The Washington Nationals rotation appears set, but could Jason Hammel be a good right-handed option in the rotation?
For the last two seasons, the Washington Nationals have had one off the best starting rotations in all of baseball. This offseason, they attempted to trade for White Sox ace Chris Sale, but ended up losing out to the Boston Red Sox. It appears the Nats are done adding starters, but should they re-consider?
The starting pitching options this winter on the free agent market haven’t been great. However, one name that is still out there is right-hander Jason Hammel. The 34-year-old went 15-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 30 starts with the Cubs last season, but he did not pitch a single game in the postseason.
After the World Series, the Cubs decided not to pick up Hammel’s $12 million option for 2017 because they wanted to give him a chance to find a spot in someone’s starting rotation. While the Nats appear to have their rotation spots locked up, Hammel might be good insurance to have in case an injury happens to Joe Ross or Stephen Strasburg.
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Even if Hammel doesn’t sign with the Washington Nationals, you would think the Nats would like Hammel to sign with an American League team that doesn’t face them in 2017. During Hammel’s 11-year career, he is 9-0 with a 3.01 ERA in 13 starts against the Washington Nationals (two no-decisions last season).
When you look at Hammel’s career, he has pitched in 30 or more games each of the last three seasons and has won ten or more games. While the ERA has been in the mid-to-high threes, his FIP (fielding independent pitching) last season was 4.48.
Now, home/road splits are not the only indication of how successful a starting pitcher can be. But, at the same time, Hammel was a much better pitcher at Wrigley Field last season. He was 10-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 15 home starts. On the road, he was 5-8 with a 5.33 ERA in 15 starts.
Now, Hammel did benefit from run support in Chicago, but not as much as his fellow starters did. While Hammel got 4.45 runs per game from the Cubs (15th in the National League according to ESPN), that was the lowest of any Chicago starter. That being said, he did allow 25 home runs in 2016 (tied for ninth in the NL).
According to Fangraphs, Hammel’s average velocity on his fastball has gone down from 93.6 with the Orioles in 2012 to 92.1 this season. However, he has used his slider over 30% of the time each of the last two seasons. In 2016, teams hit .188 against Hammel’s slider and struck out 73 times, but he allowed seven home runs (courtesy of Brooks Baseball).
If Hammel stays out there on the free agent market and would take a one-two year deal, the Nats should try to sign him. They could always trade away Gio Gonzalez to help improve their ball club in other areas. However, if they did that, that would leave them without a left-handed starter in their rotation.
While I wouldn’t expect the Washington Nationals to sign Hammel, they do need to add veteran depth to the starting rotation in case of injuries. If Hammel were to sign with an American League team, I’m sure the Nats would be happy.