The Nationals are still a disaster. They sit dead last in the NL East and have the worst record in baseball. There is talk that the Nationals will soon fire Manager Manny Acta as the front office continues to try and find ways to salvage the rest of the season. But make no mistake about it, 2009 has been a waste for the Nationals.
As the front office looks forward towards the trading deadline, their focus should be on the future. Trades need to be made that bring the Nationals as much young talent as possible.
So who should the Nationals look to move? Is there anyone worth holding onto? Let's take a look:
1. Try to trade Nick Johnson
-Johnson will be a free agent at the end of the season and probably will not return to the Nationals in 2010. Johnson is putting up solid numbers at .315, 5 HR, 30 RBI, and will certainly draw interest from several teams (METS!). The Nationals should be able to bring back a solid package for Johnson, as long as the injury prone first baseman stays healthy. Johnson is the best chip the Nationals have and trading him at the deadline could bring back a nice package of young players.
In addition, if Johnson is moved, Adam Dunn will finally be moved to first base where he rightfully belongs.
2. Trade Joe Beimel if his numbers improve
-As I wrote on Friday, Beimel could become an attractive trade chip for the Nationals. Beimel is a free agent at the end of the season and has historically been dominant against left handed hitters. Even though Beimel has struggled against lefties so far this season, if his numbers improve in the coming weeks, contenders could begin to take a long look at Joe Beimel for the stretch run. The Nationals must hope that Beimel pitches well enough to raise his value in the coming weeks so that hey receive a larger return.
3. Hold Josh Willingham
-It's been a rough season for Willingham, who was benched at the beginning of the season in favor of Austin Kearns and has struggled to gain consistent playing time. However, there is reason to believe that Willingham could be a future asset to the Nationals, despite the fact that he is arbitration eligible until 2011.
a. When Willingham plays consistently, he hits.
-When Willingham played consistently in May, he hit .303 with 8 home runs. This guy is a 20-25 home run talent when given the chance to play
b. His value is rock bottom
-Because Willingham has not played consistently this season, his numbers have suffered. Because Willingham is not a free agent until 2012, the Nationals have several more seasons to see if Willingham can produce over a full season or if Willingham can increase his value enough so that the Nationals can maximize return.
1. Trade Cristian Guzman?
-I wrote extensively about this two weeks back, and I am firmly in the camp that the Nationals should trade Guzman and get back as many quality prospects as they possibly can. But if the Nationals trade Guzman, who is one of their best players, will they lose even more goodwill from their fanbase (is that even possible)?
You be the judge. I say that sometimes, the best moves, are the hardest to make.
2. Trade Julian Tavarez and Ron Villone?
-These two veterans have basically been the only consistent forces out of the Nationals bullpen, which has been horrific this season. Tavarez has come on strong as of late, lowering his season ERA to 4.26, while Ron Villone has a 0.96 ERA in 22 games this season (WOW). Also, keep in mind that both guys are above 35 years old and are not long term building blocks for the Nationals. Plus, both guys could help contenders down the stretch, which would give the Nationals even more potential pieces to play with in the future. But can the Nationals really afford to get rid of the only two effective relief pitchers they have?
If they do, are the 1962 Mets in their sight?
Conclusion: The Nationals have LOTS of work to do before they can be thought of as contenders, let alone respectable. In my opinion, the Nationals should use their expendable pieces that have value to obtain as many pieces for the future as possible.