Given the position the Washington Nationals are in, the idea of a strong push for New York Yankees closer Andrew Miller would not be inconceivable.
An Andrew Miller frenzy is set to develop throughout the next five days leading up to the August 1 deadline, effectively earning Brian Cashman tedious nights and baggy eyes. While the New York Yankees would love to keep a firm grasp on their dynamic lefty slinger, pure reality has to be faced.
If an offer overwhelms the bright front office minds in the Bronx, they will not hesitate to part with an attraction currently possessing two more years of contract stability. With that said, which team can and will “overwhelm” the Yankees?
Judging from the recent return on the Aroldis Chapman trade, it is scary to think what a guy with a 1.39 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 77 strikeouts in 45.1 innings can bring back. Not to mention the minuscule number of free passes (seven) Miller hands out.
Sure, multiple high-level prospects will be demanded. If Cashman does not hear the exact uttered words he desires, he will simply entertain other offers.
However, there is one team, in particular, that can benefit immensely from Miller’s services. Desperately trying to right the wrongdoings from a year ago and avoid a second half downturn, the Washington Nationals may just be that team that blows the Yankees away.
Let’s face it: the Nats have no one to blame but themselves for what transpired in the second half of 2015. Matt Williams lost control of his clubhouse, egotistical personalities clashed, the front office whiffed on both Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman, and a team with lofty expectations took a passenger seat as the New York Mets steamrolled their way to a division crown.
This year has featured a managerial change, a pivotal free agent signing, the meshing of a team with exciting talent, and a nice first-place cushion for the majority of the season. This past week, however, has seen the division lead dwindle to four thanks in large part to a 2-5 record produced by the team. Does one dare think that the Nats are heading down a similar road in 2016?
Well, they probably shouldn’t. Especially if the front office addresses a key area of need which comes at the back-end of the bullpen.
Remember, 90-year-old Ted Lerner, the principal owner of the organization, likely wants to witness a World Series title in his lifetime. Believe it or not, this team, stacked up against a formidable National League, gives him the best chance he’s had since the franchise hit the ground running.
Why would they run away from the spotlight?
The back-end dilemma stems directly from the guy who was the main culprit of last year’s tension, Jonathan Papelbon. When he was acquired from Philadelphia mid-season, he certainly did his part, but Drew Storen evidently did not. Taking offense to a loss of closer’s duties, Storen was absolutely dismal out of a setup role and once things went down hill for Papelbon, Bryce Harper was the first guy to give him some lip.
This year has provided a completely different story. With Papelbon not doing the job, surrendering seven earned runs in his last 0.2 innings pitched, it will be his call as to whether he will righteously accept an eighth inning demotion. A renowned closer in baseball throughout the past decade, the state of the clubhouse and the potential outlook of the season will be placed in his hands.
After missing out on Chapman for a second straight year, it is certainly not about a lack of prospects, it is about a lack of preference. If Andrew Miller wants to close games in a pennant race right in the heart of the nation’s capital, the opportunity will be there.
Stacking up on position players in Monday’s deal, the Yankees can earn their fair share of young pitching from Mike Rizzo.
Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and A.J. Cole would all be pieces of attraction in a potential Miller swap. All three of the hypothetical trade chips rank top 10 in the Nats organization. The scale size will likely allow the Yanks to pry two of those coveted right-handed arms at the very least.
While it is not exactly Cubs desperation, why waste the opportunity to reach the Fall Classic for the first time in franchise history? The core of young talent the Nats have prided themselves on for years now have the opportunity to serve as anchors to something special, with one additional piece.
When you speak of Rizzo, you speak of a guy trying to preserve his own job. When you think of Dusty Baker, you think of a job well done. Even so, the first one to make an unfavorable move is the first one out the door.
With the likes of the Indians and Rangers almost certain to make bids for the southpaw, it is a fellow east coast team that can let the Yankees name their price, have their way, and build for the upcoming years.
Time will tell, but Cashman-Rizzo conversations may become extremely prominent over the coming days.