The Washington Nationals have great starting pitching depth and could move an arm or two to shore up a couple of other problem areas.
The NL East Division champion Washington Nationals had until yesterday afternoon to decide whether or not to exercise the 2017 contract option on left-handed starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez.
Picking up the $12 million option on the 31-year-old southpaw would have been a slam dunk for almost every team in Major League Baseball.
Gonzalez went 11-11 this past season with a 4.57 ERA and 1.342 WHIP. He also allowed 179 hits over 177.1 innings with a 171/59 K:BB ratio.
Those are certainly not “ace” numbers. And they also don’t measure up to the strong five-year stretch that Gonzalez registered from 2010-14.
And it’s not as if the Nats don’t have other options. While most teams are searching high and low for quality starting pitching options, Washington has an embarrassment of riches on the mound.
Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, and Joe Ross will be back. Also available are a trio of talented, highly considered youngsters in Lucas Giolito, Reynoldo Lopez, and A.J. Cole.
The Nationals could have simply decided to give the kids a full shot, and save $11.5 million by instead paying Gonzalez a $500,000 buyout.
But this was a smart signing based on the knowledge that nothing is usually as it seems where starting pitching is concerned.
A contending team, and the Nationals remain that, will always need depth and insurance on the mound.
The Nationals now have a strong and deep group of arms to get them through a 2017 season that should see them return as favorites in the NL East.
But what the group also gives them is a set of enviable trade chips.
Left fielder Jayson Werth will turn 38 years old in May and is entering the final year of the lucrative seven-year contract that he signed following the 2010 campaign.
Infielder Danny Espinosa will be a free agent after the 2017 season, and phenom Trea Turner, who could play center field in 2017, should take over the shortstop position by no later than that point.
The Nationals are likely going to find themselves a bat or two short no later than a year from now.
They also would love to be able to add a strong bat that might become available at next season’s trade deadline. Having more arms available to deal makes such a move much easier.
The Nationals will enter the 2017 season with strong depth to help themselves early, and trade chips to help themselves late.