WASHINGTON — The Nationals have reached a turning point in this 2016 season. With 66 games to hold onto first place, a roster move here or there could make a sizable impact on their outcome. Just ask the 2015 Mets.
The trade deadline is 11 days off; if they are to make a trade, we will hear about it soon enough.
Which makes this tidbit from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, about a potential offseason deal the Nationals ultimately never made, all the more intriguing. According to Heyman, Washington’s flirtation with Yankees reliever Andrew Miller dates back further than the past several weeks.
They, too, are in on Miller/Chapman, and as Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reported, the Yankees are scouting the Nats’ farm system. The pen is their main focus. The Nats made an offer in the winter for Miller that included Drew Storen, Blake Treinen and another pitcher. That didn’t cut it then, and it won’t now (Storen is gone anyway).
Between the flurry of activity annually at the trade deadline and winter meetings, all types of deals are discussed that never come to fruition, so nothing about this doomed deal is particularly shocking.
We now know Washington traded former closer Drew Storen to Toronto in exchange for center fielder Ben Revere. Considering Treinen has proved to be such a valuable bullpen arm, with a 2.09 ERA over 42 appearances in 2016, and Revere already a proven everyday major leaguer, it is alluring to wonder what type of package Miller might command on the trade market today. The deadline breeds demand.
The Nats’ farm is rife with young arms, and although GM Mike Rizzo has denied showing interest in Miller (which, why wouldn’t he?), the organization has in the past month debuted some of its premier up-and-coming talents.
Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez both showed promise in their first big league outings, with Giolito going scoreless before an extended rain delay halted his June 28 debut after four innings. He got knocked around a bit in his second start on July 7 — to the tune of four earned runs over 3.2 innings — enough that Washington sent him down to Class-AAA Syracuse for more seasoning.
Lopez had command issues with his upper-90s fastball in his Tuesday debut, but showed in what some saw as a showcase for competing clubs a devastating curveball and quality changeup, both capable of locking up big-league hitters. Six runs over 4.2 innings, and a loss, were his end result, but nine strikeouts were the lasting impression of this hopeful big-league starter.
And then there is Koda Glover, the 2015 eighth-rounder who shot through the minor leagues on a beeline to the majors. The right-handed reliever needed just four pitches to rip through the ninth inning of his Wednesday debut against the Dodgers, which he followed up with a one-hit ninth inning on Thursday. That’s one double and a strikeout in seven batters faced, to be sure.
Through it all, the Nationals are steeped in a heated division race with the Mets and Marlins. Winning, at all costs, is their primary objective.
But showcasing young arms they feel confident enough in debuting during a year with postseason implications — as they search for ways to bolster baseball’s premier pitching staff (2.94 ERA) — could prove, six months or 11 days from today, to have been the difference in discussing a trade which never came to fruition, and one that did.