The Washington Nationals went into last year's trade deadline with one of the best records in baseball, allowing the club to stand pat and still run away with the NL East title. This year, with the club fighting to stay above .500, the Nats may go in search of a veteran right-handed bat, a source tells Bill Ladson of MLB.com.
More Nationals: Nats option Espinoza
Entering Thursday, the Nats are 35-36 on the season -- good for second place in the division but a far cry from where most expected the team to be at this point. The club has been beset by a number of major injuries -- Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos, most notably -- but it has been the lack of performance on offense from 2012 role players Danny Espinosa, Steve Lombardozzi, and Tyler Moore that has really left the club in its current predicament.
Moore, 26, struggled so thoroughly in his first 38 games this season -- .158/.206/.274 with two home runs in 102 plate appearances -- that Washington was forced to demote him to Triple-A two weeks ago so he could "find" his swing. Things aren't going well for Moore through his first eight games with Syracuse, so the Nats may need to look elsewhere to add some much-needed righty power to their bench.
A quick look at league batting splits gives a good indication of why Washington may want a right-handed bat. The club's 11-8 record against left-handed starters is among the better numbers in the division, but is a bit misleading as Nats have the lowest OPS (.610) against southpaws in the National League.
The Nats aren't faring much better against right-handed pitching -- their .684 OPS is 12th in the league -- but Jayson Werth is currently the club's only established outfielder who hits exclusively from the right side, so their need for a righty bat is more pressing. The rest of the NL East isn't exactly teeming with southpaw starters -- the Braves and Phillies have two, while the Mets and Marlins have just one -- but the Nats need to do something to improve their league-worst numbers.
It's unknown who the Nats would pursue if they did indeed start the hunt for a righty bench bat, so you are free to speculate at your heart's content. (e.g. I hear Manny Ramirez wants to return to the MLB.) Ladson's source believes that the "biggest boost" to the team would be getting Harper and Ramos back, so it's possible the Nats wait until those two return and see how that affects the lineup before making any moves.
No firm timetable has been set for either Harper or Ramos, but the team is hopeful they'll be back on the field in a couple of weeks.