The Washington Nationals are back in the playoff hunt and will be looking to deal at the trade deadline to stay in the race.
Despite losing Bryce Harper to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals entered 2019 as a prime playoff contender in the eyes of most MLB analysts. Even without Harper, the Nats still boasted a star-studded lineup led by Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto and added Patrick Corbin to a rotation that already featured Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. That alone should have been enough to keep Washington in the hunt for a Wild Card all year.
Instead, the Nationals fell flat on their face right out of the gate. Held back by injuries to key hitters and their typically-leaky bullpen, the Nats entered the month of June with a 24-33 record and speculation swirling that they should consider trading Rendon and even Scherzer. This team, however, has too much talent not to pick themselves off the mat. The Nats have enjoyed some consistent health, and enter July coming off a 18-8 month of June. They are only 1.5 games out of the National League’s final playoff spot.
It’s all going to come down to health and the bullpen for the Nationals. Outside of All-Star closer Sean Doolittle, the Nats bullpen has been an absolute dumpster fire this season (and Doolittle hasn’t even been at his best). Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough were expected to serve as the middle-relief answers the team has been seeking so desperately since they began contending on a consistent basis. Rosenthal had one of the worst starts in MLB history and was released with a 22.74 ERA in 6.1 innings. Barraclough is on the injured list with a radial nerve irritation and had a 6.39 ERA in 32 appearances before landing on the shelf.
The Nats will need to shore up their bullpen at the trade deadline yet again, but also have needs in the rotation and could use a bat to beef up their lineup, which is much closer to the middle of the pack in the National League than it has been the past few years. Left for dead a month ago, the Nationals will definitely be active at the deadline, and not on the sell side.
5. Shane Greene
Right-hander Shane Greene is having the best season of his six-year career for the Detroit Tigers, and will represent them in the All-Star Game. He is a 30-year-old reliever having a breakout season after entering 2019 with a career ERA of 4.89, which means the Tigers will be looking to flip him as soon as possible. Greene has been virtually flawless closing this season, and has a 0.87 ERA through 31 games and has blown only one of his 23 save attempts.
The Nats have attempted to catch lightning in a bottle with relievers at the trade deadline over the years, and have gotten mixed results at best. They’d be betting on Greene to continue delivering elite results, but the peripherals do not back up him sustaining this level of dominance. He pitched well in 2017, but has not shown an ability to hold up for a full season. Greene pitched fairly well in the first half last year before watching his ERA balloon to 6.94 in the second half.
There are no guarantees that Greene will continue pitching this well in the second half, but the Nationals are in the position of chasing relievers yet again. For all the millions they have spent on the rotation and lineup, a competent bullpen has continued to elude them.