The Washington Nationals defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday July 25 by a score of 9-7 after Bryce Harper homered in the bottom of the ninth inning for an electrifying walk-off win. While Harper provided an exciting finish, the top of the ninth was a miserable nightmare started by Rafael Soriano and finished by IanKrol.
Soriano entered the game with a 7-3 lead in what was at the time a non-save situation. After two walks and two hits, the Pirates had tied the game after being down four runs going into the inning. Soriano was lifted in favor of Krol who walked one batter and gave up one hit but did not allow any runs himself. This situation was all too familiar for the Nationals as the closer situation has been an obvious weakness.
As of Sunday July 25, the Nationals sit eight games behind the Atlanta Braves for the division lead and seven and a half games back from the second wild card. While they are not out of contention with more then two months left of the season remaining, it is a very difficult hill to climb if they want to repeat as division champions or make the playoffs as a wildcard. With the non-waiver trade deadline only three days away it would be best for the Nationals not to be buyers in hopes of trying to make a run at a playoff spot. Instead, I propose they try to trade off older players they feel do not have a future with the team. One of those players is Soriano, who after his blown save on Thursday has clearly not lived up to the big contract he signed in the offseason.
Soriano never seemed to be able to get comfortable with the Nationals after signing an expensive two-year deal with the team. He has four blown saves this season and his ERA has quickly risen to 5.79. Soriano could fetch a decent return, but his departure wouldn’t necessarily mean the Nationals are throwing in the towel for the year. The Nationals have several other in-house options for closer if Soriano were to be dealt. The best one is Tyler Clippard, who has quietly had a fantastic season posting a 6-1 record and a 1.81 ERA. Clippard had 32 saves last season while filling in for injured closer Drew Storen. Storen was another candidate, but was sent down to the minors on Friday in a controversial move to find his game. His confidence is at an an all time low after blowing game five in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals last season. A dark-horse candidate is rookie lefty Ian Krol who got the save on Thursday and seems to be unfazed by the pressure of closing.
The case for not adding players and being a buyer at the trade deadline is very convincing. If the Nationals add someone they would likely have to give up prospects since no position players are candidates to be moved exceptpossibly Soriano. Giving up prospects would not be ideal since the once deep farm system is now depleted after trading several prospects for Gio Gonzalez and DenardSpan. The Nationals simply don’t have any big name prospects to move at this time.
The ideal situation for the Nationals would be to possibly trade a player such as Soriano for a prospect while unloading some salary and adding to the empty farm system. Trading for a rental player would indicate the team has not yet given up on this dismal season and would like to make a run at the post-season. A spot in the post-seasonhowever is not guaranteed and a trade for a rental player could be very costly if the team were to give up a prospect and fall short of the playoffs.
By Mac Cassells