Reports: Nationals preparing to either buy or sell at trade deadline

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Reports: Nats preparing to either buy or sell at deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Nationals plan to wait until just before the July 30 trade deadline to decide whether they will buy and compete for a division title or sell and look ahead to next season, President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters Tuesday.

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Washington (44-49) enters Tuesday night’s game against the Miami Marlins trailing the New York Mets by six games for the NL East lead. In between them are the Philadelphia Phillies (47-45) and Atlanta Braves (45-47), painting a muddled picture with no clear favorite to secure the automatic postseason bid for winning the division.

Rizzo spent the offseason adding pieces to a roster that hoped to return to the World Series after missing the playoffs in 2020. However, a coronavirus outbreak decimated the Nationals’ roster just before the season began and injuries have continued to plague them all summer. A 19-9 stretch in June pulled them to within two games of New York but they lost that ground with a tough NL West swing sandwiched around the All-Star Break.

Now, the Nationals have just nine games remaining before the deadline — all against beatable teams in the Marlins, Orioles and Phillies. Rizzo and Co. are waiting to see how Washington does over the first chunk of that stretch before determining its future, including whether or not three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer will still don the Curly W come August.

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Though noting that a deal involving Scherzer would be unlikely, Rizzo didn’t rule out the possibility that the Nationals trade him with his contract expiring this winter. If available, Scherzer would represent one of the biggest names on the trade market and his performance this season (2.83 ERA in 18 starts) would warrant a significant return even as a rental.

Yet regardless of where the Nationals are at the deadline, standing pat doesn’t appear to be part of their plans.