Coming off a rousing World Series victory in 2019, the Washington Nationals have done nothing but plummet down the MLB totem pole. They have failed to make the playoffs in the four seasons that have followed, and they even lost 107 games in 2022. But the Nationals are trending upwards. After a 71-91 season in 2023, the Nationals find themselves near the .500 mark with nearly half of the 2024 season over, as they enter Monday with a 35-36 record.

Nonetheless, with the trade deadline inching ever so closely, there is a chance that teams hovering around the .500 mark could still decide to sell off some of their pieces in case they fall off the playoff race. For the Nationals, three players are already catching the eye of some contending teams in the event that they become a selling team. Those players are relievers Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan, as well as everyday right fielder Lane Thomas, as per Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

However, Morosi emphasized that “at this point, it's not clear at all” that the Nationals are going to sell. They are still playing the waiting game as they look to see where they sit in the standings as they draw closer to the trade deadline. At the moment, the Nationals are tied for the third and final Wild Card spot in the NL, and it's not like the team's performance has been a fluke. They have the same actual and Pythagorean record (they have a run of differential of -9), which sort of suggests that they do belong where they sit in the standings at the moment.

Alas, given how jumbled the wild card picture is, there is a strong chance that the Nationals could talk themselves into, perhaps, making a run for a playoff spot, especially given how well their starters have performed to this point of the season.

Nationals' pitching is excelling

The Nationals' strength has always been their pitching, dating back to their days of competing for a World Series. It may have taken a while for the Nationals to get back to relevance, but here they are, having an army of starters that is ready to, once again, propel the team to lofty heights.

Four of the Nationals' starters (Mackenzie Gore, Jake Irvin, Trevor Williams, and Mitchell Parker) have a WAR (per Fangraphs) of at least 1.3. Those four have an ERA of 3.24 or lower. Gore, Irvin, and Parker are still young and are nearing or squarely within the prime years of their careers (Gore is 25, Irvin is 27, and Parker is 24) while Williams it pitching better than ever in the ninth year of his career.

But it's not just the Nationals' starters who are excelling. Even the bullpen is holding its end of the bargain. Hunter Harvey, in particular, has been one of the best relievers in the league; his strikeout rate of 28.3 percent against a walk percentage of 5.5 makes him worthy of the 2.75 ERA he's sporting, while Kyle Finnegan is finding a way to keep runners from crossing the plate, as he's currently boasting an even more pristine 1.78 ERA.

It's easy to see why Harvey and Finnegan are commanding some interest on the market. Harvey and Finnegan are only making $2.325 and $5.1 million for this season, which makes acquiring them not too tall of an order, and they under team control as well for 2025. These cost-controlled relievers could certainly make a huge impact for a contending team. But it's not like the Nationals must urgently give them up since they'll still be under contract for next year.

Only time will tell if the Nationals perform well enough that it becomes justified for them to keep both talented relievers.

Washington's bats… will they be good enough?

The Nationals' bats have not been the most consistent bunch in 2024. They rank 23rd in the MLB in runs scored as well as team OPS, and their offense might end up being their undoing if they fall off the pace later in the season. With that said, it's going to be counterintuitive if they do end up trading away Lane Thomas.

Thomas' defense in right field may not be the best, but he is one of the few hitters the Nationals have that has some pop in his bat. They rank third-worst in the MLB in total home runs this season, with a measly 58, so Thomas, even though he's been struggling a bit, at least relative to his 2023 season, should be here to stay if the Nationals aim to make the playoffs.

Like Harvey and Finnegan, Thomas also has one more year of team control remaining after this season, so the Nationals do not have the most urgency when it comes to getting some sort of return for one of their productive pieces.