The Washington Nationals have been connected to every big name free agent the past few winters, from Prince Fielder to Zack Greinke. Washington, of course, did have an open rotation spot the past few offseasons but opted to fill that need on one year contracts so as to keep their options open and not lock themselves into unfavorable deals. The pitchers they signed in Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren proved those decisions to be smart, and the pitchers they overlooked will forever have fans wondering “what if?”.
After a season where Washington, at first glance, regressed, winning 12 less games than the season before, things will be no different this winter. Washington will be connected to any available pitcher, and they will have quite a choice to make should they pursue any of them via trade or free agency. The Tampa Bay Rays will be dangling out their ace, David Price, and the Detroit Tigers have been rumored to be preparing to accept proposals for Max Scherzer, whom they believe will become too expensive with the impending Miguel Cabrera deal, which should shatter any and every record for a contract.
Washington has been able to replenish their farm system the past few seasons after exhausting it with the Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span deals. Fans have seen the spoils of those deals with the call-ups of Taylor Jordan, Ian Krol and Tanner Roark, just to name a few. Combine those names with some catching depth and some relievers that could become available with closing experience, and Washington could be one of the most active teams on the trade market. But with GM Mike Rizzo‘s love of his players and having organizational depth, perhaps the trade market is not Washington’s most viable option.
The free agent market for pitchers is pretty thin, which makes Matt Garza the golden goose and a guy Washington should try to pursue aggressively before addressing any potential trades. Of course, with the new CBA, this may take much longer than anticipated, as teams are less than thrilled to part with their draft picks. Garza will likely demand anywhere in the vicinity of a five to seven year deal in the $100-$150 million range. Washington could sign Garza and it would allow them to keep their prospects for later deals or simply for injury depth.
The key here is that if Washington acquires Scherzer or Price there would probably be an extension that comes with the trade, and those two could demand not only much more than Garza due to their age, but it’s almost like a posting fee/contract type of concept that comes with acquiring a Japanese player. Washington could cut that in half, save their prospects, perhaps even money, and bring in a veteran presence for years to come, as well as creating the best rotation in baseball. Heck, Washington could even sign Garza and acquire one of the aforementioned pitchers and really solidify themselves.