the season was headed. A 10-20 start has only confirmed those feelings. It’s abundantly clear that this team will be selling at the trade deadline, so it’s fitting that we should take a periodic look at how each of the Nats trade candidates are doing.
Season line: .343/.442/.529, 4 HR, 29 RBI
Coming into the season, I would’ve thought that the Nats best trade chip at the deadline would’ve been Nelson Cruz. Cruz netted the Twins Joe Ryan last season, who is off to a scorching start in Minnesota. It turns out, Bell is going to be the Nats top trade chip as the deadline approaches. Don’t get me wrong, with nobody knocking on the door in the minors, I’d much rather see the Nats extend Bell. It unfortunately appears like Mike Rizzo is incapable of multitasking though since he told reporters at the beginning of April that the Nats were focused on extending Juan Soto and wanted to deal with that before shifting attention elsewhere. Bell and Soto share the same agent, so reading between the lines here it seems like the Nats are comfortable moving on from Bell following the season. Bell will be one of the top bats available this summer and he should net the Nats a good prospect or two.
Season line: .157/.250/.245, 3 HR, 14 RBI
Cruz is really struggling, and at 41 years old, it seems like father time may have finally caught up with him. I would still expect him to get his numbers up a bit over the next month or two, but expecting an OPS anywhere near .750-.800 is starting to look more and more unlikely by the day. Based on his track record alone, there should still be a good amount of interest at the deadline. At this point though, the Nats sholudn’t expect more than a lower-level prospect and will likely have to pick up the majority of his salary to move him.
Season line: .281/.314/.404, 2 HR, 16 RBI
There’s no way I expected Franco to be on this list at the beginning of the season. In fact, I would’ve guessed he would’ve been DFA’d before he got traded. But, I’ve gotta give credit where credit is due and Franco has been solid to start the year. His defense has been just ok, but his bat has been fairly consistent. Franco’s .314 OBP is awful, but it’s right in line with his career numbers (actually 20 points higher). By the time July rolls around, Carter Kieboom should be fully healthy and the Nats will likely want to give him another shot at 3B. That would leave Franco as a trade chip assuming he can keep playing the way he has been playing. He should be able to net a lower-mid tier prospect, which is much more than I thought the Nats would ever get for him prior to the season.
Season line: .279/.314/.333, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB
So far this season, Hernández has sacrificed the power than he showed last year with Cleveland/Chicago for a higher batting average. Going from hitting 21 HRs last season to 0 so far this season is a bit odd though. My guess is the Nats asked him to adjust his approach a bit to hit leadoff, but with an extremely low OBP and a SLG only better than Victor Robles and Alcides Escobar, he might want to re-adjust that approach. Either way, Hernández is all but certain to get dealt as the deadline approaches. He would be a solid spot starter and a good bench player for a contender.
Season line: 13 games, 5.40 ERA, 10 IP, 12 K, 5 BB
I kind of figured Cishek would be one of the Nats better bullpen arms and a solid trade chip at the deadline. He’ll still get dealt assuming he’s healthy, but his numbers aren’t going to blow anyone away. Granted, he’s given up 6 runs in two combined outings and held opponents scoreless in his other 11 outings. Contenders are always looking for bullpen help though and Cishek has a solid track record. If he stays healthy and can keep the multi-run outings to a minimum, he could net the Nats mid-level prospect.
Season line: 7 games, 2.79 ERA, 9 ⅔ IP, 7 K, 0 BB
Another name that I never figured I’d see on this list, but Ramirez has been extremely solid in his short time with the Nats. He’s a guy who can pitch multiple innings and doesn’t walk hitters (he walked 1 batter in 7 IP in AAA prior to coming up as well), which is something managers will love. He’s another guy who’s not going to blow anyone away and likely won’t net a great prospect. But again, contenders are always looking for pitching, and Ramirez is a veteran who can provide someone with quality innings down the stretch run.
Season line: N/A
Ross has yet to pitch this season as he recovers from surgery to remove a bone spur back in March. He is about to start facing live hitters though, and if all goes well, a rehab assignment could happen by June. If Ross can make a couple of starts before the deadline, the Nats would almost have to deal him. When healthy, Ross is a quality starter who can be a back-end of the rotation guy for a contender.
The Nats don’t have a Max Scherzer type trade chip this year, but they do have a bunch of guys on expiring deals who would be able to help contenders out. They likely won’t get any high end prospects in any of these deals, but Bell could net them a solid prospect or two and so could Cruz if he eventually turns it on. Either way, the Nats still need all the help they can get for their farm system.