Next Season’s Roster: On the Bubble – Pitchers Edition

John Lanan pitchesNow, on to the Washington Nationals pitchers that are on the bubble.  This list is a bit longer because of the uncertainty of the pitching rotation and the bullpen, so stick with me here.  I’ve divided it up to make it a bit easier to digest, I hope.

The Probables:

If you asked Sean Burnett, I’m sure he’d tell you that he wanted March through July back.  Look at his numbers in August (1.00 ERA) and September (1.04 ERA), and you can easily see why Burnett is the #1 probable for the on the bubble list.  He would have been a safe bet to put on the lock list, but I didn’t believe he was a total lock because of his abhorrent start to the season.  Burnett will be in the bullpen next year, I’m just not sure what his role will be yet.

Henry Rodriguez looks to have solidified himself as a 7th inning guy and back up closer when Drew Storen is unavailable.  As he struggled earlier in the season, I questioned Manager Davey Johnson‘s decision to constantly put in the occasionally-wild righty in big spots.  Rodriguez’s success at the end of his season shows why Davey manages and I blog.  I covered HRod in more statistical detail here.

The Long Relievers:

Craig Stammen is one of those starters that had a lot of value when the Nationals were bad, but his value has decreased as the team has gotten better.  He did seem to find his niche as a long reliever this season, though.  I think Stamen is the ideal candidate for this job.  As a reliever this season, he put up an 0.87 ERA. In 10.1 innings, he gave up 1 hit and struck out 12 while walking just 4.  If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Stammen in the long reliever role.

It is put up or shut up time for Ross Detwiler.  As much as I like Rossy D, he has to prove something.  A few weeks before the season closed, I was convinced that the long reliever job was Detwiler’s for the taking.  After some stellar performances to close the season, though, he is probably contending for the 5th spot in the Nationals rotation this coming spring.  If Detwiler fails to make the 25-man again to start this season, he very well be put out to pasture (via trade) in very short order.  You can’t waste top 10 pick draft talent for too many seasons before you have to try capitalizing on what’s remaining of his value.

The Trade Bait:

John Lannan is going to make it difficult this offseason for GM Mike Rizzo.  Lannan is a bit of an anomaly; he’s started 2 consecutive Opening Days for the organization (2009-10), yet he was never really considered to be an ace of the rotation.  Meanwhile, Lannan still has significant value to any team, and that includes the Nats.  In 3 of his last 4 MLB seasons, he’s had a sub-4 ERA and a ground ball percentage over 50% in all 4 years.  He’s had a WAR over 1 every season since 2008, and while that’s not stellar, it certainly isn’t anywhere close to bad.  He’s also proven that he can pitch more than 180 innings every season, which will be important to a rotation heavy on Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, both Tommy John survivors.

On the flip side, Lannan may not be a long term solution to the Nationals rotation, and Rizzo might considering trading him now, when his value has never been higher.  He’s approaching that “veteran” status that teams look for to solidify their pitching, and while the Nationals would probably need to pitch him in the #3 spot in their rotation, he could make a great #5 starter for a team with a more developed rotation.  The decision to trade Lannan and Ian Desmond will be the ultimate decisions this offseason, trade-wise, and it won’t be an easy one to make.

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.