Before last season even started, everybody had high hopes on the 2013 Washington Nationals. Many people had them winning the NL East, and some people even had them winning the World Series. Davey Johnson had very high hopes for this team, saying the the now infamous phrase, “World Series or Bust” during spring training. However, a lackluster offense and key injuries to Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Stephen Strasburg had the Nationals far from the numerous “World Series” predictions, finishing at 86-76. This offseason, the Nationals will try to become favorites once again by doing several key things. We will look at these thing as part of a three day breakdown of the Nationals offseason:
3. Find another starter
Last season, the Nationals only had three reliable starters: Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and for most of the season, Stephen Strasburg. Dan Haren was like a box of chocolates,you never knew what you were going to get. Ross Detwiller was hurt for basically the entire season. We also had the call-ups, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, and Nathan Karns, and we had the spot starters, Ross Ohlendorf and Zach Duke. If the Nationals want to be a contender again next year, they are going to need fewer question marks in their rotation. Let’s break down what’s going to happen this offseason:
Definitely Has The Job
Stephen Straburg (2013 stats) 8-9, 3.00 ERA, 191 K’s, 3.1 WAR
As most of you know, Stephen Strasburg was one of the most unlucky pitchers in 2013. Strasburg only had about 3.5 runs per game in terms of run support. In games that Strasburg allowed three runs or fewer, the Nationals were 7-11. Strasburg could have easily been a 15 game winner in 2013 had it not been for the lack of offensive support in 2013. Strasburg will most likely still be the dominant pitcher he was in 2014. Although he is having offseason surgery, expect him to be the Opening Day starter on March 31st against the Mets
Gio Gonzalez (2013 stats) 11-8, 3.36 ERA, 192 K’s, 3.0 WAR
Gio Gonzalez’s year did not start off the way that he had hoped. Back in January, Gio Gonzalez name was connected to a whole list of major league players who were reportedly receiving performance enhancing drugs from Tony Bosch, who was the program director of Biogenisis of America. Unlike the other players listed, however, Gio Gonzalez was exonerated and he didn’t have to serve a 50 game suspention. The scandel looming over Gio’s head didn’t seem to effect his pitching. Gio had another stellar year with the Nationals, being their 6th most valuable player acoording to WAR. Gio will definitely be back in 2014.
Jordan Zimmermann (2013 stats) 19-9, 3.25 ERA, 161 K’s, 3.7 WAR
Jordan Zimmermann has always been an exceptional pitcher for the Nationals. In his past three seasons, Zimmermann has posted a 3.18, 2.94, and 3.25 ERA respectively. It wasn’t until this year, however, when Zimmermann finally got the attention he deserved. Zimmermann is two years away from free agency, so maybe look for a contract extension this offseason.
Most Likely Has The Job
Ross Detwiler (2013 stats) 2-7, 4.04 ERA, 39 K’s, .1 WAR
Up until the time of his injury, Ross Detwiler was looking like he was going to have a really good year, posting a 2.76 ERA through his first 8 starts. However, a back injury against the Dodgers put him on the DL for over a month. After Detwiler came back, he wasn’t the same pitcher, giving up 18 runs in 25.2 innings. After a July 3rd start against the Brewers, Detwiler was back on the DL. Detwiler would remain on the DL for the rest of the season. I say that Det most likely has the job instead of definitely because we don’t know how he will look or feel coming off of a season ending injury.
While those four rotation spots are pretty much locked in, the fifth spot is completely up for grabs. I examine some possible choices:
Tanner Roark (2013 stats) 7-1, 1.50 ERA 40 K’s, 2.0 WAR
Tanner Roark was fantastic after coming up from AAA. At first, Roark was used as a long reliever, mostly in situations when then start Ross Ohlendorf couldn’t get past the 5th inning. After the Nationals saw how good Roark looked in the pen, they decided to test him out in the rotation. That experiment turned out to be a success, as Roark continued to mow down professional hitters. However, Roark’s status for 2014 is up in the air because 1) He could be a good trade piece, and 2) The Nationals might want someone more proven to be in their rotation. Roark could be the Nationals 6th starter, in case anything happened to one of our starters. I would expect Roark to start the year in AAA, where he can get some constant playing time.
Taylor Jordan (2013 stats) 1-3, 3.66 ERA, 29 K’s, 0 WAR
Coming off Tommy John surgery, Taylor Jordan found his way onto the Nationals radar by dominating the AA. Jordan went 7-0 and posted a .86 ERA in 9 starts in the minors. After injuries to Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals decided to call Jordan up from AA to the majors. Jordan did not disappoint, posting a 3.66 ERA in 9 starts. However, Jordan was shut down similar to Strasburg and Zimmermann because he was one year removed from TJ surgery. This offseason, I would put Jordan in the same boat as Roark, with Jordan also being a sixth starter in the minors, only being a phone call away to being back up to the majors.
Nathan Karns (2013 stats) 0-1, 7.50 ERA, 11 K’s, -.4 WAR
Unlike Roark and Jordan, Karns struggled mightily after his call up. Brought in because injury to Ross Detwiler, the reigning Washington Nationals pitcher of the year had trouble making through his three starts. Karns will either be trade bate, or start the year in AAA.
Ross Ohlendorf (2013 stats) 4-1, 3.28 ERA, 45 K’s, .5 WAR
Another pleasant surprise for the Nationals was Ross Ohlendorf. Signed to a minor league deal in January, Ohlendorf started the season off in AAA. After an injury to Stephen Strasburg, Ohlendorf was called up to make a start agains the Rockies, where he impressed everyone around the league, not just with his stats, but with his 1910’s style pitching motion. After his start against the Rockies, Dorf was moved into the bullpen. He made one more spot start against the Mets before going to the Disabled List with a shoulder injury. After coming off the DL, Ohlendorf wasn’t the same pitcher as before. His velocity was down a bit and his control was all over the place. Ohlendorf was then moved back into the bullpen to make room for Roark. Look for Ohlendorf to remain in the bullpen.
Out of Organization Options
David Price (2013 stats with Rays) 10-8, 3.33 ERA, 151 K’s, 2.8 WAR
The price for David Price will be a hefty one if the Nats want to trade for Price. According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, a trade by the Nationals for Price would include Cole, Giolito, and Rendon. Even though Price, a former Cy Young winner, is one of the best pitchers, he is not worth selling the farm in order to get him. However, what I think a possible deal could look like:
Anthony Rendon, Lucas Giolito, Sammy Solis, and Tyler Moore
Max Scherzer (2013 stats with Tigers) 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 240 K’s, 6.7 WAR
Scherzer is another great starter who is going to cost the Nationals the farm in order to acquire. Coming off a career year, Scherzer is the favorite to win the AL Cy Young award. If the Nationals are going to try to trade for him, the price is going to be extremely high. Not only will they have to give up prospects in order to get him, but Scherzer only has one year left on his contract, so in order to make the deal worthwhile, they will also have to sign him to an extension. A possible deal could look like:
Max Scherzer (and 4 yrs 75 mil)
Anthony Rendon, AJ Cole, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen
Jeff Samardzija (2013 stats with Cubs) 8-13, 4.24 ERA, 214 K’s, 1.0 WAR
Earlier today, we explored the possibility of trading for Samardzija. We concluded that Samardzija would be a good fit in DC. Coming off a down year, Samardzija became a work horse in the Cubs rotation, throwing over 210 innings for the Cubs. The Nationals don’t really have anyone in their rotation who could throw 210+ innings for them. The price for Samardzija wouldn’t be ridiculous, and he is under contract until 2016. A potential trade fro Samardzija could look like:
AJ Cole and Matt Skole
Bronson Arroyo (2013 stats with Reds) 14-12, 3.79 ERA, 124 K’s, 2.5 WAR
Unlike anyone else on this page, Arroyo is a free agent. Also unlike anyone else on this page, Arroyo is nearing the end of his career. Arroyo will be turning 37 before next season, which may cause some concern for some people. It also might alarm some that Arroyo is asking for a multi-year deal, and has already received one. However, Arroyo would be a good fit for the Nationals if they could convince him to sign for one year (won’t be an easy task). Arroyo is a contact/flyball pitcher and has been pitching on one of the most batter friendly parks in Great American. Moving to a more neutral park like Nats Park could lower his ERA and Homer Runs allowed. I could see Arroyo costing $14 million per year. I don’t think it would be a real possibility for the Nationals to pry him away from a multi-year deal, so if he were to sign with us, expect 2 years, $28 million.
With Dan Haren leaving, the Nationals have already improved their rotation. Acquiring Samardzija or Arroyo will help the Nats without them giving up too much. And the guys they have in the organization will be there
if when a starter gets injured. This is the last piece in the three day puzzle to getting the Nationals back into contenders. If you would like to read any of the other two offseason checklist articles, the links are below.