This offseason, the Washington Nationals have several problem areas where it’s clear improvement is needed. To improve on the 86-win season of last year, they must bolster the bullpen, and add depth to the bench. But the clearest area for improvement is in the starting rotation. While the Nationals have two pitchers, Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan, who showed solid stuff in limited time, acquiring another proven starter will allow the team to stash Roark and Jordan in the minors, giving the team much needed depth.
But whom should they acquire? Much has been made over trading for players like David Price, Max Scherzer, and Jeff Samardzija. But what other options are there? In this space, we think about five outside-the-box options the team could target in trades. Remember, the Nats’ last major trade for a starter, the Gio Gonzalez deal, developed seemingly out of the blue.
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox – (2013 stats) 11-4, 3.07 ERA, 214.1 Innings, 9.5 K/9
Now, let me be clear, the White Sox have not said anything about Chris Sale being available. However, it would make sense for the White Sox to at least see what they can get for him. Sale is coming off another fantastic year and his value will never be higher. With the White Sox offense being close to the bottom in almost every offensive category, it doesn’t appear that the White Sox are close to being a real contender. They might as well see what they could get to improve their major league worst farm system. If Sale were to be traded, he would cost an arm and a leg. However, Sale would be worth it. Sale is only 24 and, unlike Price or Scherzer, is under team control for 4 more seasons. A trade for Sale would probably be similar to a trade for the other top tier pitchers on the market. A trade for Sale could look like:
White Sox get:
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds – (2013 Stats) 4-5, 2.54 ERA, 63.2 Innings, 15.8 K/9
Chapman is unlike any other pitcher on this list, only because he has never started a game. That is part of the reason why Chapman might be available. In 2010, Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman was signed by the Reds as a starter. However, Chapman still hasn’t seen a start yet. The Reds aren’t sure what to do with Chapman because he has proven himself as a closer. Also, the Reds have been very delicate with Chapman. If the Nats were to trade for Chapman, it would come at a risk because nobody knows how Chapman would look as a starter. Another downside to acquiring Chapman is that he is only under contract for one more year. A trade for Chapman could look like:
Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres: (2013 stats) 10-9, 3.09 ERA, 175.0 innings, 6.6 K/9
2013 was Cashner’s first full year as a starter, and he didn’t disappoint. He was clearly the best pitcher in the entire Padres rotation. That might impede the Padres from trading Cashner when they are close to competing at a high level. Last year, the Padres offense made some great strides, with breakout performances from second baseman Jedd Gyrko and outfielder Wil Venable. Even with their lone all star, shortstop Everth Cabrera, being suspended for the last 50 games of the season, the Padres offense look very good in 2013. However, what hurt the Padres last year was their atrocious starting pitching. The Padres had the 7th worst rotation ERA last year, while still pitching in one of the biggest pitchers ball parks. Cashner was a diamond in the ruff for the Padres, and it might take a lot to pry him away from San Diego. A trade for Cashner could look like
A.J. Griffin, Oakland A’s – (2013 stats) 14-10, 3.83 ERA, 200.0 Innings, 7.7 K/9
Griffin followed up his brief 2012 stint with the A’s with another solid year in 2013. Griffin proved to be the workhorse of the Oakland A’s rotation, pitching the most innings out of anyone else on the A’s. Out of all the trade explored so far in this article, this one seems the most plausible for multiple reasons. The A’s and the Nats are very common trade partners, swapping many pieces including Kurt Suzuki (twice), AJ Cole (twice), Gio Gonzalez, and Josh WIllingham. Another reason the A’s might be willing to trade Griffin is because they have a surplus of pitching. With todays acquisition of Scott Kazmir, the Oakland Athletics have 6 major league ready arms in their rotation. While this is a good problem for the A’s to have, they could be inclined to listen in on offers for some of their starters. However, the A’s might want to hold onto Griffin because he is still under contract for 5 more years. A trade for Griffin could look like:
Losing Dan Haren and the many injury concerns revolving around Ross Detwiler leaves the Nationals rotation depth very thin. In order for them to be a playoff team once again, the Nationals must add another starter. While it is not probable that the players listed above are even on the Nationals radar, they would all be sneaky additions for the Nationals to bolster their rotation.