The Washington Nationals are just four games out of first place in the National League East, with nobody between them and the division leading Mets. Despite hanging with the Mets they sit below .500 and have been outscored by their opposition on the season. Boasting a core of players that came from much farther back than their current situation to win the 2019 World Series, they are not a team that is ready to sell just yet. But should they slump coming out of the All-Star break, a team with several of its best players approaching free agency could be tempted to attempt to trade for the pieces that could help them perform a quick re-build around their superstar Juan Soto.
The first name on everyone’s mind when it comes to the Nationals is Max Scherzer. The three time Cy Young award winner is pitching as well as anyone not named DeGrom this year and is in the last year of a seven-year, $210 million contract. His status as a rental, combined with a significant financial hit might make Scherzer more obtainable that he would appear at first glance.
The Nationals also have several players that were brought in on short-term deals and are having productive seasons for the team. The most notable player on that list is left-fielder Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber and the Nationals have a mutual option after this year, but it is unlikely that the 28-year-old will exercise his end of the deal. He was in the middle of a dynamic power surge when he hit the injured list due to a calf-strain. Schwarber will be out for several weeks, but could be back and healthy before the trade deadline.
Schwarber hit .253/.340/.570 with 25 home runs while he was healthy, and looked every bit the dangerous hitter that the Cubs had during the beginning of his career. There would certainly be a tradeoff in defense however, since Schwarber is in just the fourth percentile for Outs Above Average while playing the field. The Yankees already have the lowest left-field WAR in the American League this season, so Schwarber would at least provide a boost to the offensive side of that position.
Josh Harrison is another player putting together a fine season for the Nationals on a one-year deal. The majority of Harrison’s games have been at second base this year, where he could provide the Yankees with a veteran presence. The Yankees could certainly be interested and fit him despite their self imposed budget restraints, since Harrison is signed for only $1 million. Harrison has produced 1.7 WAR so far this year and is hitting .278/.358/.388 on the season.
Former Yankee Starlin Castro could also be available, though he would be a stretch to warrant bringing back. He is not too far off of his career average with a 93 OPS+ on the year while playing second and third base. Castro is in the second year of a two year, $12 million deal.
If the team is looking for bullpen upgrades, the Yankees will certainly have their eye on Brad Hand. The lefty reliever has posted a 2.43 ERA with 19 saves in 21 chances. As Aroldis Chapman struggles and Darren O’Day has hit the injured list again, the Yankees could be looking for some reinforcements to sure up their bullpen.
Daniel Hudson is one more option to keep an eye on, and is on an expiring contract. After throwing the last pitch of the 2019 World Series, Hudson struggled in 2020 but has regained his form so far this year. He has 35 strikeouts in just 24.1 innings with an 0.904 WHIP.
If the Yankees are looking for the biggest impact for this year and next, they could attempt to pry Trea Turner away from the Nationals. Turner has one more year of arbitration next season and would be a very attractive piece as his .317/.365/.512 line on the season has helped him generate 3.2 WAR just past the halfway point of the season. He is also one of the fastest players in the league and his 18 stolen bases so far this season are equal to the entire Yankees team. Trading for Turner would be a true blockbuster deal and force the Yankees to trade valuable prospects or pieces of their major league roster.