In August of 2012, the Nats dealt fringe catching prospect David Freitas to the A's for Kurt Suzuki (and cash). The team sent fringe righty prospect Ivan Pinyero to the Cubs for Scott Hairston (and cash) in 2013 before turning course in August by selling Kurt Suzuki back to the A's for fringe righty prospect Dakota Bacus and David DeJesus to the Rays for fringe lefty prospect Matt Spann. Fringe infield prospect Zach Walters was dealt to the Indians for Asdrubal Cabrera (and cash) in 2014, and fringe infield prospect Tony Renda was dealt to the Yankees for David Carpenter this June.
There is a clear trend: Mike Rizzo likes to deal fringe prospects for role players, and he generally likes for the other team to pick up the tab on the role players' remaining contracts. There have been plenty of rumors that the Nationals are chasing stud relievers like Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, but Rizzo's M.O. would suggest he's more likely to grab a guy like Tyler Clippard, Jonathan Papelbon, or Joaquin Benoit.
While there are hundreds of players in the Nats organization, I figured it could be a useful exercise to look at some guys that the Nats might dangle in different ranges of deals. Note that I will not be predicting actual deals, and that in most cases, the tiers I've created are based more on package deals rather than one-for-one swaps (i.e. the Padres aren't going to trade Joaquin Benoit straight up for Brian Goodwin).
If the Nats were to go after Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel and want some cash kicked in from the other side, they would have to give up actual talent. Reports came out today that the Padres wanted Trea Turner back in exchange for Kimbrel, but the Nats said no. Lucas Giolito and Turner are likely the only true untouchable players in the system, but Joe Ross has probably pitched himself onto that list as well.
Erick Fedde was scouted by the Reds last week, so he could be a candidate to be dealt for an elite-level talent. Reynaldo Lopez and A.J. Cole could have been considered untouchable before the year, but both have struggled in 2015 and could be targeted by the Reds or Padres. The Padres really need a shortstop (man, how dumb was it for them to trade away Trea Turner?), so Wilmer Difo could also be a nice fit there.
I'm putting Papelbon in this category because his 2016 option only vests if he hits 100 combined games finished between 2014-15. He currently sits at 84, so the Nationals could keep him in a set-up role to keep the option from vesting (while Papelbon says he'll only go somewhere where he would close, he's also been vocal about moving on from the Phils and if they can't work something out with the Blue Jays or Cubs, there may not be a closer job for a contender out there). Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard would fall under this category as well.
Cole and Difo are likely the two prospects from the upper group that could fall under this category as well. Prospects that are gaining helium like Victor Robles or Osvaldo Abreu (21 year old SS hitting .291/.370/.446 with 24 steals for Hagerstown) could fit into this group (although Robles likely would only be moved as a piece for a non-rental), as could hitters like Drew Ward and Chris Bostick, ML-ready starters like Taylor Jordan and Taylor Hill, and mid-rotation prospects like Austin Voth and Nick Pivetta.
I would consider guys like Joaquin Benoit, Adam Lind, and Gerardo Parra around this level.
Some players who could make sense at this level include ML-ready relievers like Abel de los Santos, Sammy Solis and Matt Grace, 4th starter prospects like Austen Williams, Drew Van Orden, and Hector Silvestre, change of scenery candidates such as Brian Goodwin, Jake Johansen, or Drew Vettleson, or toolsy lower level hitters like Rafael Bautista, Edwin Lora, and Telmito Agustin.
There are too many middle relievers, utility infielders, and fourth outfielders on the open market to be worth listing them all out.
In this range, we're probably looking at older guys who have shown some type of plus-looking tool in the past (Jason Martinson, Matt Skole, Matt Purke), guys who have put up good stats with underwhelming tools (Jake Walsh and Jose Marmolejos-Diaz), back of the rotation types like Dakota Bacus and John Simms, or lottery ticket-type pitchers with projectable frames like Matt Spann.
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