The 2023 MLB Trade Deadline is a week from today, with teams having until 6 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Aug. 1 to complete deals. From the Nationals' perspective, they traded in their big chips the last two seasons, and they are all the better for it, as painful as it was in real time.
Although this deadline figures to be quieter, the Nats have one obvious solid trade piece in third baseman Jeimer Candelario and plenty more options depending on how aggressive general manager Mike Rizzo wants to get. For this exercise, we will examine all the Nats' trade candidates by my estimated likelihood of that player getting moved. And I will throw in a bonus mock trade for each player. Each mock trade should be viewed as independent of one another as most proposed trades will target similar types of players.
Let's start with the candidate who is certain to be moved within the next week.
3B Jeimer Candelario
This winter, the Nats signed three veterans – Candelario, Dominic Smith and Corey Dickerson – to small deals hoping for rebound seasons that would turn into trade chips. They struck gold with Candelario, who has played more like the player who was once a former a top prospect and among the league leaders in doubles. Candelario hasn't just been solid, he has been one of the best third basemen in Major League Baseball this season and he should fetch a solid return for a rental.
Trade Likelihood: 99%
Mock Trade: Candelario and Corey Dickerson to the Yankees for SS Trey Sweeney
The Marlins seem the best fit for Candelario, but I don't love the match with their farm system unless they would abandon 2021 first-round pick Kahlil Watson so early. Sweeney is a perfect trade for both sides. I don't buy for one second that the Yankees are looking to retool and shed salary. They're the Yankees. They're a good week away from being on the right side of the postseason picture. They have a black hole at third base and Dickerson could be a guy they hope gets hot and provides pop in a small sample. Additionally, Sweeney is blocked by Anthony Volpe and other young infielders in their system, so he is expendable. I have seen Sweeney in person a handful of times, and I think he would be a good fit for the Nats' rebuild. Sweeney is a capable defender at both short at second base and has pop from the left side that combines good walk numbers but also some swing and miss. He is close to MLB ready and in my opinion could very well steal the starting second base job from Luis Garcia next season. At minimum, I see a cheap utility player for several years.
RHP Carl Edwards Jr.
Edwards is a tricky one seeing that he has been on the shelf for a while now. But he is seemingly very close to returning to action. Given the low cost to acquire him, it seems likely someone will give it a go and Rizzo will just move him for the offer he likes best.
Trade Likelihood: 80%
Mock Trade: Edwards to the Marlins for LHP Josh Simpson
For a player like Edwards, I'd like to see the Nats take the same approach they did when acquiring Lane Thomas for Jon Lester and target 40-man roster guys in uncertain situations that may be a better fit with the Nats. Simpson is a 25-year-old lefty reliever who is returning from injury and has always missed bats and the strike zone. He is reminiscent of Nats prospect Mitchell Parker. With the Marlins now competitive, they may not have the patience to deal with that, while the Nats could easily carry him on their 40-man roster for now.
RHP Kyle Finnegan
Finnegan has emerged as one of the Nats' best relievers over the past three years, but he took a while to make it to the majors and he will turn 32 before the season ends. With two years of team control left, Finnegan could conceivably be around to help this team once it is ready to start winning again. But I subscribe to the theory that rebuilding teams should trade relievers as soon as they get the chance unless said reliever is a young elite reliever. I'm not sure Rizzo shares that viewpoint. We'll find out.
Trade Likelihood: 52%
The Dodgers have dealt with injuries and a less effective bullpen than usual. Finnegan is the type of reliever the Dodgers do a great job maximizing and using in advantageous situations. They're a smart team that will use his reverse splits well and avoid bad situations. Knack and Kopp are two pitchers with up arrows of whom the Dodgers always seem to have a dozen. The Nats could take a stab at the injured Ryan Pepiot or Dustin May here, too.
1B Dominic Smith
After a bad start to his Nats tenure, Smith has really stepped up his play this month. He could be emerging as a legit trade chip. He's a lefty bat who could play left field in an emergency but offers a contact bat that could be useful in a postseason setting and he's a perfect defensive replacement for a team with a poor defensive first baseman. The complicating factor is the Nats value his defense in giving confidence to young middle infielders CJ Abrams and Luis Garcia, as well as his mentorship of said players. Rizzo would have to receive value he believes outweighs Smith's clubhouse presence.
Trade Likelihood: 40%
Mock Trade: Smith to the Brewers for SS Freddy Zamora
This could be a really smart trade for both teams. The Brewers are fighting the Reds for the NL Central crown despite a disastrous first-base situation. Smith is a clear upgrade right now over Owen Miller and the injured Rowdy Tellez. Meanwhile, Zamora is an injury-prone player who is bouncing back with a nice season but likely expendable from Milwaukee's perspective.
OF Corey Dickerson
Dickerson got injured right away and has not done much since returning to the lineup. If he doesn't get traded in the next week, he will probably be released, so the likelihood of a deal is low. But you never know. Ehire Adrianza was traded last year.
Trade Likelihood: 25%
Mock Trade: See Above
OF Lane Thomas
Speaking of the Trade Deadline, Lane Thomas has become one of the best deadline pickups in team history. Facing a DFA in a loaded Cardinals system in 2021, the Nats got Thomas for a struggling Jon Lester in a deal that wasn't reported until after the Deadline. Since then, Thomas has become an All-Star caliber player in Washington. Rizzo would need to receive a very strong offer to move Thomas. At this point, the team probably imagines an outfield mid-2024 with Thomas sharing real estate with James Wood and Dylan Crews.
Trade Likelihood: 15%
Despite Thomas' upward trajectory, the Nats are deep in outfield prospects and a package like this could convince Rizzo to sell high. Rizzo usually prefers quality over quantity in player acquisition, but a move like this would significantly bolster the depth of the farm system while adding upside, too. Cantillo is a near-MLB-ready lefty. Fox is a toolsy second baseman and Gaddis is a big arm who could be a back-rotation starter with the possibility to be a shutdown reliever soon. Cleveland has a nightmarish right field situation and former elite prospect George Valera's stock has tumbled significantly.
LHP Patrick Corbin
Everyone's favorite player to discuss when talking trades. Corbin has rebounded this season from the disastrous previous three seasons, but his contract is a nightmare for Competitive Balance Tax purposes. So even if the Nats pay off the remainder of his deal that runs through next season, the acquiring team still takes a big hit on their CBT number. So that immediately limits the suitors. You're essentially looking at a small-market team that won't want to pay a dime of Corbin's salary and won't approach the CBT threshold with Corbin's hit. From the Nats' side, for better or worse, Corbin takes the ball every time and is giving them innings. That's going to be very important down the stretch with MacKenzie Gore and Jake Irvin likely due to be shut down in September to save their arms. It makes things very tricky and unlikely. This might be a better conversation this winter.
Trade Likelihood: 7%
Mock Trade: Corbin to the Guardians for LHP Doug Nikhazy
OK, back to Cleveland we go. With Shane Bieber out, the Guardians may want a veteran starter and they can absorb the CBT hit. Assuming the Nats pay the remainder of Corbin's salary, Nikhazy is a lefty starter who features more as a floor-over-ceiling type who maybe develops into bullpen piece.
SS Ildemaro Vargas
Vargas has been a nice find for the Nats and a team looking for utility bench depth could be interested. However, the Nats have nothing at shortstop behind Abrams and would be scouring the waiver wire if they moved Vargas and Abrams were to get injured. Vargas has seemingly more value to the Nats for the immediate future than the miniscule return he would garner.
Trade Likelihood: 5%
Mock Trade: Vargas to the Red Sox for RHP Noah Dean
The Red Sox have gotten little from the shortstop position. Dean was a fifth-round pick last year with bad stats and a good arm.
RHP Trevor Williams
Williams has been a solid veteran pickup for the Nats this season but being under contract for 2024 probably hurts his value in some ways as most teams would probably prefer him as a rental for a couple months with no obligations beyond this season. Like Corbin, this may be a better conversation this winter.
Trade Likelihood: 5%
Mock Trade: Williams to the Blue Jays for UTIL Cavan Biggio
The Jays are in the playoff hunt but have serious concerns with rotation depth. Williams would give them a mostly dependable starter who has also flourished in relief. Biggio is a declining asset who could be DFAd after the season. Might be a change of scenery candidate.