Max Scherzer signs with Nationals. Should they keep their rotation or trade Stephen Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann?
It’s official, well it’s mostly official, but the word on the street in the baseball world is that top free agent pitcher Max Scherzer has signed somewhere around a seven-year, $180 million-plus deal with the Washington Nationals.
This report from MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac is backed up by multiple other reports out there, everyone from ESPN to Fox Sports to CBS Sports to every beat writer on the planet.
This is a huge signing. 30-year-old Scherzer is a two-time All Star and the 2013 Cy Young Award winner. He’s won a total of 39 games in the last two seasons and posting a 3.02 ERA in that span.
Lifetime Scherzer is 91-50 over seven seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers with a career ERA of 3.58. Now Scherzer will join the Nationals in the Nation’s Capital. He’ll also be joining one heck of a starting rotatation.
Rumors swirled on Twitter all day that if the Scherzer deal went down that the Nationals would be at the very least listening to offers on Strasburg and Zimmermann. Both pitchers will soon be free agents (2017 and 2016 respectively).
Zimmermann pitched the first no-hitter in Nationals history on the final day of the 2014 season defeating Miami Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who pitched a no-hitter on the final day of the 2013 season, by a score of 1-0.
Zimmerman also boasts two All-Star appearances and sports a career 3.24 ERA over six seasons with the Nationals.
Strasburg, 26, has had his issues. During his rookie season season in 2010, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in August and underwent Tommy John surgery. He returned to the Nats the following September which proved to be too early. He was only able to pitch 24 innings in 2011.
Stasburg returned to form in 2012 making his first All-Star team and posting a 3.16 ERA. His career ERA is just 3.02 after four full seasons and his partial one in 2012.
Some have speculated that the Boston Red Sox may be interested in a deal with the Nationals but it is doubtful that they’d give up prospects for just one-year with either pitcher. So if the Red Sox did want one of the two, they’d probably need the commitment of the pitcher to a contract extension.
But should the Nationals even trade one of their pitchers? The Nationals are poised to make a World Series run with many of their players in their final years before free agency. Sure, it would leave them with an extra starting pitcher but then they’d have depth in case of an injury or a dropoff by one of their starting five.
Rounding out the starting five are Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez.
Fister is one of the most undervalued, great pitchers in the game. He’s quietly conducted his business during his six years in the big leagues. He began his career with the Seattle Mariners who traded him for a small return of Francisco Martinez, Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin. He spent the next two and a half seasons as a teammate of Scherzer’s with the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers also traded him for a modest return of Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray, to the Nationals after the 2013 season. The 30-year-old right-hander has a career ERA of 3.34 with a total of seven complete games under his belt including two shutouts.
Gonzalez, 29, has been an All-Star representative for both the Nationals and the Oakland A’s. In 2012 he won 21 games for the Washington Nationals and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. The left-hander has a 3.59 career ERA.
That finishes up the Nationals starting five as of today but they also have 28-year-old Tanner Roark. A rookie in 2013, Roark went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA in five starts and 14 total appearances. Roark really made an impression in 2014, going 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA with one complete game shutout in 31 starts for the Nats.
So with all that talent and two of the six going into contract years soon, what’s a team to do? Seeing that they have other position players, all too talented to be able to stay long-term, who are also in their contract years, the Nationals need to keep everyone and literally go all-in!
The team finished 17-games ahead of the second place New York Mets and Atlanta Braves in the National League East in 2014 but lost to the San Francisco Giants in the N.L. Division Series.
With this rotation they are in an even better position to go all the way in 2015. Tanner Roark or even Gio Gonzalez, depending on who has the better spring can, start the season and be just as excellent out of the bullpen in long relief or as a back-up in the rotation in the event of an injury.
If there’s one thing a baseball team needs, it would be depth. This would be rotation depth of the highest quality. However, we don’t know the details of the Nationals’ payroll or how much money they have to work with once they make a commitment of over $180 million to Scherzer.
The Nats may have to trade away one of their prized top pitchers but a lot of clubs won’t trade away their farm for just one or even two years of a star player. There is also the possibility of trading Strasburg or Zimmermann at the trade deadline when contenders are trying desperately to compete.
Not at all unlike how the A’s traded away two top prospects in Addison Russell and Billy McKinney to obtain Jon Lester last season at the end of July. It didn’t work out for the A’s in 2014 but it doesn’t mean another team won’t try the tactic again.
So the Nationals have time to decide but in my opinion this may be their year. It’s probably the best chance they will have at winning a World Series so far in their franchise history. Hopefully, they keep them all.