National’s GM Mike Rizzo Tops This Week’s Pivotal Play By Standing Pat at the Trade Deadline
The MLB trade deadline came and went this week, and the Washington Nationals decided not to partake in any late-July trades.
It’s rare that a first place team with playoff aspirations allows the trade deadline to come and go without supplementing its big league roster with additional pitching depth or an extra bat for the rapidly approaching grueling late-summer stretch run.
National’s general manager Mike Rizzo was one of the few executives who decided against making a swap.
The Atlanta Braves, two-and-a-half games back of the Nationals for first place in the NL East, dealt for a starting pitcher. The Cincinnati Reds, the only NL team with a better record than Washington, added a reliever. The San Francisco Giants (first place in the NL West) brought in a new starting outfielder, the Los Angeles Dodgers (one game back of San Francisco) traded for a new third baseman.
Washington was one of the few contending teams that didn’t acquire additional big league talent. Rizzo’s decision to stand pat – which will be proven wise or the antithesis of that in the coming few months – is this week’s MorganFranklin Pivotal Play.
Rizzo, his top front office assistants and manager Davey Johnson clearly opted for the cohesion and chemistry of the Nationals’ clubhouse over a shot in the arm from outside of the organization.
The 61-42 ball club has the best pitching staff in baseball (Washington’s 3.29 team ERA is tops among the sport’s 30 teams) and an offense that has been much more consistent in the past two months than it was at the start of the season (The Nats are now hitting .256 as a club, which ranks 16th).
Starting shortstop Ian Desmond and top right fielder Jayson Werth currently on the disabled list, the team’s primary decision makers could have considered the additions of Desmond and Werth, when they return from their injuries, as deadline-like acquisitions.
I have no problem with the Nationals not adding a starting every-day player. I’m not sure where they would have played a new addition. The outfield is occupied when Werth comes back, as he’ll work alongside Bryce Harper in center and Michael Morse in right.
Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche are all entrenched in their infield roles from third to first respectively, and nobody the team would have traded for was going to supplant one of those players.
So what could the Nationals have tried to deal for? A backup catcher? Maybe. But at what cost? I suppose Rizzo could have made a strength even stronger and brought in an arm.
You can never have enough starting pitching, especially when you’re planning on shutting down your ace sometime next month. I would have liked to have seen the team acquire a veteran with playoff experience, but not if it meant giving up prospects with bright futures to rent an elder arm for a couple of months.
As it is, when Strasburg gets shut down it looks like Washington will be leaning on Jordan Zimmerann (who’s gone six innings in all of his starts this season), all-star Gio Gonzalez and 2011 World Series champion Edwin Jackson as their top three starting pitchers to finish the season. That is a formidable trio but whether or not it’s deep enough to encounter October success is debatable.
Sometimes the best trade is the one you don’t make. If Rizzo’s plan works out and the Nationals encounter October success without having given up any future contributors, he’ll look like a genius.
This week’s decision not to make any major moves is definitely a Pivotal Play, though. Now we get to wait and see how the critical decision plays out.