How they got here:
34-45 with a month to go before the deadline, the Washington Nationals had some thinking things were different when they hovered around .500 through the first two months of the season. 26-26 on May 31st, the Nats proceeded to lose 19 of 27 in June to drop eleven games under .500, bringing the DC fanbase back down to earth in spite of the baseball-wide frenzy that's surrounded the rise through the system and eventual debut of '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg. A team that was built with defense and pitching in mind once again leads baseball in errors and is being led by Strasburg, their 21-year-old rookie starter, since free agent signing Jason Marquis ended up on the DL and the de facto ace of the two previous seasons, John Lannan, pitched his way down to Double-A. Four weeks away from the July 31st deadline, rumors have surfaced that the Nats might trade two of their middle of the order bats, but DC GM Mike Rizzo won't commit either way as to whether the Nationals will be buyers or sellers this time around.
Washington has spent the last four years rebuilding the barren system they inherited from Montreal with a focus on stockpiling young pitching, but the Nationals have had very little positional talent emerge from the ranks. Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond, two of the young stars on the Major League roster, were both products of Expos' Draft classes, and Ryan Zimmerman's the only hitter drafted by the Nats currently on the active roster. After dumping Elijah Dukes early in Spring Training, the Nats got very little production out of right field as they experimented with several options and platoons before settling on the surprisingly effective Bernadina over the last month, but some see the 26-year-old outfielder as more suited for center. Nyjer Morgan's struggles this season (and his age) have raised questions about whether or not he's the long-term solution in center, but with Josh Willingham's name in the news as deadline rumors heat up, it's clear the Nationals would like to add a power bat to the outfield since no outfield prospects are close to major-league ready and 2010 no.1 pick Bryce Harper is believed to be at least 2-3 years away.
Potentially available players:
Adam Dunn, whose 2-year/$20M dollar deal expires after this season.
Josh Willingham, who's having a solid season, is under control for one more year and relatively affordable.
Livan Hernandez, who's been traded before, bringing back young pitching talent like left-hander Matt Chico and right-hander Garrett Mock.
Matt Capps, signed after he was non-tendered by the Pirates, who's under control for next year and due a significant raise halfway through a strong 2010 campaign..
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez? Not likely with Washington's backstop situation.
Cristian Guzman? Still expensive for half a season, but still hitting close to .300.
The Nats are still looking for young pitching to complement Stephen Strasburg, and are in need of a power bat in the outfield. The middle infield of the future should include Ian Desmond and shortstop prospect Danny Espinosa with Ryan Zimmerman at third, but if the Nats trade Adam Dunn they'll need to add a first base option since Chris Marrero, the top first base prospect, is still a question mark and not seen as MLB-ready any time soon. The Nationals are looking for young pitching and young MLB-ready position players to sum up and conclude.