After taking three of four games from the Indians, the Yankees entered the All-Star break at exactly .500. They are seven and a half games behind the first-place Orioles in the division, and five and a half games back in the wild card race. The Yankees have not played well, yet their plan for the deadline remains unclear. Given the mediocrity of the team, and their struggle to stay over the .500 mark, selling seems to make the most sense. Could the Yankees make a deal with the Nationals?
Last year, the Nationals finished in second place in their division, but were unable to earn one of the wild card spots due to the terrific seasons that the Cubs and Pirates had. The Nationals currently have a six-game lead over the Mets and the Marlins, and they could be destined for the postseason if they can keep up this level of play. According to their GM Mike Rizzo, the Nationals don't necessarily need to make any improvements to their team before the trade deadline. However, he wouldn't turn down an upgrade "if the right possibility comes."
One area where the Nationals could use some help is in the back end of the bullpen. While the Nationals have had one of the better bullpens in baseball, averaging 9.50 K/9 with a 3.11 ERA and 3.29 FIP, they could stand to make an improvement over Jonathan Papelbon. He hasn't been terrible, but he did miss a few weeks with a strained right intercostal muscle (rib area), and his strikeout numbers have dropped off quite a bit over the last few years.
Just a few weeks ago, the Nationals were said to be interested in Aroldis Chapman and/or Andrew Miller, and both are having better seasons than Papelbon. The Nationals have been reluctant to take on payroll in the past, but Rizzo indicated that the team would prefer to give up money instead of top prospects. With that being said, it seems unlikely that the Yankees and Nationals would be able to workout a deal for Chapman. Brian Cashman has said that he would want a top five prospect in exchange for Chapman, despite the fact that Chapman would be a short-term rental.
On the other hand, Miller is signed through 2018, and could fill the void that the Nationals will be faced with when Papelbon's contract expires at the end of the season. The Nationals' bullpen isn't in critical need of help, but they might be willing to part with some top prospects in exchange for one of the best closers in baseball.
The Nationals have also been rumored to be interested in outfielder Jay Bruce, since their lineup could use another bat. The most enticing hitter that the Yankees could offer would obviously be Carlos Beltran, and they might as well part ways with him before his contract is up at the end of the year. Although his bat would certainly help any team, he would be a much better fit with an AL team, such as the White Sox. The Nationals might not want to take the defensive hit that would come with Beltran playing right field, but it would be neat to see him go to a contender and have a shot at a ring.
Should the Yankees consider selling to the Nationals? What kind of package would you want in return?