The Washington Nationals boasts arguably the very best starting rotation in the major leagues going into 2013, with a group anchored by a pair of aces in Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. If all goes according to plan, pitching won’t be much of an issue with the team this season.
The recent MLB investigation into Biogenesis and PEDs, however, might throw a wrench in that plan.
Until the league’s investigation is complete and Gonzalez’s name is cleared from the scandal, the fact remains that the NL Cy Young runner-up could face a 50-game drug suspension if he is found to have taken PEDs at some point in the past, a scenario that would have a massive impact on the the Nationals’ starting five.
They would still be very good, but a Nationals squad without Gonzalez for an extended period of time is likely one that will have to start looking at outside options to fill the back-end of the rotation. That’s where Javier Vazquez might come into the picture.
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the team has been keeping track of the 36-year old righty’s activities to see if the former All-Star has recovered his form, as he returns to throwing at full strength coming off of a minor knee procedure this off-season.
Vazquez, who did not pitch in 2012 while mulling potential retirement, has reportedly drawn interest with as many as seven teams this off-season, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN. The veteran had indicated as early as April 2012 that he would want to pitch for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, and he is in line to do so when the tournament opens in March this year.
After that, it’s anybody’s guess as far as where he might want to take his career – if he wants to continue it at all. Vazquez was excellent the last time he stepped on a major-league mound, putting up a 3.69/1.18 ERA/WHIP over 192.2 innings in a 3.2 fWAR, age-34 season with the then-Florida Marlins.
It’s a wait-and-see proposition for the Nationals, who could find themselves quickly needing to fill a Gio Gonzalez-sized hole in the rotation in the worst case scenario. Even with Dan Haren or Ross Detwiler being more than capable of moving up a slot, adding an effective Vazquez would give the team the kind of depth they would need to breathe a little easier every fifth day, instead of having to go with a less reliable quantity like Yuensky Maya.
That is, if Vazquez will still consider a MLB comeback, anyway.