Although the Washington Nationals find themselves atop the National League East, one must not overlook the upcoming July trade deadline and the opportunity to improve the roster. Besides getting many of their players off the disabled list, one might argue the biggest weakness for the team is seeking additional bullpen help. And while I acknowledge this as a place for General Manager Mike Rizzo to bolster, another spot I would like to see Washington upgrade is a right-handed hitting bench player to compliment Clint Robinson. Certainly many will mention San Diego’s Justin Upton or Oakland’s Ben Zobrist, but the best available player in terms of fit and cost to the organization is Cleveland Indians OF Ryan Raburn.
The 34-year-old Raburn is a veteran capable of playing several defensive positions and has always had the reputation as a lefty masher, posting a career .812 OPS against southpaws. This season Raburn has been raking, hitting .297/.388/.532 with 4 home runs over 55 games and 129 plate appearances. Raburn has continued his success against LHPs in 2015, hitting .313/.402/.563 and 16 extra base hits in 96 at-bats. Raburn needs to be shielded against righties, as his .627 OPS in 2015 and career .697 OPS shows, but his ability to punish lefties would add another dimension to the Nationals’ bench and would be an upgrade over Tyler Moore and Dan Uggla.
Raburn is making $2.5 million this season and has a team option for $3 million in 2016, with a $100,000 buyout – a healthy amount for a reserve player. Cleveland entered Monday with a 38-43 record, 9 games behind Kansas City along with 4.5 games and 5 teams behind in the chase for the final AL Wild Card. In fact, they are only ahead of 4 teams in the American League and as a small market franchise, they could desire to shed $1+ million in future salary obligations and acquire a prospect by parting with Raburn.
If the Nationals were to assume his full salary, the team would not likely have to part with a top prospect to bring him to Washington. I would begin negotiations with seemingly blocked prospects in the minor leagues such as Matt Grace, Raudy Reed or Brian Goodwin, although I expect none of these individuals are sufficient to make Cleveland say “Yes”. Therefore due to his potential to remain in Washington through 2016, I would give the Indians their choice of prospects Christopher Bostick, Spencer Kieboom or Drew Ward and assume this gets a deal accomplished.
Losing a promising but secondary player like Bostick, Kieboom or Ward would hurt the depth of the farm system, but the opportunity to acquire a steady veteran in the midst of a tremendous year could give the team a huge boost down the stretch. Sure it is easy to envision Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman returning with no lingering effects from injury post All-Star break and figure the offense will be a juggernaut. However, the team is always one or two injuries from a mediocre lineup and the front office should seek any opportunity to bolster their roster without hindering the long-term future. Raburn feels like an ideal fit for Washington and would provide manager Matt Williams with a strong weapon to unleash against lefties this fall.
Mr. Rizzo, please contact Cleveland as soon as possible and bring Ryan Raburn to Washington.