Why The Washington Nationals Should Not Trade Stephen Strasburg
Heading into this offseason, the foregone conclusion seems to be that the Washington Nationals are going to lose two pitchers in their starting rotation to free agency, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister. However, could a third pitcher on this year’s rotation not be with the team when next season begins on April 4, 2016 against the Braves in Turner Field?
Yesterday morning, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote about in his notes column that the Nats could look to trade starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (11-7, 3.46 ERA) this winter. Strasburg will be entering the final year of his contract. Here is what Cafardo had to say:
"“A lot of buzz that the re-tooling Nationals could make the 27-year-old available. The Nationals could also lose Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, who was demoted to the bullpen, in free agency… The Scott Boras client would enter his final year of arbitration and become a free agent after 2016.” (h/t Cafardo, The Boston Globe)"
In a year that was filled with numerous injuries for Strasburg, he still helped his trade value a little bit with the dominant finish to his season. Over the final ten starts of the season, Strasburg went 6-2 with a 1.90 ERA, struck out 92 batters, walked eight, and opponents only hitting .179 against him.
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The Nats have many moves to make this winter as they try to re-tool this team and most of the rotation is set for next season with the likes of Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross, and probably Tanner Roark. But, after watching Strasburg down the stretch, he was the team’s best pitcher in the second half of the season.
While there is the factor of Scott Boras being his agent and Boras’ clients don’t usually sign extensions before leaving free agency, I still stand by the point I made two weeks ago that he should be offered an extension this winter. The organization’s number one pick in 2009 has had an interesting career in DC, but he did throw 215 innings in 2014 and this is a rotation that needs innings eaters with the bullpen being one of the team’s biggest disappointments this year.
If the Nats do decide to deal Strasburg, the one thing that could help them is that there are a couple of top pitchers that are free agents this year such as David Price, Zack Greinke, Zimmermann and Johnny Cueto. If a team misses out on those four pitchers, teams will look to make trades to acquire pitching. Plus, a small market team may look to get Strasburg now before he enters free agency when he will be arguably the best pitcher on the market next season.
Yes, the Nats will need to have some money to spend for Bryce Harper’s eventual extension after they gave Max Scherzer $210 million last winter. However, unless the Nats plan to spend more big money on a free agent starter this winter, Strasburg should remain in the Nation’s Capital.
The Nationals do have some good young pitching whether it’s Ross or top prospect Lucas Giolito, who ended the 2015 season at double-A Harrisburg. Plus, according to MLB Pipeline, five of the Nats’ top ten prospects are pitchers, including the likes of Austin Voth, Reynaldo Lopez, and A.J. Cole. But, how many of those pitchers will be able to help the Major League roster next season?
If the Nationals do plan on challenging the Mets for the NL East in 2016, New York has shown this postseason that you need dominant pitching such as Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard. If you have Scherzer and Strasburg at the top of the rotation and both stay healthy, that will set up for more victories in 2016.
Unless Mike Rizzo and the front office are blown away by a trade offer that allows the team to win in 2016 and beyond, they should keep Strasburg and at the very least, give him the qualifying offer next winter. Otherwise, the front office needs to add another top-of-the-line pitcher this winter. We can re-visit this idea if the Nats don’t appear to be in postseason contention in July, but for now, the Nats should keep Strasburg in their rotation for 2016.
Next: District Daily: Could Nats Consider Trading Strasburg?