Portions previously appearing in this very space one year ago:

The Nationals are 52-53, meaning they’re close enough to the NL East lead to be considered buyers but middling enough to be considered sellers.  A look at previous July 31 moves:

2014-– infielder Asdrubal Cabrera (more like a stocking stuffer than a gift wrapped under the tree) was brought to DC for reserve Zach Walters.  Cabrera didn’t set the world on fire, but was a decided upgrade over Danny Espinosa at second base (just one error and 20 runs + 21 RBI over 49 games; Espy had 31 runs + 27 RBI over 114 games played).  Walters last saw action in a Major League game over two years ago.

2015– closer Jonathan Papelbon was brought to South Capitol Street to shore up the bullpen.  The price tag?  Nick Pivetta (6-9 with a 4.82 ERA this season for the Phillies).  And the team’s mental well-being. Instead, the veteran was ineffective, Drew Storen went on a downward spiral that ended when he broke his hand punching a locker, and Papelbon put his hand on the throat of NL MVP Bryce Harper in a dugout dustup.  Decidedly a bad move.

2016– new year, new closer.  This time it was Pittsburgh’s Marc Melancon…and the price tag was pitchers Felipe Rivero (44 saves over the last season and a half and an All Star appearance this year in DC) and Taylor Hearn (currently posting a 3.55 ERA over 19 starts with AA Altoona).  Melancon delivered 17 saves in 18 chances with an ERA of 1.82 in 30 appearances and almost as important allowed the team to jettison Papelbon.  A definite win for the team.

2017- bullpen depth was the key with the acquistion of Brandon Kintzler for 20-year-old left-hander Tyler Watson and $500,000 in international bonus pool money.  Watson’s made 12 starts this year at Class A Cedar Rapids after beginning the season in high A ball while Kintzler was the 7th inning man last year (3.46 ERA over 27 appearances) and saw setup work for the most part this season.

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