One of the perks of the Washington Nationals having one of, if not the best rotation in baseball is the variety of options that manager Matt Williams has in terms of how he is going to align this rotation. By signing Max Scherzer this offseason, the organization has created a small problem that most teams would like to have: Who is going to start for the Nats on Opening Day against the New York Mets on April 6? (4:05 PM ET, ESPN and MASN).
Even though some of the national buzz was taken away from the game with Mets’ general manager Sandy Alderson saying that Matt Harvey won’t likely pitch until New York’s home opener, you should still get a quality pitcher going against the Nats, whether its Zack Wheeler or reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Jacob DeGrom.
It is a unique decision that Matt Williams has to make because of what could lie ahead for some of their starters in free agency down the road. While Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez are solid pitchers in their own rights, they are not in the conversation for Opening Day in my opinion. That leaves Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, and Stephen Strasburg.
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While Max Scherzer is making the most money with his $210 milion contract and has not pitched on Opening Day in his career, he should get plenty of chances in the future barring any injuries. While it would be a great way for the organization to show off their free agent signing, the choice I would make is Zimmermann.
First off, it would be a great reward for the 28-year-old right-hander. He is coming off of a great 2014, where he went 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA and ended his regular season with a no-hitter against the Miami Marlins. Who knows, maybe Matt Williams decides to give Zimmermann the start to make up for taking him out of Game 2 of the NLDS vs. the Giants with one out to go?
However, I think this could be a great way to help the Nationals in the negotiation process. I’m sure Zimmermann looked at that Scherzer deal and wondered where his money was. With the amount of pitching expected to be on the market next winter, Zimmermann could be one of those pitchers that will get his money. However, it could help both sides if the Nationals rewarded him with an Opening Day start.
As great as Stephen Strasburg was last year with his 242 strikeouts and his 34 appearances, Zimmermann has become one of the popular names on this Nationals franchise. With Strasburg starting the last three season openers, is it time for the right hander in his seventh season to get the nod. I believe it is.
I think Strasburg put it best when he talked with MLB.com’s Jamal Collier about how all the pitchers seem to not worry about who is number one. Instead, they focus on winning together:
"“Everybody wants to be that number one guy, everybody wants to be a leader. “I think that’s just the kind of guys we have in the clubhouse here.” (h/t: MLB.com)"
Either way, the Nationals will have a great pitcher on the mound April 6, which is something that the fanbase should definitely be excited about. However, a move to make Zimmermann the starter for the opener might be a good thing for parties to involve when you consider that this could be his final season playing in the Nation’s Capital.