How long is the leash for Trevor Williams?

After a dreaful 2023 season for Trevor Williams, the starter turned reliever turned back to a starter is looking to improve in the final year of his two year pact with Washington. However, if the results continue, how long will the Nationals keep him in the rotation?

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

After nearly a decade of competitive baseball largely built on impressive pitching staffs, the Nationals are still trying to find their identity post-World Series. They have some promising young arms, but overall the Nationals rotation has been one of the worst over the past couple of seasons regardless of who it was compromised of. Being that this year's rotation is the exact same as last season, there is not a huge expectation of a step forward from the unit.

It is early in the season, but Washington Nationals fans mostly know what to expect from the teams' starting pitching in 2024. The current rotation of Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, Jake Irvin, Patrick Corbin, and Trevor Williams, while better than same in recent years, is nothing to write home about. Gray, Gore, Irvin, and even Corbin are "locked" in the rotation this season, but Williams seemingly has a short leash due to his performance in 2023 and to many it was a surprise he even began the season in the rotation.

Williams, 31, was inefficient last season. In 30 starts, he posted a 6-10 record with a 5.55 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 111 SO, and 53 BB, according to It was Williams' first season as a starter since 2020, which could contribute to his inability to pitch late into games, but it is more likely that he is just more effective as a reliever than a starter. In the 2023 season as a New York Met, Williams recorded a 3.21 ERA in 30 appearances out of the bullpen. Williams has shown value as a reliever and the Nats should move him to the bullpen to try and recoup some of that value.

Why is Williams on notice? It is not like the Nationals are destined for the playoffs this season.

For one, his struggles as a starting pitcher versus his success as a reliever are enough to make that change. It is not exactly a hypothetical as we have a good sample size of Williams as a reliever. And secondly, prospect Jackson Rutledge is knocking on the door of another shot in the Majors. He may not be quite ready or leagues above Williams, but he's a young prospect and the Nationals should figure out what they have in Rutledge. In his first appearance for AAA Rochester, Rutledge tossed five innings allowing just one run while striking out seven. He walked just two batters on the night, a point of emphasis for the 25-year-old prospect. Jackson had a short stint in the Majors last season and recorded a 6.75 ERA, but showed promise in a few of his starts. It's time for the Nats to see what they've got in Jackson Rutledge.

A close eye should be kept on Trevor Williams as he begins the 2024 season. Trotting out a struggling starting pitcher has no benefit to a rebuilding franchise, unless you are Patrick Corbin and on the hook for $30M plus this season - the Nats hands are a bit tied on that one. Rutledge is currently the 15th prospect in the Nats' Top-30 prospect rankings. This is not even to mention Cade Cavalli, who is another prospect returning from injury and should be back sometime midseason and could also give reason to move Williams to the bullpen. In all likelihood, Trevor Williams is not in the Nationals starting rotation at the end of the season, so the sooner a change is made, the better.