Nationals avoid deadline deals

Nationals find market not to their liking

MIAMI -- Nationals interim general manager Jim Bowden would have loved to improve the team's struggling offense and add another left-handed reliever, but he couldn't make a deal before the trade deadline because opposing teams wanted too much in return.

According to Bowden, contending teams wanted players from the Nationals' farm system and young players from the Major League roster, but the teams were unwilling to give Washington a No. 1 starter or an impact power hitter.

Bowden wouldn't say which Minor Leaguers the opposing teams wanted, but according to a baseball source, pitchers Bill Bray, Armando Galarraga and Jason Bergman, as well as third baseman Kory Casto and shortstop Ian Desmond, were looked at.

Bowden said the Nationals were not going to be like the 1987 Tigers or the 2002 Expos by mortgaging the future for a veteran player. The Tigers acquired Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz, while the Expos gave away Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips to Cleveland for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew, and Jason Bay to the Mets for Lou Collier.

"We could have made some deals that caused us to give up key guys and not get a player back that would be impactful," Bowden said. "That didn't make any sense for our direction. When I took over, our goal was to build the farm system. I'm not going to be selfish and tear down what we have."

On the Major League side, teams wanted John Patterson, relievers Chad Cordero and Luis Ayala and outfielder Ryan Church, but the Nationals quickly turned them down. The Mariners, for example, wanted Patterson for reliever Eddie Guardado, but the Nationals declined.

"I'm not going to trade any of our pitching. It's easier to fix hitting in the offseason than pitching," Bowden said.

Manager Frank Robinson was pleased that the Nationals were kept intact. Although the team entered Sunday's action on a six-game losing streak and no longer in first place, Robinson said there is no need to press the panic button and make a lot of changes.

"Naturally, if something came along or if we could do something to improve this club, we certainly would have done it," Robinson said. "We have the pieces to be successful. The one thing I've said before, the worst thing that we do in this game is panic. The one thing you have to do in this game is be patient. If you go out now and start tearing this club apart and bring in a lot of people, you are saying that you are wrong having the people [to start the season] in the first place."

The Nationals didn't leave empty handed. A day after the All-Star Game, the Nationals acquired outfielder Preston Wilson from the Rockies and signed left-handed reliever Mike Stanton, who was released by the Yankees.

While Stanton has done the job getting hitters out, Wilson has struggled with Washington. Wilson hasn't been able to avoid striking out and grounding out on a regular basis, and has also been shaky in the outfield. Since Wilson's arrival, the team is 4-13.

Almost two months earlier, the Nationals acquired right-hander Ryan Drese off waivers and infielder Junior Spivey from the Brewers for right-hander Tomo Ohka.

Spivey did an adequate job replacing the injured Jose Vidro at second base, but Spivey ended up being placed on the disabled list himself because of a fractured right radius. He will not return until September.

The Nationals were hoping that they could coax shortstop Barry Larkin out of retirement, but that seemed unlikely to happen.

Drese has been a quality starter for the Nationals, going 3-4 with a 4.26 ERA.

If the Nationals are out of the race before Sept. 1, they may be willing to trade some of their veterans in waiver-wire deals, but they are not going to give them away.

"We may have some pieces to trade in August, if we don't turn it around by the end of August," Bowden said. "People want our guys that are struggling, but they want to steal them. They don't want to give up prospects. They just want to take them. But we are not going to throw in the towel. We are [one game behind the Astros in the Wild Card race]. We have gone through a stretch. Those who have watched us everyday, it's hard to imagine us winning a game, but it will pass."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.