Nationals Baseball: Offseason Position Discussion - Starting Pitching

Friday, November 18, 2022

Offseason Position Discussion - Starting Pitching


That's the optimistic take on the 2022 Nationals starting pitching staff. The Nationals didn't just have the worst pitching staff in baseball last year, they had the worst pitching staff by leaps and bounds. Arguably the difference between the Nats and the 29th worst staff was the difference between the 29th worst staff and average. It was a bloodbath where nothing went right. 

Strasburg, whose health was key to any thought of a non-embarrasing season, started one game and was out for the year. Corbin, whose return to at the minimum level of "not terrible" was also key, saw worse results. Josiah Gray, who the Nats were hoping would step into a mid staff role, flashed some solid pitching but for the season would have had a tough time holding onto a job on another team. Joe Ross, the best of the rest who has been decent when healthy, didn't come back this year from last year's UCL tear. 

With the post-season 2021 hopeful Top 4 all having issues, it would take a miracle to have been good. The Miracle did not come. Erick Fedde continued to be bad for the 21st consecutive trial season. Josh Rogers, who some had hope for at the end of last year was bad. Joan Adon, an emergency "best we have" call up early in the year was terrible. Jackson Tetreault, a similar call-up at the end, was no good. Paolo Espino, the decent middle reliever was stretched to fill the role and showed why he is a reliever. Aaron Sanchez was a FA trial bust. Corey Abbott didn't take.

Only Anibal Sanchez provided decent results, starting with low expectations, and even that was a mirage as he pitched much worse than his ERA would indicate.

They might have been helped late in the year by prospects but best arms in the organization had tough years. Cade Cavalli had issues adjusting to AAA and needed more seasoning. Cole Henry broke down.

The Nats started the season in a precarious situation, relying on a couple of long shot health returns, a question mark former good starter, and a young pitcher to make a big step up.  None of those worked out and in fact they all failed in the worst way possible. Behind that (which if you note does include like 20%-25% of the Nats starts) they had no plan and nothing saved them from this lake of foresight. It was a bad strategy and perhaps having it end up as poorly as it did was what the Nats deserved. 

Presumed Plan : Corbin and the Kids. Corbin will be the 1. Followed by Grey, Gore, and Cavalli. They would be wise to sign a FA innings eater after but they could also keep the spot free for whoever in the organization they want to try out. Fedde another one last time? Evan Lee? I'll presume the FA pitcher simply because right now I only have them bringing in 1-2 offensive FAs so there's money to spend even for a bottom basement budget. So let's say Jordan Lyles. He's healthy and inoffensive.

Reason for presumed plan : Strasburg may not pitch ever again. With that understood, you can't count on him pitching next year.  Corbin getting worse really made his contract an albatross. He can't be dealt unless the Nats eat most of it and they aren't going to. Grey is in year 2 of his trial. Gore if healthy and Cavalli in year 1. You'd rather have the two best fighting it out for 4/5 but that's not the position the Nats are in. These guys are your 2/3/4. 

After that - the cupboard is so bare and last year went so poorly that I can't imagine Rizzo won't try to grab someone just for a sense of stability in the rotation where everyone I mentioned so far might not be major league worthy in 2023. Jordan Lyles pitched ok for Baltimore last year and has been healthy since 2019. He's a southern East Coast boy so DC isn't too far out of the way if he still lives near home like most players seem to. There's a fit so overpay him a little for 2-3 years and whatever. Really that could be something like 2yrs/15 million. That's worth it to the Nats if he can be healthy and throw 60 starts over 2 seasons to a 4.50-5.00 ERA. But if not him someone that threw 140+ innings last year. even if it was close to a 5.00 ERA.

My take :  It's hard to imagine it getting worse and it almost can't. Almost. But Corbin could fall apart and Gore could not be healthy and right off the bat your 1/2 is Grey and Cavalli who might not qualify as anyone else's 4/5.   And can you imagine who's throwing 5th in this case? 

The smart play is to sign two guys like I mentioned above. Take the pressure off the kids to all perform as the worst of them can go back to AAA. Save your pen some grief.  Back Corbin with a couple of guys that make it ok when he goes 1 and a third because they went 5 and 6 respectively. It's not asking for much at all. 

If the Nats don't choose to sign two people, I get it. At some point you have to throw these guys in the deep end if you want to see if you'll be good sooner or later. But it leaves open the potential for 2023 to be just as bad.  If they don't choose to sign ANY - that's malpractice and the team should fold. They were the worst pitching staff by far last year and you would commit to a plan that betting odds would say is probably worse. Get out of the GM game Rizzo, ya done.


ocw5000 said...

Here are some 140+IP pitchers who stink/might be available:

Jordan Lyles
Dylan Bundy
Sean Manaea
Corey Kluber (164 IP?!)

If you lower it to 130+IP:

Chad Kuhl
Zach Davies

Inspiring stuff!

Harper said...

Give me Lyles, Manaea or Davies. I just want a guy I feel will go out there every 5th day. The rest were injured as recently as 2021.

Scott said...

They gotta choose their scouting department's best available Rule 5 starting pitcher, right? Maybe even the top two. They're highly unlikely to be any worse than what we're going to throw out there instead.

DezoPenguin said...

Fedde non-tendered, so that's something. (Also Voit and Yadi, which...I mean, 1B/DH was the one thing on this team in decent shape and they threw out one of the starters and the backup. I feel like ownership gave Rizzo a "pay not one thin dime that we aren't contractually forced to" mandate to make the sale look better...which is sad, because they clearly assume that buyers are more interested in the financial side of the business than in the quality of the baseball team they're buying.) But man, Jordan Lyles taking the Orioles's tainted MASN money must have really rubbed you the wrong way that you'd want to sentence him to THIS team!

Nattydread said...

It's reassuring that it would be very hard to get worse. Ditching Fedde is a good sign that they might do something.

Anonymous said...

Yadi and Fedde I get, but Voit's non-tender is odd.

It's not that his market value is clearly higher than the $6M or whatever he'd get in arbitration, but he's kind of exactly the kind of low-cost, some upside rental we should be signing for every starting spot we don't have a prospect for (so 2 OFs, DH, and maybe 3B if you want to drop Kieboom).

I definitely can't see the folks in the existing pipeline who'd need Voit's PAs. I can't imagine clearing room for the second R5 pick has much value. Maybe they have their eyes on a better rental DH, and didn't want to double pay, but who would that be?

I know Harper thinks they're just trying to scuttle payroll, and maybe so. But it's just not that much money. If they're cutting Voit over simple cash, they aren't going to sign anyone.

Anonymous said...

So with Fedde gone, they pretty much have to sign a FA starting pitcher or two right?

You really need 7, and no signings would mean Adon, Espino and Abbott all getting significant time. With only Irvin, really, as a long shot midseason addition from the pipeline this year.


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