As the GM Meetings come to a close today, there has been a lot of conversation regarding what the Washington Nationals will do with their rotation, bench and other specific backup roles.
As we know, the Nationals are rumored to want to add an “elite” starter to their young rotation, and they have been mentioned in the same sentence as David Price and Max Scherzer. Price is definitely being shopped since his team, the Tampa Bay Rays, always manages to deal their stars are peak value, but there is still some question as to whether Scherzer is actually available. His team, the Detroit Tigers, have allegedly told other teams they will deal either Scherzer or Rick Porcello, who has been part of trade rumors for years.
Price and Scherzer are definitely the cream of the pitching crop, and with the free agent pitching market chock full of second tier starters teams will overspend to protect the prospects they do not want to trade while simultaneously sacrificing future prospects, as most of these pitchers have rejected qualifying offers. The dollar amount a team spends is always a known commodity, unlike prospects which are always much more pricey. A GM suggested to a Nationals reporter on twitter that a package for Price would probably start at a combination of Anthony Rendon, Lucas Giolito and A.J. Cole, which is, needless to say, unrealistically high. If that is the case, then GM Mike Rizzo should not bother picking up the phone to call Tampa Bay if he has not already called.
If Scherzer and Price prove too expensive or if one is actually unavailable, Washington could look at a lower tier of available starters via trade or free agency. One name that has popped up is Chicago Cubs hurler Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija is coming off of an 8-13, 4.34 ERA season and will be 29 on Opening Day. Samardzija has only been a starter for two seasons and has gone a combined 17-26 with a 4.07 ERA for a Cubs team that is markedly less than competitive. Samardzija comes with two seasons of control, being a free agent after the 2016 season, and would probably come at a cheaper price based on his production in 2013 and the fact that his ERA has done nothing but balloon since 2011, increasing by almost an entire run from 2011 to 2012 when he converted to the rotation.
Samardzija is relatively young, throws hard, and could come much cheaper than the Scherzer/Price class, but that is for a reason. Samardzija, as a starter, has shown he is nothing overly special, though he did strike out 214 batters in 213.2 innings in 2013 so he would fit in nicely with Washington’s rotation of strikeout pitchers. The bottom line, however, is this: Samardzija is a second tier pitcher and should only be seen as a fallback option that is approached only if Washington does not come through on the other free agent and trade market pitchers.