Quick Links

Nats rotation will be stacked again


Nats rotation will be stacked again

As we transition into offseason mode, we'll start by breaking down the Nationals' roster by position (infield, outfield, catcher, rotation and bullpen) this week and examine where things stand at season's end and where things might stand moving forward. Today's position: The starting rotation...

Stats: 15-6, 3.16 ERA, 159.1 IP, 1.155 WHIP, 11.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
4.3 WAR
2012 salary: $3 million
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2014, free agent in 2017
Where he fits in: Right at the top of the rotation. And straight through September (and into October, should the Nationals get that far). The Shutdown will be a huge topic of discussion all spring, but once the season gets underway, Strasburg will be free to pitch every fifth day with no restrictions (aside from running up pitch counts only Livan Hernandez is allowed to reach). One more year removed from his Tommy John surgery, the right-hander figures to be more consistent from start to start and should feel like he's still got plenty left in the tank late in the year, much as Jordan Zimmermann did this year.

Stats: 21-8, 2.89 ERA, 199.1 IP, 1.129 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
5.4 WAR
2012 salary: $3.25 million
Contract status: $6.25 million in 2013, $8.5 million in 2014, $11 million in 2015, $12 million in 2016, $12 million club option in 2017, $12 million player option in 2018 (guaranteed with 180 IP in 2017)
Where he fits in: Though he led the majors in wins in 2012, Gonzalez will almost certainly play second fiddle to Strasburg in 2013. That's the role the Nationals intended all along for the left-hander, who while brilliant at times is still prone to the occasional hiccup (as we saw in the postseason). Another year wiser and more comfortable against National League lineups, Gonzalez should continue to develop as a front-line starter and give the Nats as good of a 1-2 punch as there is in baseball right now.

Stats: 12-8, 2.94 ERA, 195.2 IP, 1.170 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
3.5 WAR
2012 salary: $2.3 million
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible, free agent in 2016
Where he fits in: Actually, make that as good of a 1-2-3 punch as there is in baseball right now, because Zimmermann deserves to be lumped in with Strasburg and Gonzalez as front-line starters. The right-hander took another big step forward this season, throwing more innings than he ever has and showing he still had enough left in the tank to dial his fastball up to 97 mph during his surprise relief appearance in Game 4 of the NLDS. Though they still control his rights for three more years, the Nationals are going to seriously consider locking up Zimmermann to a long-term deal this winter. They've already got Strasburg and Gonzalez for at least four more years; they'd love to ensure they've got Zimmermann at least that long as well.

Stats: 10-8, 3.40 ERA, 164.1 IP, 1.223 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
1.8 WAR
2012 salary: $485,000
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible, free agent in 2016
Where he fits in: Perhaps the most pleasant development from the entire Nationals pitching staff this season was Detwiler's long-awaited emergence after years of teasing everyone with his potential. The left-hander proved he can get through big-league lineups three times with success, proved his arm could hold up over the long haul and proved he could thrive under pressure (witness Game 4 of the NLDS). In the process, he locked up the fourth starter's job for next year and several years to come, though his price is going to go up now that he's reached arbitration eligibility.

Stats: 10-11, 4.03 ERA, 189.2 IP, 1.218 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
2.7 WAR
2012 salary: $11 million
Contract status: Free agent
Where he fits in: Signed to provide veteran influence, eat up innings and help fill the void when Strasburg was shut down, Jackson was brilliant times, downright ugly at others. He'd love to return in 2013, but the Nationals appear ready to look elsewhere, leaving the enigmatic right-hander to hope another club offers him the long-term deal he couldn't procure last winter.

Stats: 4-1, 4.13 ERA, 32.2 IP, 1.439 WHIP, 4.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9
0.5 WAR
2012 salary: $5 million
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible, free agent in 2014
Where he fits in: After a bizarre season, most of it spent at Class AAA Syracuse waiting just in case the Nationals needed his services, Lannan is going to once again find himself in an uncomfortable position this winter. He's still under the Nationals' control for another year, but they don't appear committed to giving him the fifth starter's job. And because he's now out of options, he can't be stashed away in the minors again. Mike Rizzo will hope Lannan's strong performance when called upon late this season prompts some trade interest. But the more plausible scenario would have the Nationals electing not to tender the lefty a contract before the Nov. 30 deadline, making him a free agent.

Stats: 2-3, 6.68 ERA, 32.1 IP, 2.010 WHIP, 4.2 K/9, 4.2 BB/9
-0.4 WAR
2012 salary: $4 million
Contract status: Free agent
Where he fits in: The Nationals invested three years and $8 million in this reclamation project, hoping he could make it all the way back from a major shoulder injury and recapture his 19-win form from 2006-07. In the end, Wang made more rehab starts in the minor leagues (21) than starts in the big leagues (15). They won't feel the need to take another chance on him next year.

Last December's trade for Gonzalez stripped the Nationals of some upper-level pitching depth -- Yunesky Maya (remember him?) and Zach Duke were their best Class AAA starters -- but there is another wave of power arms creeping up the organizational ladder. Unfortunately, several of them have been sidetracked by injuries, including left-handers Matt Purke (shoulder) and Sammy Solis (elbow) and 2012 first-round draft pick Lucas Giolito (elbow). The best of the healthy bunch is Alex Meyer, a tall right-hander selected in 2011 with one of the compensation picks the Nats received for losing Adam Dunn to free agency. Meyer went a combine 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA at low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac. He'll probably start 2013 at Class AA Harrisburg and could theoretically be in the big leagues by September. One of the most successful starters in the system early this season was Danny Rosenbaum, though the lefty faded significantly during the second half at Harrisburg. One interesting name to keep an eye on: Ryan Perry, who appeared out of the bullpen in D.C. during the season but was sent to Class AA to convert into a starter and wound up posting a 2.84 ERA in 13 games. Another bright spot was right-hander Nate Karns, who returned from a torn labrum to go 11-4 with a 2.17 ERA at Hagerstown and Potomac and was named organizational pitcher of the year.

Though it remains the backbone of this team and its biggest strength, the Nationals rotation still needs a boost during the offseason. With Jackson likely headed elsewhere, Rizzo will look to add another veteran arm to the mix, perhaps offering a multi-year deal for the right pitcher. That yet-to-be-determined No. 5 starter will take up the back end of what should by all rights be the majors' best rotation in 2013, with an unfettered Strasburg leading the charge.

Quick Links

Report: Under Armour taking over MLB jerseys in 2020

Report: Under Armour taking over MLB jerseys in 2020

Majestic’s reign as the maker of MLB jerseys are about to come to an end. 

In 2020, Fanatics and Under Armour will be teaming to make on-field jerseys and apparel for all MLB teams, according to a Sports Business Journal report. 

The news outlet also reports that the deal means the MLB’s licensing relations with Nike will be over as well. 

Under Armour will produce the jerseys starting in Spring Training of the 2020 season, and “broad apparel rights” will go to Fanatics. 

New Era will continue to be the maker of MLB hats. 

Given that Maryland native Kevin Plank founded Under Armour, and that the business' headquarters are in Baltimore, it’s sure to be a splash with baseball fans in the DMV.

You can read the full Sports Business journal report here. 

Quick Links

Early look at the Nationals' biggest questions this offseason

Early look at the Nationals' biggest questions this offseason

Here is an early look at the biggest questions facing the Washington Nationals as they embark on another offseason in their quest to build a championship team...

What to do with Wilson Ramos and the catcher position?

The Nationals' biggest question entering this offseason is without a doubt at catcher with All-Star Wilson Ramos on the mend after having the ACL in his right knee repaired on Friday. Not only is the recovery a long one - he could be out until well into the 2017 season - it is the second time he's had the ligament fixed. At 29, his viability as a primary catcher moving forward is a real question. Even Ramos admitted he may have to transition to the American League with his next contract.

If Ramos does leave, behind him will be a significant hole on the Nationals. They have several in-house options, but none that are anywhere close to Ramos, who emerged this season as the best offensive catcher in baseball. Pedro Severino is a nice young player, but has a career .632 OPS in the minors. The drop-off on offense from Ramos to him would be significant. The same can be said about Jose Lobaton.

It won't be easy replacing Ramos with an external option, if that's the way the Nats opt to go. Catchers who can hit and play defense like him are a rarity. Matt Wieters of the Orioles would be the best option in free agency, but he's a year older and is also a step down offensively. Unless they like Wieters - who does happen to be represented by Scott Boras - they may have to trade for a new backstop, and that won't be easy either. 

This is all not to rule out the Nationals re-signing Ramos, but right now it's difficult to project what type of contract he will garner and whether that could fit in their plans. Surely it would be tough for them to offer a long-term deal, but maybe they make sense if he decides to take a short-term contract to reset for free agency either next offseason or the one after that.

Any major upgrades needed?

The Nationals are in an interesting spot, having won 95 games and the NL East, but with yet another disappointing end to their year. General manager Mike Rizzo loves to make big splashes in the offseason. Every single winter he does something aggressive and unexpected. What will he do this year? There aren't many areas where he could potentially upgrade, but that hasn't stopped him in the past.

If Ramos leaves, catcher is obviously the biggest need. But beyond that, the two major problem areas in their lineup this season were at shortstop and first base. Danny Espinosa played solid defense and hit 24 homers, but held an unsightly .209 batting average. His .552 OPS in the second half was worst in baseball among those with at least 165 at-bats. 

Espinosa is always looking over his shoulder this time of the year and just this past winter appeared to be the odd-man out when the Nats traded for Ben Revere and signed Daniel Murphy. Espinosa managed to overcome the odds and play 157 games. He has one year left on his contract, so one way or another the Nats will need to start thinking long-term about his position.

Shortstop is an easier situation to evaluate than first base, where Ryan Zimmerman is due to make $14 million each of the next two seasons and $18 million the year after that. He had the worst season of his career with a .642 OPS through 115 games. Bringing in a first baseman to flat-out replace Zimmerman seems unrealistic, given his contract. But perhaps they can find someone who plays both first base and left field, with Jayson Werth having just one year left on his deal.

Who will be the closer?

The Nationals found success in the ninth inning with Mark Melancon after they acquired him at the trade deadline in a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But it was just a rental. Now Melancon is due for free agency and the Nats once again have questions at the position. They could opt to re-sign Melancon, or go with another free agent option. Aroldis Chapman, whom they have coveted in the past, will be available. So will Kenley Jansen, who just helped end their season with the Dodgers. It's an unusually deep crop of star closers and it would be a surprise if the Nationals didn't snag one of them. Another option would be to promote Shawn Kelley or Blake Treinen, but that would be out of the Nationals' character.

Are they content with the rotation?

If one were to pick the biggest reason the Nationals lost their NL Division Series against the Dodgers it would have to be the starting rotation. It was their most glaring weakness and it wasn't even close. This is despite the Nats being built on starting pitching and boasting one of the best regular season rotations in baseball. Losing Stephen Strasburg to injury didn't help, but they still had four capable starters left over. Max Scherzer struggled in Game 1, while Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross combined to pitch just 11 1/3 innings in their respective outings. 

If you look at the year as a whole, starting pitching was not a major concern. But the Nats are always aggressive in addressing their needs, whether big or small. They have top prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, but neither distinguished themselves this season. Do they sit tight and hope things improve, or do they try to make another game-changing move? With a weak free agent class, any outside upgrade would have to come through a trade. Also, Gonzalez' $12 million team option is definitely something to watch this winter.

Will extension talks with Harper heat up?

Both the Nationals and Bryce Harper, one could argue, may have incentive to back away from the negotiating table this winter, given the Nats have to be less confident in giving Harper a record-setting contract after his disappointing year, and that Harper may not be wise to sign his new deal when his stock has lowered. But if the Nats and Harper do not come to terms this winter, that sets up a lot more pressure for the following offseason. Harper has two years left on his contract. Heading into next offseason without a deal, with just one year remaining, would create a lot of uncertainty for all sides involved, including the fans who certainly want to see the 2015 MVP remain in Washington for a long time. The storyline would dominate their offseason.

This upcoming winter always seemed like the best time to broker a deal to avoid that scenario, but the timing has not worked out with Harper's production on the field. Also, would anyone be surprised if it turns out Harper was dealing with an injury this season that held him back at the plate? If it were a serious one, he wouldn't have kept playing. But any injury has to be factored in those discussions.

[RELATED: Bullpen, baserunning leads to Nats heartbreak]