The Washington Nationals’ 2017 rotation could easily be ...Gio Gonzalez, who has twice been an all-star and once won 20 games; and ...Did Boz ghostwrite your first paragraph, Barry? Yes, Gio was twice an All-Star and won 20 games. That was in 2011 and 2012. That was a long time ago and really doesn't have bearing on the Gio that's in the rotation now. The Gio of today is a durable middle of the road pitcher who is just as likely to strike out 8+ as he is to have control issues and go out before the 5th inning ends. That's not great it's... not bad. But add to that he's a lefty and he's an arm that ~30 teams would line up for to slide into their rotation as a #3/#4/#5 (depending how bad their SP circumstance is). Come on! You're better than that!
Rizzo, as we’ve explained in the past, has a superb record of trading players. Those he has landed include Wilson Ramos, Trea Turner, Gonzalez, Roark, Ross, Denard Span, Doug Fister, Mark Melancon, on and on. The best player he has given up in such deals? Maybe Billy Burns? Maybe. Maybe it’ll turn out to be Felipe Rivero, dealt to Pittsburgh for Melancon, the closer at the end of 2016. Maybe it’s Derek Norris, who was once an all-star as a catcher. Jerry Blevins?Billy Burns? That's really the first name you toss out there? Tommy Milone beats Billy Burns.* It's totally Derek Norris. Though he's right it could be Felipe (this is why Barry is great and I'm nitpicking out of love here). Blevins doesn't really fit as he was a "We're mad you tried to get more money! Get out!" dump. It was a very very rare loss by Rizzo, that was saved from being even more apparent by Blevins' injury in 2015.
OK that's it! See Barry is great! Really that's only one true nitpick and one bit of confusion. That's usually gotten to in the first paragraph of a Boz column when he's off.
Anyway another thing I wanted to pull from that column though.
“Imagine that in the playoffs,” one executive said Wednesday. “And Sale being there would completely take the pressure off Strasburg.”I thought Max was supposed to take the pressure of Strasburg. Do they seriously think Strasburg is such a headcase that he needs TWO Cy Young caliber pitchers ahead of him to make him feel comfortable? I personally don't believe that. You can just peruse his stats and see he's fairly consistently very good. But if you do, why the hell do you keep someone like that on the team which a big contract? Just saying.
OK so Barry's point is the Nats should trade for Sale and should basically let the White Sox pick what they want (assumes not Turner). Ross, Giolito, Robles, Lopez, etc. He thinks it's time that the Nats move forward. Stop being good enough to get to the playoffs. Start trying to be good enough to win in the playoffs. He think Sale's contract (12m 2017 team options after that, 12.5m, and 13.5m) is an incredible bargain.
He's right across the board.
At least that's my thinking. It's not that the Nats have consistently tried to get away with just a couple good starters for the playoffs. Really the only year you can say that for was last year when they went in with Scherzer/Stras and hope someone steps up. But in doing that they did end up with only 2 great arms for the playoffs and that did put them in a bind. They don't want to end up there again. You could try to count on Scherzer/Stras/Roark, but if one gets injured now you're hoping for a Ross development or something out of the blue. Adding Sale makes you very confident that if you get to October you'll have three studs ready to go.
As for the prospects. They are prospects. Most don't develop into what you hope they might be. That's just the truth. We don't have 10-20 All-Stars entering the league every year. So gambling on giving them away is far more about depth in the future than it is about season-changing performance. I'm willing to take that gamble. Depth for the future is nice but it's harder to care about it when that depth is the difference between a 78 and 85 win team rather than an 88 and 95 win team. Beyound 2018 that could be what we are looking at.
We are potentially in the waning days of the Bryce Harper era. Two more years is all that is guaranteed. After that yes there is Trea but what else? Murphy will hit FA at the same time. The Gio 5th starter saftey net will too (and you'll miss him when he's gone). Werth will be gone (and probably retired). It's hazy. A 30 year old Stras isn't old but the continued injury issues have to be concerning. A 34 year old Max isn't old, but is right on the cusp of it. A 32 year old Roark could easily still be good but with a only year left before FA. The same year before FA that Rendon would have too.
Rizzo bridged the gap between the end of the first great Nats teams and the potential end of the Bryce era. He may do it again. But as much as he did it with skill (draft and development of Rendon, trade for Ross, Turner) he did it with luck (Roark developing into top notch starter, Murphy busting out into MVP type hitter) and money (big contracts for Scherzer, Strasburg). The money likely won't be there - at least not as much as they'll have these two deals left to pay. The luck may not be. Are you willing to take the chance that Robles, Lito et all are going to be ready by 2019/2020 to keep the team in the playoff hunt? I'm not.
Sale solidifies the Nats for the rest of the known Bryce era. After that if they are good and lucky new guys drafted and developed and new trades made will put the Nats in a position to keep moving forward with a playoff contender. If they aren't, they'll have chips like Sale, Rendon, Roark that can be used to help restock for something further down the road.
*And if we're floating out potential. It's totally Alex Meyer who unfortunately went to the Twins who are notorious for being unable to develop pitchers. No seriously again. It's INCREDIBLY bad. Good luck to you in LA which even if it's below average is better than whatever Minnesota was doing.
**The worst SP performance was probably Strasburg, who gave up 2 R (1ER) over 5 and had to be pulled for Blevins with two-on no outs in the 6th. Gio's 4IP in G4 wasn't great but after a difficult 2nd (2 UER on 2H and a BB) he settled down and could have gone further if the situation didn't demand trying PHers early.