In 2010, Zack Greinke was on the trading block for the Kansas City Royals, the year after he won the American League Cy Young. The Washington Nationals, looking to build their rotation around a recently-injured Stephen Strasburg, went after Greinke. Before the 2012 season, the Nats were looking to do the same thing, build around Strasburg, when they pursued free agent Mark Buehrle. The Nats didn’t acquire either player, and they benefited because of it.
Greinke was young and talented in 2010, just like he is today, and he was fresh off a season where he won the AL Cy Young by winning 16 of the Royals 65 games that season with a 2.16 ERA and a 1.073 WHIP. He looked to be the player for which the Nats had longed, until he vetoed a trade, choosing to go to the Milwaukee Brewers instead. He didn’t go to the Nats because he saw the Brewers as more of a playoff contender.
Now, Greinke has been good since that 2009 Cy Young season, but he’s never come close to the exceptional numbers he put up that year. He’s posted a 3.92 ERA and a 1.231 since then. Respectable numbers, but nowhere near worth what the Nats would have had to sacrifice for him. The rumor was that Kansas City wanted Jordan Zimmermann as part of the deal, as well as a few other MLB-ready players. The Nats couldn’t have known how great Zimmermann would be so quickly, but it already looks like the Nats have made the right call.
In the same time that Greinke put up a 3.92 ERA and a 1.231 WHIP, Zimmermann posted a 3.09 ERA and a 1.150 WHIP. Granted, JZimm was injured and recovering in 2010, but in 2011 and 2012, Greinke and Zimmermann have pitched a nearly identical number of innings. With Zimmermann, they have control of him for three full seasons after this one. Greinke will be eligible for free agency after this year. All in all, the Nats made the right move here, having the benefit of hindsight, of course.
Similarly, as the Nats looked to add to Strasburg and Zimmermann in the rotation this past offseason, they looked to be strong suitors of Mark Buehrle. The veteran lefty had a solid 12-season career with the Chicago White Sox. He was elected to four All-Star Games, won three Gold Gloves, finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 2005, and pitched a perfect game.
The Nats offered Buehrle a three-year deal worth just under $40 million, which was eventually topped by the Miami Marlins and an extremely expensive four-year, $58 million contract. It was a deflating day for Nats fans, as it looked like once again, the Nats missed out on a big name player that didn’t want to come to DC. But GM Mike Rizzo had another trick up his sleeve as he made a blockbuster trade for Oakland A’s ace and All-Star Gio Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has spoken with his numbers, and his smile, since arriving in DC. Now, Buehrle has been masterful in Miami, but Gio is seven years younger than Buehrle and is now under club control through at least 2016 with options for 2017 and 2018. Not to mention, Gio is in the conversation for the NL Cy Young and is one of three aces (with Strasburg and Zimmermann) on the best pitching staff in Major League Baseball. It cost a lot in prospects for the Nats to get Gonzalez, but it has paid off with a first-place baseball team. There’s no arguing with those facts.
So the Nats could have gotten two great pitchers in Greinke and Buehrle in the last couple years, and the fact that they didn’t has actually benefited the Nats in many ways. It’s just the latest example of good things that come to Nats fans who wait.