Day 2 – Bring in a pair of starting pitchers
Now that we’ve managed to get the talisman back in a Washington Nationals uniform, we’ve made a huge signal of intent. It’s time to start filling in the rest of the gaps on the team, knowing exactly what budget we have.
The starting rotation was probably the primary reason the team didn’t make the playoffs last season. Gio Gonzalez couldn’t follow up his bounceback 2017, Tanner Roark was lobbing up meatballs for stretches, and when injuries struck, young arms couldn’t step up.
On the second day as GM, the phone rings early in the morning. Brian Cashman, GM of the New York Yankees. He saw how our rotation struggled last year and wants to offer us Sonny Gray, who he is desperate to get a fresh start for.
He wants to do a straight swap, Gray for Wilmer Difo. On the face of it, the deal makes sense. The Yankees want some middle infield insurance with Didi Gregorius set to miss a chunk of 2019, and the Nats get a high-upside starter.
But with Difo’s cheap contract, we ask for more. Cashman says he’ll throw in Ben Heller, a reliever who has been injury plagued and he can’t fit him in their loaded bullpen. I pull the trigger on the deal and the backend of the rotation feels much better.
Trade Completed: Washington Nationals receive Sonny Gray and Ben Heller, New York Yankees receive Wilmer Difo
Although we’ve secured a great fourth option in the rotation, it still leaves the rotation a little vulnerable at the top end. Max Scherzer is stranded alone if Stephen Strasburg gets injured, so a left-hander makes a lot of sense to be the new Gio Gonzalez.
After a hard fight to try and persuade Patrick Corbin away from the same Yankees we just got off the phone to, he feels he has to join his boyhood club. So I turn my attention to next best lefty on the market, Dallas Keuchel.
Uh oh, that means we have to go through with more long negotiations with Scott Boras. He’s been trying his hardest to get Keuchel $28 million per year, and even took his Cy Young Award from 2015 on his visits with teams, but had little success.
So we get a groveling Boras coming back to the well again. Thankfully, we have the need and if we can bring him down a little bit, there’s a deal to be had. He tries the same ploy with us as he had with other teams, asking for a four-year, $112 million deal. We counter with an extra year and lower the annual average down to $20 per year, and give him an opt out early and the negotiations are over surprisingly quickly.
Contract Signed: Dallas Keuchel signs a five-year deal, $100 million, with an opt-out after the second season.