A 9-0 lead with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. Was Friday night's 11-10 loss to Atlanta a turning point in the season? We won't know until September, but its increasingly apparent that the Nats need to make a move as the pennant race heats up.
General Manager Mike Rizzo can take care of business with one call. A call to Chicago Cubs General Manager Theo Epstein. Epstein has two players the Nationals need. Pitcher Ryan Dempster and catcher Geovany Soto. Although the Nats have a deep pitching staff, its ridiculous to assume they can absorb the loss of Strasburg in September and win this race. Rizzo also needs to address the weak point in the field.... catcher. The loss of Wilson Ramos has been far greater than fans realize and an upgrade is in order. Ramos, out for the season with a torn ACL, hit 15 home runs, drove in 52 and hit .267 last season and was solid defensively.
What do we know for sure. We know Epstein is in full rebuild mode and Dempster will be moved. It's safe to say that Soto is also very available. Dempster won't come cheap as he is arguably the hottest pitcher in baseball right now. Dempster had a 33 inning scoreless streak snapped on Friday night, allowing four runs in six innings. Dempster is 5-4 with a sparkling 2.11 ERA and an equally impressive 1.05 WHIP. Make no mistake, acquiring Dempster is a "now" move as he is 35 years old and in the final year of his contract.
How about Soto? Geovany is 29 years old and is arbitration eligible at the end of the season. But you know what? That doesn't matter, neither does the fact that he is hitting .191 with six home runs and 13 RBI for the season. Soto burst onto the scene in 2008 with 23 home runs, 86 RBI and a .285 average. Soto struggled with a sophomore slump in '09, but his last two seasons have been almost identical to Ramos numbers. Jesus Flores cannot do it alone and would be better served as a backup or alternate to Soto.
So what's it going to take? The Nationals can offer a combination of veterans and prospects, much like they did to acquire Gio Gonzalez. That worked out pretty well didn't it? Lets take a look at what the Nats can put on the table.
Roger Bernadina OF
Steve Lombardozzi Utility
John Lannan SP
Craig Stammen RP
Ryan Mattheus RP
Sandy Leon C
Chris Marrero 1B
Tyler Moore 1B/OF
Eury Perez OF
Anthony Rendon Infield
Alex Meyer SP
Obviously, you would like to get this done without including Rendon and/or Meyer, but much depends on what other clubs are offering. If the Nationals are indeed in the running for Dempster, its going to be costly... and painful.
Do the Nationals have what it takes to acquire Dempster and Soto? Absolutely. Do they need them? We don't know for sure, but what is certain, when you have a chance to get to the post season, you have to go for it.