Nationals: DoD Writers Answer Important Free Agency Questions
By Max Rayman
How should Washington address the rotation?
Max Rayman: Last year the team relied on the big three and added Jon Lester on a one-year deal. Outside of Max Scherzer, everyone was a disaster, be it injuries or inconsistencies. Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg are surrounded with question marks and Mike Rizzo will need to decide how much he trusts the duo to return to form. If he doesn’t, then adding a veteran starter such as Alex Wood might be needed.
Josiah Gray, Erick Fedde, Joe Ross, Josh Rogers, and Paolo Espino will all be vying for a spot, with gray the player who is seen as part of the future. Cade Cavalli struggled at AAA, but he will be given a serious opportunity come Spring Training. Rizzo also needs to determine how far away pitching prospects Cole Henry, Jackson Rutledge, and Joan Adon are. If he still thinks they are a few years away, then adding a placeholder or two will be in the cards.
James Simmons: Imagine thinking Paolo Espino could make the Opening Day roster and be a vital part of the starting rotation. The minor league journeyman who has found a home with the Nationals will indeed come into camp as possibly the fourth starter.
He’ll be joined by Stephen Strasburg (if healthy) and Patrick Corbin. Because of the salaries, these two guys carry, will be tough to supplement them with much else. Grabbing a couple of guys off the free-agent scrap heap should suffice to chew up innings and buy some time. Matt Moore, Tanner Roark, maybe Chris Archer is he is healthy. Expectations for the pitching staff will not be high and the big-name prospects in the minor leagues probably need a little more seasoning.
Nationals Source: A rotation of Strasburg, Corbin, Gray, Espino, and Rogers could be okay if healthy, but the team obviously should add some depth there. They could go about this in two different ways. The first way would be adding some solid veteran depth pieces like Michael Pineda, Steven Matz, or Zach Davies who have pitched for a while and shown the ability to contribute. They could also look at one of two bigger options. Those options would be Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman and they will not be attached to qualifying offers. We all know Rizzo loves his pitching and if there is any sizeable move I expect it to be on the pitching side of things.
Joe Edelen: After seeing the success of this season’s San Francisco Giants, who signed three free-agent starting pitchers last offseason, it’s obvious that a lot of front offices will try to duplicate that this offseason. When the Giants signed Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, and Alex Wood, nobody expected the trio to become three of the best statistical pitchers in the game. The trio sat atop the leaders in ERA for much of the year, but most importantly, they helped lead the Giants to the top seed in the NL.
This method could probably work for the Nats, but it would be redundant to tie up even more money into your starting pitchers when you’re already paying Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin over a combined $50 million in 2022. With already so many young pitchers on the 40-man roster, it would be wise to at least sign one experienced starter, but I wouldn’t expect the Nationals to want to spend big, so a low-risk, high reward type of starter could be the way to go.