Buyers or sellers? The Nationals are prepared to be both, GM says


Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo says Washington's front office is prepared for a "dual path trade deadline" as MLB's July 30 deadline nears.

That is to say they plan to be aggressive, as Rizzo often refrains around this time of year, while also preparing to be buyers or sellers, or a combination of both, depending on where the Nationals are in the standings. As of Thursday morning, the fourth-place Nats are 45-50 and trail the Mets by six games.

"Our strategy is we're doing a dual path trade deadline preparation," Rizzo told The Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning, explaining that his front office has mapped out the various scenarios for where the club is in the standings as the deadline approaches.

While only 2.5 games separate them and the second-place Phillies (47-47) in the tightly bound NL East division, the Wild Card race is virtually a non-factor for the Nats, who are 9.5 games back in that race.

In discussing their deadline approach through the years, Rizzo also made reference to the infamous 2018 deadline as the last point in which they were nearly "full-blown sellers." That was the year the Nationals, trailing Atlanta and Philly at the time while buried in the middle of the pack in the NL Wild Card race, traded Matt Adams, Daniel Murphy, reliever Brandon Kintzler, and, according to one report last April, nearly Bryce Harper (in a deal to the Astros that Nationals ownership reportedly nixed).

"I don't think we've been full-blown sellers for a number of years," Rizzo told The Junkies. "We kind of went halfway, which is the worst way to go, a couple of years ago when Harp was in his walk year and we decided to not have a big sell-off. But we did trade a few players at the deadline — Murphy and that group of guys."

"For the last 12 seasons, we've been in this hunt 10 times," he said. "Our ownership is aggressive. They don't like to lose. They're very, very competitive. And, fortunately, they allow me to be competitive in a very, very competitive division. We'll see where we end up. It will be dictated by our play in the next week, 10 days, 12 days."

Rizzo declined to put a specific number on how many games will catalyze action in either direction, towards either buying or selling.

"Will you say if we're within X amount of games, we're gonna still be chasing after this?" asked Junkies host Eric Bickel. "Is there a number you have in your head?"

"There really isn't," Rizzo said. "That's a good question, too, and I get asked that by ownership and by people around us. Is there a certain X amount of games that you feel that you can still compete? I think it goes well beyond that. Yeah, certainly games behind is obviously crucial in this thing, but how are you playing?

"You can fake it and win a couple of baseball games, and get lucky and the teams above you lose. But how are you playing? Are you playing well enough that you think that you can compete? What's your injury situation look like? Is Schwarber around the corner, or is he far away? Is Stras coming back, or is he gonna be a long-term injury? Those are the questions that have to go into the equation on what to do, and how to handle and how to attack the deadline."

"We've got decisions to make," Rizzo said. "We're always a team that's aggressive at the deadline. We will be aggressive at this deadline."