Washington Nationals Rumors: Team’s Pursuit of A.J. Burnett Makes Perfect Sense

Washington Nationals Rumors

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Friday, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports offered some interesting speculation regarding free-agent starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals.

Essentially, Heyman said that the only team that could possibly pull Burnett away from Pittsburgh is the Nationals. Since they are so close to his Maryland home and are in the National League, they seem to be the most likely candidates. Heyman also cited Adam Kilgore’s point that the Nationals have become known for making late Winter moves, so don’t think they’re done just yet.

While I’m not sure how much stock to really put into this, it’s a move that would make more sense than not for the Nationals. Assuming they can get Burnett at a team-friendly one-year deal, it would be an improvement. They already boast arguably the best starting rotation in the MLB and adding Burnett would only definitively make them the best rotation in baseball.

While Burnett struggled in 2010 and 2011, his career rebounded in 2012 and 2013. He won 16 games with a 3.51 ERA in 2012 and followed that with a 10-win and 3.30 ERA performance last season. On top of that, his strikeout rate was the best in the National League.

Already, Washington has Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister in their starting five. Currently, Ross Detwiler is slated to be the fifth starter, but that spot is up for grabs. Taylor Jordan and Ross Ohlendorf are two names who could steal that spot. That is, unless the team signs Burnett.

Mike Rizzo has set the team up financially to be able to make a move like this. He’s backloaded the contracts of Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann to save cap room for this year. Next year, they’ll be owed a majority of their respective contracts. This year, Washington still has some substantial cash to throw around.

Signing Burnett to a one-year deal seems like a logical thing to do. They have the funds and with Burnett turning 37 this past January, he’s on his final few seasons in MLB. In fact, this one may be the last good one left in him. Since they’ve smartly backloaded the expensive contracts, they can afford to spend several million on a one-year deal.

It make sense personnel-wise as well. Detwiler wouldn’t just disappear for the Nationals. Rather, he would move to the bullpen. The Nationals are in need of a lefty out of the pen and Detwiler could serve that purpose. They did trade for Jerry Blevins, but you’d like to have more than one or two reliable lefties in your bullpen if you’re Matt Williams.

Financially, they are in perfect position to make the move. In terms of their current roster, it would make even more sense to make the move. So what are they waiting for? The only thing I can think of his the futuristic thinking of Rizzo. It’s one of his strengths, really. His ability to think steps ahead of the competition has made them contenders. For this decision, he should just think about the here and now.

The Washington Nationals should go and do what it takes to sign A.J. Burnett. It would make them instant World Series favorites and they would still be well-suited for the future in doing so. What are you waiting for, Mr. Rizzo? Pick up the phone and make this a done deal. You’ll be glad you did.

Brian Skinnell is a freelance sports writer for RantSports.com and contributor at Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.

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