Washington Nationals: Should The Nats Take A Chance On T.J. Zeuch?

BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JUNE 17: T.J. Zeuch #29 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Sahlen Field on June 17, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JUNE 17: T.J. Zeuch #29 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Sahlen Field on June 17, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images) /
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Washington needs depth for the starting rotation and the recently DFA’ed T.J. Zeuch is a perfect candidate.

After years of boasting one of the best starting rotations in baseball, the Washington Nationals have fallen on hard times. Max Scherzer is still a bonafide ace, but it gets pretty scary behind him. Stephen Strasburg is on the IL and has only thrown 21.2 innings this season.

Patrick Corbin has continued to regress over the last two seasons. Joe Ross and Erick Fedde have been inconsistent. Paolo Espino has been admirable, but the 34-year-old has 81 MLB innings under his belt, with 51 of them coming this season. Jon Lester is running on fumes and he’s more name than anything at this stage of his career.

Washington’s starting rotation is 18th in ERA (4.26), 22nd in FIP (4.53), and 20th in fWAR (5.4). Strasburg returning from the IL will help, but that won’t be enough if the Nationals truly want to contend.

Enter T.J. Zeuch. The former top prospect was recently designated for assignment by Toronto. Once seen as the future of Toronto’s starting rotation, the 2016 first-round pick posted a 4.59 ERA across three seasons.

The righty was promoted to the Big Leagues during the 2019 season and had mixed results. In 22.2 innings, he went 1-2, with a 4.76 ERA, and a 4.05 ERA. His command was a problem, issuing 11 walks compared to only 20 strikeouts. He seemed to turn a corner during the shortened 2020 season. In 11.1 innings, he went 1-0, with a 1.59 ERA and three strikeouts. However, his 4.87 FIP was a red flag.

This year Zeuch took a major step back, going 0-2, with a 6.60 ERA, eight strikeouts, and a 9.10 FIP in 15 innings. Toronto decided that had seen enough and chose to cut ties.

Washington’s General Manager Mike Rizzo loves pitching and Zeuch could be the lottery ticket the Nationals need. With Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin in tow, Zeuch won’t have the high expectations and pressure of trying to lead a rotation. Instead, he would be given a chance to become the National’s fifth starter or could even move to the bullpen.

Zeuch would also have the chance to work with Jim Hickey, Washington’s pitching coach. Hickey has been around for a while and has coached plenty of high-profile names including David Price, James Shields, Roger Clemens, Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.

Only 25, a change of scenery is exactly what could help revive his career. For Washington, the move makes sense because outside of Scherzer, the rotation has been a rollercoaster with impressive highs and depressing lows. Taking a flier on Zeuch to see if he can bounce back is exactly what the Nats need to do. Trading for his services wouldn’t cost more than cash considerations and maybe a player to be named later.

Washington doesn’t have an extensive trade record with Toronto, but the last time they completed a trade, it worked out perfectly in the Nats favor. At the 2019 trade deadline, Mike Rizzo acquired Daniel Hudson who went on to record the final out of the 2019 World Series. Give the guy a chance.

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