Thursday, June 24, 2010, 2:46 PM
By Holden Kushner
For the Nationals, the 2010 season seems to be a wash, with the ballclub nine-and-a-half games out of first place and back in the cellar of the NL East. The Nationals should sign Cliff Lee in the offseason. Lee and Stephen Strasburg would be one heckuva one-two punch. It wont happen. The Yankees will spend more money on Lee.
Dont bother trading Adam Dunn. Outside of Carlos Pena, there arent any viable free agent options at first base. Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez wont be available until after the 2011 season, and I doubt the club shells out the money to land either one of them. Furthermore, I dont think Dunn gets the Nats a premier pitching prospect in return. If general manager Mike Rizzo can, hes a genius.
Im throwing out these scenarios because this team needs a lot of help to be able to contend by 2012.
What really concerns me about the future of this team is the starting pitching. Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons told me: They need a couple of more guys in the rotation. A middle of the rotation guy like Joel Pinero.
Theyre going to need more than that.
Lets assume Strasburg is the staff ace next season, and Jordan Zimmermann, who continues to come back from elbow reconstruction, can assume a spot in the rotation. That leaves three holes and a lot of names.
Ross Detwiler is just 25 and on his way back from hip surgery. Rizzo told me he expects the left-hander back in the big leaguesfor thesecond half of the season. Chien-Ming Wang, Jason Marquis and Scott Olsen are all veterans who are battling injuries. Id say Marquis has the best shot to bounce back. Wang has been banged up for more than two seasons now, and Olsen is chronically injured.
The organization still feels John Lannan can be an important piece of the puzzle. The only way Lannan can be successful is to throw strikes, command his sinker and induce ground balls. He was yielding almost as many fly-ball outs as groundouts this year. Thats not good for him. He projects as no better than a fifth starter on a contender.
Rizzo also said he hasnot lost faith in Shairon Martis and Matt Chico. I have. Martis is just 23 years old, but he doesnt have a high ceiling. And Chico? Well, hes Matt Chico. Not good.
So whats the solution? Hope that Strasburg and Zimmermann can form a formidable top-of-the-rotation, and Bryce Harper makes an impact in 2012. Many pundits thought the Nationals were close to contending next year. Looking at the current makeup of the team, it looks like they were wrong.They're atleast thats two years away.