This is not simply a list of the Nationals players from best to worst. Contract status, age, service time... all these factors go into determining a player's trade market value. I've noted for reference the player's age and contract status as of the start of this season.
And keep in mind, this is not a list of players I think the team should trade, but simply a ranking of players by trade value.
1. Stephen Strasburg (Age: 21; 6 yrs. team control)No, he hasn't pitched an inning of major league ball. He hasn't even been signed yet, and it wouldn't shock me to see Stan Kasten walk away from Strasburg, with an eye on getting a hard cap on draft bonuses in the next collective bargaining agreement. But the best pitching prospect in a generation, with not a minute of service time accumulated, would be by far the most desirable player in the organization.
2. Ryan Zimmerman (Age 24; 24.6 7-yr. WARP; 5 yrs., $45 mil.)Zimmerman's 2009 break-out season and contract, which ties him up at a reasonable price through his age 29 season, make him one of the game's premium trade commodities. It's nearly impossible to imagine this franchise trading "The Face, but he's probably the only player that could bring the kind of franchise-changing package that the Orioles got for Erik Bedard.
3. Jordan Zimmermann (Age 23; 6 yrs. team control)Flash Jordan isn't getting much national play, but he's having a dandy of a rookie season, better than more highly touted prospects like Brett Anderson and David Price. His strikeout to walk ratio now sits at 3.17, better than Josh Beckett, Roy Oswalt, Josh Johnson, Cliff Lee and Johan Santana. His 4.63 ERA isn't bad, but the terrible fielding behind him obscures how very good he's been, and his xFIP is 3.45. With his four-pitch repertoire, clean injury history, and easy transition to the big leagues, he's looking like a front-end starter as soon as, well, pretty much now.
4. Derek Norris (Age 20; 6 yrs. team control)Some fans might be surprised to see Norris this high, but they shouldn't be. Norris is following up his break-out 2008 with another break-out, hitting .314 / .414 / .584 in Hagerstown at age 20. He's got a ways to go defensively, but he should stick as a catcher. There was a premature report of Norris getting promoted to high-A Potomac earlier this week, and that should still happen at some point this year. At this point, it's no longer crazy to talk about Norris in the same breath as the top catching prospects in the game, guys like Jesus Montero, Buster Posey, and Carlos Santana.
5. John Lannan (Age 24; 2 yrs. to arb, 5 yrs. under team control)Lannan has done more than enough this year to prove that 2008 was no fluke and that he's a legitimate league-average starting pitcher at age 24. He doesn't strike out very many but he keeps his walks down and generates over 50% grounders. If he can stay healthy, he's got the makeup and stuff to be a premium innings-muncher. Team pay millions for guys like this in free agency.
6. Adam Dunn (Age 29; 2 yrs., $20 mil.)Unlike anyone else listed so far, Dunn has been recently traded, so we have a decent estimate of his trade value. The Reds got Micah Owings, Dallas Buck, a pitcher with a long injury history who became the Reds' Baseball America #21 prospect, and Wilkin Castillo, a 25-year-old defense-first catcher. Arizona was only getting a 44-game rental, but still, that's hardly a passel of premium prospects. Plus, remember that Dunn sat mostly unwanted on the free agent market until only Jim Bowden would take him, at a pay cut of $10 million a year for two years. More and more teams are understanding the value of fielding, and Dunn's glove is bad enough to wipe out much of the value of his bat. He could help an AL team, but then again he's always said he wants to play the field, and he had a reputation in Cincinnati for moping.
7. Elijah Dukes (Age 25; 5 yrs. team control)If talent and numbers were the only factors, Dukes would be near the Zims at the top of this list. He's still very young, very cheap, and an above-average all-around corner outfielder right now. Of course, with Dukes it's never just about his talent and numbers. The PR that he brings, inability to avoid dumb embarrassments like the late child-support payments, and sour clubhouse reputation all make most teams wary if not totally uninterested. It's still hard to imagine how he could be worth more to the Nationals as a trading chip than he is in the line-up, but Mike Rizzo seems dead set on upgrading the character of the guys on the clubhouse, even if that comes at the expense of the talent level of the roster.
8. Nick Johnson (Age 30; 1 yr., $5.5 mil.)Nick's short-time contract status and injury history limit his value, and his glove hasn't been what it was in the past, but his bat is still one of the most valuable of any hitter available. The Nationals lost one of their more logical trade partners when Atlanta added Ryan Church and Nate McLouth, but the Giants, Tigers, Angels and Mets are all potential buyers in need of a bat.
9. Josh Willingham (Age 30; 1 yr., $2.95 mil., 3 yrs. team control)After a slow start, Willingham has elevated his trade value with two red-hot months and a surprisingly smooth transition to right field. He also has two more years of team control after this year, but for the value he brings he can no longer be considered cheap. Like Dunn, he's been traded recently, so we have a pretty good idea of his value. The Marlins were committed to shedding arbitration-eligible players last off-season, but you can be sure if anyone had offered Larry Beinfest more than Jake Smolinski, P.J. Dean, and Emilio Bonifacio for Scott Olsen and Hammer, he would have taken it.
10. Jesus Flores (Age 24; 5 yrs. team control)I could have listed these last three guys in any order, really. Still, I doubt that Flores is valued as highly across the league as he seems to be by the Nationals. He's an average defensive catcher at best, and while he had a hot start to the season this year, his approach at the plate is still poor, and the odds of him maintaining anything close to that pace are basically nil. He's still pretty young, but he's no longer a baby. The team has done just about everything possible to impede his development since grabbing him in the rule 5 draft before the 2007 season, and the shoulder injury that cost him most of this season surely didn't help any either.