Washington Nationals: Strasburg DL stint causes headaches

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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: Pitching coach Mike Maddux
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: Pitching coach Mike Maddux /
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The fragile elbow of Stephen Strasburg places the Washington Nationals in a tight spot. With days to go before the trade deadline, what happens next?

Forced to place Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list, the Washington Nationals face an uncomfortable decision with little time to make it.

With days to go before the non-waiver trade deadline, will the Nats grab another starting pitcher? As rumors fly of Sonny Gray, Yu Darvish and others, you wonder how bad is Strasburg’s elbow.

If the nerve impingement relief is going as planned, time is on Washington’s side. The National League East race is practically over. Unless the Chicago Cubs or Milwaukee Brewers catch fire, the Nats will host their NL Divisional Series. Hosting a potential Game 5 is big.

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Although adding a team-controlled starter such as Gray is a bonus, but the front four on the roster can do the job. You do not trade a front line prospect like Victor Robles if Strasburg is slotted to start Game 2 at home.

With Joe Ross gone for the rest of this year, the combination of Edwin Jackson and Erick Fedde works for the fifth spot. One will emerge worthy of long relief needed in the playoffs. Then you have the offseason to plan around Ross’ 2018 absence.

Strasburg changes the equation.

You need a fourth starter in the playoffs. Yes, roles are changing and putting a premium on bullpen usage. Starting pitching is still important. Overtaxing a bullpen will end a season. You need a pitcher to get 18 outs. Jackson and Fedde are not ready to do that.

Jackson’s two starts with the Nats are the dictionary definition of Jekyll and Hyde. Fedde is unproven. For a team desperate to advance, trusting them to steal you a game is risky.

Which leads to the Nats problem. They still do not have an established closer.

The long audition process underway will give a band-aid for this year. If the Nats wanted to part with a top prospect for a known closer now, then they do not have the talent to fill Strasburg’s hole. And vice versa.

Since the Nats are as forthcoming about injuries as the television series Game of Thrones is giving spoilers, we have no true sense on how bad Strasburg is hurt. Here, protecting their trade leverage is important. If the team announced another Tommy John surgery tomorrow, then say bye to Robles.

Because their finish and playoff seeding is mostly set, we wander through the final two months of the season waiting for October. Washington must have Strasburg healthy by then.

Next: Lynn good fit for Nats

If not, you cannot rely on a scrapheap August pickup to save the season. The Nats will need to make a deal before Monday.

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