Nats let deadline pass without a deal

Nats let deadline pass without a deal

WASHINGTON -- Relievers Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch and outfielder Ryan Church are still members of the Nationals, who did not make a deal before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline.

Instead of making a deal, Washington signed Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young to two-year extensions earlier this month. Those two players were on the trading block before they signed, but both were willing to stay at a reasonable price.

And in Young's case, he was re-signed because the team doesn't know if Nick Johnson will fully recover from his broken leg. The team feels it has nothing at first base had Young been traded.

"We were able to keep a couple of pieces that might not have given us draft pick compensation at the end of the year," Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said. "We got more interest after we signed them than before we signed them, so it was nice situation to be in. If [Johnson] comes back, you have depth. If [Johnson] doesn't come back, we don't have a first baseman ready to go in the Minor Leagues. We like what [Young] had done. ... Certainly with [Johnson] hurt, I like having [Young] at first [more] than our other alternatives."

There was a feeling among baseball people that the Nationals would have a tough time making a trade because it was asking for too much in return for their coveted players. At the same time, tWashington was not going to give away its players.

One baseball source indicated that the Mets offered right-hander Philip Humber for Cordero. The Nationals immediately turned that deal down. They consider Humber no more than a fourth or fifth starter. Washington was interested in players such as outfielders Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez.

There was a published report that the Diamondbacks had interest in trading for outfielder Carlos Quentin, which was not true. However, another source indicated that the Nationals offered Cordero for Diamondbacks outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, a power hitter who is playing at Double-A Mobile, but Arizona turned it down.

"We will always ask for players than can help us win a championship, and I'm never going to feel bad for asking for players that could help us win," Bowden said. "I'm not going to take players that can't help the Washington Nationals win at the big-league level. So if they are going to criticize me, I would much rather have them criticize me for asking for too much than asking for too little."

There were opposing teams that wanted to acquire two of the Nationals' top prospects at Class A Vermont -- pitchers Colton Willems and Glenn Gibson -- for Major League players, but they wouldn't budge, citing the fact that they wanted to improve their farm system. Willems has a 2.36 ERA in seven starts and Gibson has an ERA under 1.00.

"We explored every possibility we could to help our club -- long-term. At the end of the day, we did nothing," Bowden said. "I think you are always trying to improve the team. We worked on some things that had a chance to happen, but it didn't, so we go forward.

"One thing we know is that we are getting parity in the game, and when you get down to the trade deadline, small-market clubs do not have to dump payroll anymore. You are not seeing prospects getting traded, except for the Atlanta/Texas trade [Mark Teixeira was traded to the Braves for prospects]. They are not going anywhere. The Yankees and Red Sox are holding onto all of their prospects. That is the theme you are seeing everywhere."

For Cordero, he is relieved that he is staying with the Nationals. He said that he wanted to play in the team's new ballpark in 2008 and believes the club is not far away from contending for a spot in the playoffs.

"It means I don't have to pack up and move," Cordero said. "I wasn't really worried. When I heard they were asking for too much, I felt a lot better. It meant the chances were going to be very slim."

Washington can still make deals after Tuesday's deadline, but the players have to go through waivers first. Last year, for example, the team traded infielders Marlon Anderson, Daryle Ward and right-hander Livan Hernandez for prospects in August.

"We made three trades last year, in August, to help contenders, so there are still possibilities, " Bowden said. "We could trade before the season is over."

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