The Nats’ pursuit of starting pitching this offseason has been no secret. Their top choice thus far seems to be Mark Buehrle, who is a perfect example of the innings-eating veteran Rizzo so openly desires. However, Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman is reporting that the Nationals are now pursuing another starter instead: former Texas Ranger C.J. Wilson.
In the lead-up to the free agency period, many pundits predicted Wilson would land with the Nats, thanks to their predisposition to spending and need for a starter. Once free agency began, those reports petered out thanks to the Nationals’ pursuit of Buehrle and various reports that tied Wilson to many teams, most notably the Angels and Marlins. Both those teams make sense, with Wilson having grown up in Southern California and the Marlins’ goal of making a big free agent splash.
While the Nationals are searching for any starting pitching, Wilson seems to be a less logical choice for the team than Buehrle. Wilson transitioned from the bullpen to the starting rotation only two years ago, and while he has thrown 200+ in those two seasons, Buehrle has thrown 200+ innings for the past eleven seasons. If the Nats are looking for a veteran to set a good example for the other starters, they could do better than a pitcher who has thrown over 200 innings in a season one more time than John Lannan has. Buehrle is also the model of consistency, having all but one of his season ERAs within 1¼ runs of each other, while Wilson’s ERAs, though in smaller sample sizes, have varied a full 4¼ runs. In addition to his reliability, Buehrle has already won a championship with the White Sox, while Wilson has lost two consecutive World Series, and compiled an 0-3 record with an ERA of 5.79 this past postseason.
Wilson pitched extremely well this past season, going 16-7 with an ERA of 2.94 and finishing 6th for the AL Cy Young Award, while Buehrle’s only accolade was a Gold Glove award. However, the Nationals are looking for a consistent pitcher who can throw a lot of innings and set a good example for the team’s young pitchers. Buehrle fits that description perfectly, and will likely demand a shorter and cheaper contract. Wilson is a stellar pitcher, but Buehrle is a much better fit in D.C., considering Rizzo’s desire for an exemplary, sturdy veteran.