Washington Nationals: Henderson Alvarez a worthwhile reclamation project

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 23: Henderson Alvarez
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 23: Henderson Alvarez /

The Washington Nationals may be looking to add a starting pitcher for 2018, and Henderson Alvarez could be a great fit.

As things currently stand, the Washington Nationals have four proven starting pitchers. They appear willing to begin the season with the fifth spot in the rotation being a question mark, and address it at the trade deadline.

If they choose this route, Henderson Alvarez could be a terrific low-risk, high-reward gamble. Nats fans are familiar with Alvarez from his days with the Marlins, when he was one of the most exciting young pitchers in the game.

The highlight of Alvarez’s career has been his no-hitter on the final day of the 2013 season, but that was just a glimpse of what was to come in 2014, the best season of his career.

In 2014, Alvarez tossed nearly 200 innings, pitching to a spectacular 2.65 ERA, which ranked sixth in the National League. He earned his first All-Star Game nomination, and appeared ready to embark on a tremendous career.

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Now 27, Alvarez has only pitched 37 major league innings since the start of the 2015 season. Injuries have derailed what once appeared to be a bright future, but he has recently shown signs of returning to form.

Alvarez spent 2017 with the Phillies organization, splitting time between AAA and the majors. His successful AAA stint, which included pitching to a 2.84 ERA in three starts, led to him getting his first shot in the majors since 2015.

Upon returning to the majors, Alvarez impressed. In three starts, he pitched to a 4.30 ERA, which is not bad for a pitcher attempting to return from several injury-plagued seasons. Although he did not dominate like he did for Miami, he was respectable.

Now, Alvarez is a free agent. With an already deep rotation, the Nats could employ him as a fifth starter, a role in which he could thrive. He would not be expected to dominate, yet he has the potential to.

If Alvarez is able to pitch like he did in 2013 and 2014, he would give the Nats arguably the deepest rotation in the league. However, if he is not able to return to form, the Nats have several other starters who could step in.

Alvarez would also be a good fit with Derek Lilliquist, the Nats’ pitching coach. Lilliquist is considered to be a groundball guru, and works especially well with sinkerballers.

According to Brooks Baseball, Alvarez primarily relies on a sinker, which makes him a perfect match with Lilliquist. If the two are able to work well together, it could aid Alvarez’s comeback, making success much more attainable.

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Alvarez has fallen from grace over the last few years, but he has recently shown signs of returning to form. If he is able to remain healthy, he could be a great comeback candidate. Although it is a bit of a gamble, signing Alvarez would be a worthwhile risk for the Nats.