WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The Nationals (57-39) have found themselves at the top the National League
pennant race. Baseball teams who are acclimated to making a World Series
run know that they have to add a piece or two during the trade
deadline, not only to bolster depth, but to also put additional pressure
on the teams surrounding them in the standings.
When you have one of the youngest teams in Major League Baseball, trading away prospects (especially pitchers) is not something to shed tears over.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, a likely opponent for the Nationals in the postseason, upgraded their potent lineup by obtaining Hanley Ramirez early on Wednesday. Remember the Dodgers swept the Nats back in late April. Washington can't sit still, in case an integral part of the team goes down with a serious injury.
Five trade candidates
James Shields (Starting Pitcher, Tampa Rays)
2012 stats: 8-6, 4.39 ERA, 124 K's, 1.44 WHIP
Why him: I realize his 2012 statistics aren't jaw-dropping, but there's a reason his nickname is "Big Game James." Shields, 30, was instrumental during the Rays 2008 World Series run and was the only Tampa pitcher to register a win against the Phillies. Last season, Shields registered 11 complete games and finished third in the American League Cy Young voting. The Rays have reportedly been shopping him to the Angels.
Matt Garza (Starting Pitcher, Chicago Cubs)
2012 stats: 5-7, 3.91 ERA, 96 K's, 1.18 WHIP
Why him: If Matt Garza is your fifth starter in September, opposing teams will cringe. The 28-year-old is known to have some of the best stuff in baseball -- two-seamer, four-seamer, breaking curveball, a slider in the high 80's and a changeup. And remember Garza was named MVP of the ALCS in 2008, when he dominated the Red Sox in a decisive game seven.
Edinson Volquez (Starting Pitcher, San Diego Padres)
2012 stats: 6-7, 3.30 ERA, 117 strikeouts, 1.32 WHIP
Why him: Volquez, 29, is having a fantastic July -- just six earned runs in four starts with 29 strikeouts and a 1.93 ERA. Though he hasn't proven much in the postseason level, his addition to the team will come as injury insurance. Ross Detwiler would likely slide back into the long reviler role and Tom Gorzelanny would be designated for assignment.
Miguel Montero (Catcher, Arizona Diamondbacks)
2012 stats: .275/.372/.416, 9 HR's, 55 RBI's
Why him: Jesus Flores average has dipped to .228, a seriously liability at the end of the batting order. How much more comfortable would you be seeing Montero's named penciled in at the number seven or eight hole in the lineup? A lefty bat, Montero is crushing right-handed pitching in 2012, hitting .307 with 40 RBI's. The D-Backs just traded second basemen Ryan Roberts, so Montero, 29, may come cheaper than you think.
Ryan Doumit (Catcher, Minnesota Twins)
2012 stats: .287/.340/.473, 10 HR's, 46 RBI's
Why him: The longtime switch-hitting Pittsburgh Pirate is having a career year out in Minnesota, where the enormous park isn't giving his statistics justice. Doumit, 31, is primarily a catcher, but can play first base and corner outfield. Though the least sexy name on this list, Doumit might be the most realistic trade candidate. Nats general manager Mike Rizzo seems adamant about sticking to his guns and leaves the pitching rotation where it's at. Washington's ownership might have to swoop in and demand Rizzo add another piece.