With the World Series over, the Washington Nationals, as well as every team not playing in Boston and St. Louis, can now turn their attention to their respective offseasons. The first step for Washington is Matt Williams‘ introductory press conference, which is this afternoon at 2 p.m. eastern.
As we know, GM Mike Rizzo wants to fortify the team’s bullpen and bench, two major points of weakness in 2013. The bullpen was nothing short of erratic, which is doubly frightening with the addition of Rafael Soriano as the team’s closer. The bench was an absolute nightmare, as Washington pinch hitters had a combined .207/.249/.357 slash line in 2013. That is not completely surprising as Washington’s bench was comprised of younger players when most benches usually consist of veteran players. Guys like Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore are still learning as players and might have been better served in the minors.
One thing any team can not have enough of is pitching, and Washington has a strong three-headed monster at the top of their rotation in Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. Unfortunately, as we saw in 2013, Washington may need a fourth starter to provide some more stability as Ross Detwiler‘s season was hampered by back problems and Dan Haren was an unmitigated disaster. Rookies Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark were revelations, but for a team perceived as being in their window to win, they need more of a veteran presence in their rotation to provide stability and continuity, two aspects Rizzo loves having on his team.
Previously, I explored how the Nationals match up with the Detroit Tigers in a trade for Max Scherzer. At first blush it does seem like they match up well, but when looking even deeper, Detroit probably has their dream trade partner in D.C.
As we saw with the way Scherzer pitched this season, he is probably going to price himself out of Detroit if the Tigers were to retain him, especially with the prospective Miguel Cabrera contract. Scherzer’s time to be traded is definitely now, since he is coming off a 21 win season that will probably make him the American League Cy Young Award winner. His value will never be higher, and Detroit should and will take full advantage of that.
Washington matches up perfectly for Scherzer because of Detroit’s biggest holes, which were revealed in 2013: their bullpen, the lack of a closer and the fact that Alex Avila seems to be in a never-ending offensive tailspin. Washington just so happens to have three closers in their bullpen in Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Soriano, and they also have plenty of catching depth as we have seen with the call-ups of Sandy Leon and Jhonotan Solano. They are both still pretty young and have plenty of potential that Detroit could take a chance on to either light a fire under Avila or have an open competition in Spring Training or even a platoon situation.
Detroit had a hodgepodge of relievers and used many different pitchers to close out games. Bringing in Storen, Clippard or Soriano would allow Detroit’s other relievers to settle into more established roles, which would make the bullpen a whole lot better. Add in a catcher to address the Avila problem and you have two big pieces that could line up nicely for a major trade for Scherzer. We know how Rizzo likes to bring in his guys, and Rizzo drafted Scherzer. That alone should make the Nationals front-runners; throw in the relievers and catchers, and you have a dream trade matchup for both sides.