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Report: Bullpen help is Nationals’ ‘top priority’ at trade deadline

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MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, quoting an unnamed source, reports that bullpen help is the Nationals’ “top priority” heading into the upcoming August 1 non-waiver trade deadline. In particular, the Nats have their eyes on the Yankees’ Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

As Craig noted earlier today, the Yankees’ front office is split as to whether to attempt to fight for a playoff spot or rebuild for future years. Owner Hal Steinbrenner and president Randy Levine still think the Yankees are contenders, while Brian Cashman and the club’s entire baseball operations department are convinced the club should sell.

The Nationals have the third-best bullpen ERA in baseball at 3.11. However, closer Jonathan Papelbon has been good but not dominant. Adding a lights out reliever like Miller or Chapman would certainly make an impact.

Miller, 31, will open the second half with a 1.37 ERA and a 69/6 K/BB ratio in 39 1/3 innings. He’s owed the remainder of his $9 million salary for this season as well as $9 million in each of the next two seasons.

Chapman, 28, served a 30-game suspension starting at the beginning of the season due to an offseason domestic violence incident. Thus far, he’s compiled 17 saves with a 2.49 ERA and a 38/6 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings. Chapman is owed the remainder of his $11.325 million salary for the 2016 season and can become a free agent after the season.

Video: Starling Marte refuses to take first base after being hit by pitch

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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was hit on the hand by a Jack Flaherty pitch in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals. Rather than take first base, Marte — who came to the plate with a runner on first base — insisted to home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman that the ball hit the knob of the bat, not his hand. Marte was allowed to continue his at-bat, though manager Clint Hurdle came out to discuss the ruling with Dreckman. Marte eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice. He then got caught attempting to steal second base and the Pirates scored zero runs in the inning.

According to Baseball Prospectus, a team that has runners on first and second with no outs is expected to score 1.55 runs. Having a runner on first base with one out yields 0.56 expected runs. Marte essentially cost his team a run by rejecting first base. Oops.