Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is fast approaching. For the Washington Nationals, the days leading up to July 31 will have a huge impact on the team not just for the remainder of the 2021 season, but for years to come.
Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo thinks the club's play over the next few weeks will determine a lot for the organization. “We’ve got about five or six weeks to see what we’ve got before the trade deadline, and then we’ll make decisions as we see fit,” Rizzo said in an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s ‘Sports Junkies’ this week.
Washington sits at 24-33 for the season, last in the NL East. However, they are lucky to only be seven games behind the division-leading Mets. In other divisions, the disparity between first and last place teams is as great as 19 games (see NL West). Rizzo believes the Nats have a good shot at climbing in the standings, given the state of the division.
“Fortunately, the division has given us a chance. They’re keeping us in this thing until we get right, and we’ve been through this thing before,” Rizzo said. “Once we can get things rolling, we take off.”
The primary area of concern for the Nationals is offensive production. Despite having the seventh-best batting average in the majors, Washington ranks 28th in runs scored, 20th in hits and 26th in home runs. For the Nationals to have a shot at returning to the postseason, Rizzo believes the bats need to come around.
“The other aspects of the game are solid. Our defense is no. 1 in the league, our starting pitching’s giving us a chance to win day in and day out, and our bullpen has been used a lot but pitching very, very well for us,” Rizzo said. “We just need to rectify that runners in scoring position [issue] offensively and I think we can start stringing together some wins here and make a run at this thing.”
Washington made moves in the offseason to address the lack of power which plagued last year's roster. Kyle Schwarber and Josh Bell were brought in to shore up the bats, with varying degrees of success thus far.
Bell started the season cold but has raised his offensive numbers in recent weeks by batting .277 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI over his last 15 games. Schwarber got off to a similar start before recently heating up with a .243 average, 7 home runs and 19 RBI in the last 30 games.
Still, power hitting has been Washington’s kryptonite. Trea Turner leads the club with 10 home runs, which is tied for 47th in the Majors.