The season is spiraling out of control for the Washington Nationals, but these five players might be able to save them.
Losers of 15 of their last 19 games, the Washington Nationals are in a tailspin and have fallen below .500 and currently sit 5.5 games out of a playoff spot in the National League. They are even further out in the NL East, trailing the surprising Atlanta Braves by seven games. With no letup in sight for the Baby Braves (and the equally surprising Philadelphia Phillies), the Nats look to be in real trouble.
What was supposed to be a final send-off for superstar Bryce Harper as he heads into free agency is turning into a nightmare for the Nationals. If things don’t turn around soon, the team could be forced to do the unthinkable and put Harper on the block.
The Nationals have struggled with injuries all year, and have not been able to get untracked. There is some relief coming in the schedule, which could allow them to regroup and maintain contact with the rest of the contenders. Mike Rizzo has the backing of an aggressive ownership group that is desperate to win and will greenlight just about any move he wants to make. It might take a miracle at this point, but these five players stand out as potential targets who could propel the Nationals back into the playoffs.
5. Whit Merrifield
Thanks to Matt Adams, Mark Reynolds and Howie Kendrick, the Nationals have received plenty of production from their role players this season. Granted, all three have been forced into much larger roles than originally expected due to injuries, but they are hitting well. Kendrick is done for the year with a ruptured Achilles.
The loss of Kendrick, and the slow return to form for second baseman Daniel Murphy, is a big cause for concern for the Nationals. Murphy’s backup, Wilmer Difo, continues to post weak offensive numbers and cannot be counted on for much more than late-inning defense.
With the Kansas City Royals beginning to shop infielder Whit Merrifield, the Nats should keep an eye on his availability. A full rebuild needs to happen in Kansas City, and Merrifield is their best trade chip. He is hitting .288/.358/.411 this year with 24 doubles and 16 stolen bases. Merrifield is a very versatile player, making him even more valuable to an injury-prone team like the Nationals
With no guarantees that Murphy or Ryan Zimmerman will return to form in the second half, the Nationals need to consider other options to fill out their infield, and Merrifield looks more likely by the day to be aggressively shopped by the Royals.