The team had its eye on Denard Span of the Twins, B.J. Upton of the Rays and Michael Bourn, who ended up getting traded from the Astros to the Braves on Sunday morning.
Washington tried to get a deal done with Minnesota, according to two baseball sources, but the Twins asked for too much in return. They wanted closer Drew Storen and second baseman Stephen Lombardozzi, and the Nationals declined. Washington never came close to getting a deal done with Houston or Tampa Bay.
"We worked extremely hard to do the right thing and get the right player for the right return," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "It just didn't match up. It's frustrating at times. You just can't make a deal to make a deal. The players we had to give up in return in our minds didn't fulfill what we were trying to do for the long term."
Once the clock struck 4 p.m. ET, Storen was still in Washington's bullpen. About 20 minutes later, he entered the contest between the Nationals and Mets and picked up his sixth victory of the season after Washington walked off in the ninth.
"[Drew] is the first name that is brought up, but it has to be a special deal to make that work because he is a special performer in a premium position," Rizzo said. "It just didn't match up to our likings and there wasn't a deal made."
Storen, who called Sunday the weirdest day of his baseball career, said he is relieved that he is staying with the Nationals. As the Deadline passed and he was told to warm up in the bullpen, Storen knew he was staying in Washington.
Storen was also thrilled that he received a nice ovation from the fans once he entered the game in the ninth inning.
"That was unbelievable," Storen said about the fans. "The ovation I got last night and today is something really special. That means a lot to me. It has been an interesting week. And to have them stay behind me like that was really special."
The Nationals didn't come out empty-handed. On Saturday, Washington improved its farm system, dealing right-hander Jason Marquis to the D-backs for infielder Zach Walters, while infielder/outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr. was sent to the Brewers for outfielder Erik Komatsu.
Komatsu could be a future center fielder and leadoff hitter, while Walters could be a run producer while playing second or shortstop.
Earlier in the week, Washington acquired outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Reds for outfielder Bill Rhinehart and left-hander Chris Manno.
"I think the moves we're making are prudent moves for the future," right fielder Jayson Werth said. "We may be subtracting for the immediate, but I think for the long term, Riz and the organization [are] going in the right direction. We're trying to get this team where it needs to be for the next five, six, seven years."
Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded.
The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.
"We are always going to be active," Rizzo said. "We are an aggressive staff here, I'm an aggressive GM. If it calls for us to make a deal to improve us long term, we will."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.