For the last few years, the Nationals have been known for their starting pitching. At the the beginning of the season, they looked to have one of the strongest rotations in the league. Max Scherzer had just won the Cy Young, Stephen Strasburg looked to finally be the full-year, dominant starter we’d expected him to be, Tanner Roark was coming off a career year, Gio Gonzalez got off to an incredibly hot start, and Joe Ross was looking to become a full-time rotation piece. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
But then things eventually started to fray at the seams. Ross went down and needed Tommy John surgery after a hot-and-cold season. Roark has been inconsistent for the better part of the season. Strasburg has a recent injury scare. Gonzalez has been pitching to a high caliber, and Scherzer has only improved on his Cy Young form, but you need more than the two cogs from your rotation if you want to go deep into the playoffs. One thing has become clear: they need help.
With Ross going down and Strasburg on the shelf for precautionary reasons, spots have opened up in the rotation for other pitchers to get opportunities, and that too has been up and down. Edwin Jackson, a member of the 2012 division-winning team, has had three starts for the Nationals this season. He impressed in his first start against the Angels, going 7 innings and only giving up 2 runs (both on solo home runs) and 3 hits while striking out 3 and walking none. His next start against the Brewers was a lot more shaky, only going 5 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits while striking out 3 and walking three. He did bounce back against the Rockies, going 7 and giving up 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 6 and walking 2. His ERA currently sits at 3.75. Erick Fedde made his major league debut Sunday against the Rockies, and while his stuff was good, he had trouble putting hitters away and didn’t get the result he wanted, only going 4 innings, giving up 7 runs (5 earned) on 10 hits while striking out 3 and walking 2. The fill-ins have been okay, but not quite good enough for a playoff rotation.
Despite the status of Strasburg’s health, the Nationals need to go and get another starter. The priority is still the bullpen, and for good reason, but rotation needs have become pressing. With the trade deadline winding down to its final hours, the big names are soon to come off the market. The Nationals need to take a bite and make a trade, and some of the following names are ones you could potentially hear connected to the Nationals.
Sonny Gray is probably the most talked-about name this trade season. He’s been on the market this whole time, and by the time July 31st ends, Gray will no longer be an Oakland Athletic; the only question is where he will land. No one seems to know, and a huge number of contenders have been rumored to be in on him. The Yankees are seemingly the foremost suitors of late, though talks have appeared to stall.
Gray would be a perfect fit for the Nationals rotation. His numbers this season are very good. Through 16 games, his ERA sits at 3.43, with an opposing batting average of .229 and a WHIP of 1.18. Additionally, he’s only given up only 8 home runs all season, and has a 8.72 K/9 and a 3.13 K/BB, on pace to be the best of his career. Possibly the most enticing part of getting Gray is his control. Gray is able to be controlled through 2019, and length is important to the Nationals given the fact that Joe Ross will be sidelined well into the 2018 season. Gray could be an invaluable rotation piece for the playoffs and years to come. The three-headed monster of Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gray could be a daunting challenge for even the best lineups to overcome.
Behind Gray, Yu Darvish is one of the most talked about pitchers on the market. With the Rangers’ struggles this season, it became clear that Darvish would be available and a hot target. While Darvish’s numbers aren’t as sparkling as Gray’s, Darvish could provide an important punch in a rotation. In 22 games, he has an ERA of 4.01, with an opposing batting average of .225, a WHIP of 1.17, a 9.72 K/9, and a 3.29 K/BB. Most enticing is his 148 strikeouts. However, Darvish would only be a rental, as he is a free agent at the end of this season. This could work for the Nationals; Darvish could be important for a playoff push, and they could easily find another pitcher to insert into their 2018 rotation. But the most important piece of information concerning Darvish: Washington is not one of the teams listed on his no-trade list.
While probably not the best fit or the best move, Justin Verlander is available, and maybe it’s just a bit tempting. Over the last decade, Verlander has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the majors. He’s been an All-Star six times, won the MVP and Cy Young, led the AL in strikeouts four times, and has pitched two no-hitters. And he’s spent all of that time with the Tigers. But it’s looking like his days in Detroit may be coming to an end. The Tigers look to be selling, as they’ve already shipped off J.D. Martinez to Arizona, and Verlander could be next on the chopping block. But a lot of things have to go exactly right. Verlander has a no-trade clause that he would have to waive to be traded away to a contender. His salary would also have to be negotiated between teams, as he is owed a huge sum of money, and the Tigers would probably have to continue paying some of his salary if they want to trade him. Verlander is also under contract through 2019, with a vesting option for 2020. There are better options out there, but if those options become unavailable, getting Verlander would have to be under the exact right conditions, but it could change the dynamic of the entire team.
The trade deadline is today, and the Nationals need some help. If they really want to be true contenders in the playoffs, they need to make some big moves, and they need to do it now.Tags: Edwin Jackson, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Nationals, Nats, Sonny Gray, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals, Yu Darvish