A couple weeks ago I wrote about what the Nationals might be looking to acquire at the trade deadline. Now it is time to look at what they may have to give up. It is still a bit of a mystery as to what teams are going to have to spend to acquire players because the market is still developing, and according to some rumors the buying and selling teams are far apart. That is understandable because to my estimation there are 22 buyers and only eight sellers. Combine that with the new CBA rules where teams can only get compensation picks for players that are on their roster for the entire season and it isn’t hard to see why this is a slow developing trade market.
The Nationals’ pre-season top ten prospect list has been wrecked by call-ups and injuries. Only about half the players are performing to the level imagined for them and two of those, Goodwin and Meyer, would have to be traded as players to be named in any trade, and they would only go in a trade for a superstar. If Justin Upton is truly available then one or both of them could be included in that trade if the Nationals decide to go that route. The Nats already have a crowded outfield, but Justin Upton is the type of player teams make room for. The Diamondbacks reportedly want young major league talent in the deal as well as prospects so it could end up costing the Nationals Danny Espinosa or Ross Detwiler along with the prospects.
For the Nats, Justin Upton is a remote possibility, but the Rangers are also reportedly interested in him and can outbid anyone and may be willing to do so after back to back World Series appearances with no World Series title. It is believed it is unlikely they will trade Profar and Olt, but there are still rumors of Olt being part of a package for Upton or Hamels.
The Nationals’ farm system has taken a few hits in the past couple months with the Gio trade, the Harper call-up, and injuries to Solis, Purke, and Rendon, but there is still talent there, and the Nationals hope is that scouts and GM’s will be looking for good players more than highly rated prospects. Some players that have emerged this season in the Nationals farm system are David Freitas who is hitting .278/.385/.414 in 66 games for Potomac this year and is just one of many good young catchers in the Nationals system. The Nationals also have Sandy Leon who had his major league debut cut short, but has hit well in Harrisburg with a slash line of .315/.364/.425.
Up the middle players are always desired in trades and with both Leon and Freitas in the system along with Ramos returning for injury next season and the play of Solano at the majors the Nationals have catcher depth. Good hitting catchers are hard to find and both Leon and Freitas are that and could be very desirable to teams looking to improve for the future. Another up the middle player that got off to a bit of a slow start but now has scouts raving about his speed and defense is Jeff Kobernus. Hid batting line of .283/.322/.340 is a little underwhelming, but he has stolen 35 bases in 45 attempts and plays solid defense at second base. He won’t be the center piece of any trade, but if one organization values his tools then he may be a player asked for in a trade.
Before the season began Robbie Ray and Matt Purke were thought to be the big deal prospect pitchers at Potomac, but Purke is injured and Ray has struggled to a 5.11 ERA. The pitcher that has impressed for the P-Nats is Nathan Karns who’s mid-90’s fastball has helped to put up a 2.43 ERA while striking out 11.7 per nine and walking 3.3 per 9. Pitching is always sought after at the deadline and Karns’ performance this season could help teams to ask about him when talking to the Nationals.
The Nationals farm system doesn’t have great prospects ready to burst on the scene at the major league level, but they do have a lot of high ceiling talent at lower levels. The Nationals may not match up well with a team like the Brewers who are looking to both rebuild and stay competitive for next season. The Nats might be a much better match with teams like the Cubs or Padres that view their future closer to 2015 when some of the high ceiling players the Nats can trade will be starting to become ready for the majors. Aside from Goodwin and Meyer the Hagerstown Suns are full of talent. Third baseman Matthew Skole has been tearing the cover off the ball and should be turning some heads with a batting line of .280/.434/.553. Skole may need as many as three more seasons in the minors and may have to move to first base, but he is the type of prospect that could be the centerpiece of a deal for a second tier starting pitcher like Dempster or Volquez.
Another Hagerstown Suns player putting up impressive numbers is 22 year old outfielder Billy Burns who has a batting line of .310/.433/.369 and has stolen 33 bases in 36 tries. As a 32nd round pick of the 2011 draft Burns hasn’t garnered much prospect hype, but again the Nationals are banking on scouts valuing performance over prospect hype, and it is hard to ignore the numbers that some of the Nats unheralded prospects are putting up. All it takes is one cross-checker to go to his GM and verify an area scout’s opinion that someone like Kobernus, Burns, Martinson, or Skole is a guy that could make a difference for their team in the future. It will be a tough sell to fan bases on some of these guys as they aren’t included on many prospect lists, but they have all performed well in one area or another this season in the minors.
The Nationals do not have the major league ready talent to outbid the Rangers or Orioles for the best players available at the deadline, but they may not have to. The price has yet to be set and if those teams are unwilling to trade their top top talent then the price could fall to a level where the Nationals could match it. Because of the new CBA’s rules on comp picks and restrictions on the draft it is going to be harder for teams to refill their system once they give up prospects for rentals. This might very well could suppress the trade market this deadline period. The market will set itself and when it does there will be a better understanding of if the Nationals can compete in it. They do have the players to do so, and for the right player any deal makes sense. The Nationals do have talent in their system even if it is unheralded talent.