Nationals are heating up

Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was wheeling and dealing Saturday, trading starting pitcher Jason Marquis to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league middle infielder Zach Walters. The Nationals had four clubs that had expressed interest in Marquis, but the Diamondbacks were the only club willing to assume the entire $2.47 million on his contract as well as deal a solid prospect such as Walters.

Marquis, 32, was 8-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 20 starts and a WHIP of 1.417 with Washington. He won in double digits six of the last seven years and has pitched at least 190 innings or more in five seasons. He was originally drafted by the Braves in the first round of the 1996 first-year player draft. The Diamondbacks are his sixth major league team.

Walters, 21, was the Diamondbacks' ninth-round draft pick in 2010. He was hitting .302 with a .377 OBP, 27 doubles, nine home runs, 56 RBIs and 12 stolen bases for the Diamondbacks' low Class A South Bend affiliate in the Midwest League. He’s a switch-hitting shortstop who might have to be moved to second base. He’s a 55 runner with good hands and below-average range. His bat should play and has some pop.




Nationals deal Hairston to Brewers for minor leaguer

The Nationals began the day by trading utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for minor league outfielder Erik Komatsu. The deal saves the Nationals between $1.2 million and 1.3 million. Hairston, 35, gives the Brewers a solid utility player who has played five positions this year, including 44 games at third base. He posted a .342 OBP and plays solid defense with an above-average arm.

The Nationals did extremely well in this deal acquiring Komatsu, 23, a center fielder who originally was drafted in the eighth round in 2008 out of Cal State Fullerton. He’s an above-average runner, a high on-base percentage player from the left side and at worst a fourth outfielder in the major leagues. The reason he projects as a fourth outfielder is that he probably won't stay in center and he doesn’t have enough power for the corners. However, to save at least $1.1 million and get this type of prospect for a 35-year old veteran is a good return.




Nats closing in on deal for Span

The Nationals are not finished, either. They continue to negotiate with the Minnesota Twins in a deal that will bring center fielder Denard Span to Washington. The Nationals are hoping the Twins would accept a package including Tyler Clippard and Roger Bernadina but that is not going to happen. Instead, according to a Twins source, Minnesota is demanding that closer Drew Storen and another legitimate prospect is included in the deal. The Twins are apparently very intested in getting second-base prospect Stephen Lombardozzi in the deal.

Both sides of been working on this deal for quite some time, and it seems just a matter of time before the Nationals agree to put Storen in the deal. The Nationals have been searching for a center fielder since moving to Washington and have been unable to draft or trade for a long-term solution. With a long-term plan of Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper at the corners, Span would solidify an outfield in D.C. for years.

Storen is an impact closer and would certainly help the Twins in this year’s pennant race as well as the next few years. Rookie Ben Revere has taken over center field for the Twins and has become a favorite of manager Ron Gardenhire, making Span expendable. The Nationals can move Clippard to the closing role and with a farm system now loaded with arms will be able to replace Storen a lot easier than finding another center fielder. The Nats did explore deals for B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn, but because of control (proximity to free agency and arbitration) issues and Span’s off the charts make-up, this will be an easy decision for the Nationals brass.

It might take to the deadline, but it will be a win/win for all involved.