The Washington Nationals are currently 45-49 for the season, and have dropped six of their last 10 games.
Looking at that record and the recent trend, one would think they have no business making the playoffs, let alone sacrificing future talent to be buyers near the deadline.
However, there are several reasons why they should avoid being sellers before July 30.
They are actually not that far from first place: they are five games back, which is significant (especially considering the fact that they would need to surpass three teams in the National League East standings) but manageable.
The Nats were actually playing very well until Kyle Schwarber’s hamstring injury, which occurred on July 2.
Schwarber was actually carrying the Nationals after he went on a home run binge in June that took his homer total to 25 on the year.
When he got injured, the team’s performance suffered, but that doesn’t mean Washington is hopeless.
They are now being carried by young stud Juan Soto, who came off firing after his inspiring Home Run Derby performance.
The Nationals Could Compete Right Now
The Nationals could potentially add a few pieces here and there to strengthen their roster, especially now that Starlin Castro won’t play again this year after domestic violence allegations.
If they feel they don’t want to mortgage the future for a not-so-great chance to make the playoffs this year, they could stand pat and not be buyers.
At this point, though, being sellers could be a mistake.
As of now, the Nats won’t decide whether they will be buyers or sellers until right before the deadline.
For MLB franchises, there comes a time they need to decide how they will approach the deadline.
They can be buyers, they could be sellers, or they can stand pat.
The Nationals, though, are delaying that decision until they absolutely have to make it.
A Dual Strategy
“We still have some games to play before we make those kind of decisions, but I think a dual path is probably the most advantageous for us right now. We’ll have our lines in the water on the buy side. We’ll also prepare some type of sell scenario if we have to. But we’re looking forward to playing better baseball for the next two weeks and see if we can creep closer to the New York Mets and see if we can make some noise in the National League East.”
In fact, this week and next are crucial to the Nationals’ season.
Mike Rizzo says he believes the Nationals are buyers right now but will take a “dual approach” of dropping lines as sellers, too. Said that means they will likely act pretty close to the deadline, meaning the next 7-10 days will decide the ultimate direction.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 20, 2021
They do have some pieces they could potentially sell, the most notable one being Scherzer, whose contract is up after the season.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said he expects Max Scherzer to be a National the day after the trade deadline. Anything that could change the calculus? "I think if we turn into definite sellers, everything would be on the table, I would think. Which I don't foresee."
— Maria Torres (@maria_torres3) July 20, 2021
But selling him or other significant assets would be a mistake, given the potential Schwarber – Soto pairing on offense for the stretch run and the fact that Scherzer’s current level makes the idea of an extension at least worth exploring for Washington.
He loves the city, and the fans love him, so a reunion makes sense for both sides.
The Nats should extend Scherzer and give it a go, this year and next.