The Washington Nationals easily have one of the best rotational big threes in the league. With names like Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez an Jordan Zimmermann leading the rotation, it’s no shock Washington has won 184 games the past two years. Throw in Ross Detwiler, who has shown he is no slouch when healthy, and all you need is a solid veteran to round out the rotation and you are set, right?
Well, sadly, not exactly.
As we have seen, Washington has gone out the past two winters and signed that veteran to round out the rotation. Unfortunately, it blew up in their faces, as the duo of Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren went a combined 20-25 with a 4.35 ERA, all for the not so low price of $24 million. What is worse is that Haren, who was perceived as an upgrade over Jackson, cost more and was actually less productive, finishing with three more losses and with a higher ERA. The only positive of these two signings is that they were for one year, so Washington does retain their flexibility and does not have to hope for a bounce back season from one of them. All the Nationals needed to do was let these two disappointments walk away.
This offseason is slightly different than last winter and the winter before that as well. Washington not only is coming off one of the most disappointing seasons possibly in baseball history, but they have more holes than they thought they did, some of them exacerbated by the disappointment of 2013. Washington needs to add one or two lefty relievers, probably could do with adding a right handed veteran reliever, improve their bench, and of course upgrade their rotation. However, Washington actually has two holes in their rotation, not one.
There is no guarantee Detwiler will be healthy by spring training as he recovers from back surgery. When Detwiler does come back he may be better off coming out of the bullpen as it’s still hard to say whether he can succeed as a starter. He tends to get too fastball happy which at some point could backfire. With this in mind, Washington is going to need to fill a rotation spot not for 2014 but for years to come.
Washington no longer needs to simply add a starter to fill a hole, they need to solidify their rotation for years. Adding someone on the second tier or bargain bin of the free agent market is no longer going to be enough, especially after 2013. Washington is going to need to add a Matt Garza and consider acquiring another starter via trade. By doing this they are setting themselves up to win in 2014 and will be able to focus on other aspects of their team for winters to come.