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Strasburg’s effect on this offseason

Dec 2, 2010, 4:20 PM EDT

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats' offseason needs would look a lot different if Stephen Strasburg was healthy.

It seems as though the Nationals' 2010-11 offseason ultimately will be judged on two issues: Did they re-sign Adam Dunn (or at least acquire someone else of equal or greater value), and did they acquire a front-line pitcher to anchor a shaky starting rotation?

We've addressed the Dunn issue plenty, and I'm sure we'll be addressing it more in the weeks to come. And we've addressed the pitching issue, though it occurs to me there's another angle to this whole thing that hasn't been addressed head-on.

We wouldn't be having this conversation if Stephen Strasburg was healthy and prepared to start on Opening Day 2011.

Your first reaction to that statement might be, "Well, duh," but it's worth pointing out. The impact of Strasburg's torn elbow ligament cannot be understated.

Put a healthy Strasburg in the Nationals' 2011 rotation, and here's what you've got: 1) Strasburg, 2) Jordan Zimmermann, 3) Livan Hernandez, 4) John Lannan, 5) Jason Marquis. And you've still got Yunesky Maya, Ross Detwiler and a bunch of others trying to squeezeRead more »

  1. joemktg - Dec 2, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    If a MLB club is not pursuing a front line pitcher via FA every year, then they're doing a disservice to their base. I would hope that the Nats' FO would pursue a Lee or a de la Rosa with the same level of energy as they have this year.Wait: maybe a greater level of energy?…

  2. Doc - Dec 2, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    Spending money/talent on a given pitcher, even one with Greinke's credentials is real gamble. This is particularly true, given that he comes short-term. It's less of a gamble to keep, on the team, the above-noted Nats.Rizzo can try for Pavano, or even more appropriately, Crawford. But I'd say keep your money in your pocket until the farm system starts to pay off, and FA players actully want to come to Washington—which ain't this year!

  3. JayB - Dec 2, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    Mark you words…"It doesn't matter if none of those pitchers wants to come to Washington in the first place" EXACTLY my warnings for years….If they create a losing culture it will be very hard to reverse….You are now confirming what I warned against…next is Zim refusing to resign with a loser….Lerners really killed this team….why MLB picked them is all about good old boy back scratching not good of the game.

  4. Johnbb21 - Dec 2, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    It's hysterical how much people think the Nats would have to give up for Greinke. Look at what Lee, Halladay, Santana and Oswalt got. It's nowhere near the package Mark suggests. Wherever Greinke goes, it won't be for a package anything close that. If they got one player with the value of Zimmermann; Desmond; or Norris, they'd be very lucky.

  5. Mark Zuckerman - Dec 2, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    Johnbb21 said…It's hysterical how much people think the Nats would have to give up for Greinke. Look at what Lee, Halladay, Santana and Oswalt got. It's nowhere near the package Mark suggests. Wherever Greinke goes, it won't be for a package anything close that. If they got one player with the value of Zimmermann; Desmond; or Norris, they'd be very lucky.In acquiring Cliff Lee from Seattle last summer, the Rangers gave up one of the top offensive prospects in baseball (Justin Smoak), another first-round draft pick (Blake Beavan) and two more minor-leaguers. And that was for only 2 1/2 months of Lee's services (3 1/2 months if you count the postseason).Any team that gets Greinke would get him for two years. You're telling me it's not going to cost a major package of players in return to pull that one off?

  6. Carl the Big Fool - Dec 2, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    Any idea on how ticket sales are going thus far? I've been a STH since 2005, but with no Strasburg and likely no Dunn next year, I'm having a hard time convincing myself I should renew. I'm curious as to how widespread that is among the base.

  7. JayB - Dec 2, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Mark,Lee has proven more over that time period than Zack G….but I agree with you on which Nats "prospects" it will take…I just think much less of Ian D, Norris and Zimm then most of the Nats fans who are way over valuing them.

  8. JD - Dec 2, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    2 years for Greinke is not short term; 2 years for any pitcher is an eternity. I agree that putting Zimm in the package makes no sense because potentially he can become Greinke and you 3 solid Arms at the top of the rotation. I agree with JayB that Desmond's ceiling is not what Nat's fans think it is; he is 26 not 21. If Desmond, Norris and Willingham gets it done then I say let's go.

  9. JD - Dec 2, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    Desmond is 25 not 26; my mistake but my comments still stand I think with improvement he can be average; I think Espinosa can be better.

  10. JayB - Dec 2, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Agreed….he has been a pro player for going on 8 years….he still does not know how to charge a ball or eat a play…..not ever going to be a less than 30 error SS or 2B…..trade him now before a second year proves what he is.

  11. phil dunn - Dec 2, 2010 at 5:32 PM

    JayB is correct, worthwhile free agents won't come here at any price because of the losing culture nurtured by the Lerner ownership. Sadly, we are just like the Pirates. Why would Zimmerman want to come back after his current contract expires? He has begged the FO to re-sign Adam Dunn and the FO has ignored him.

  12. Johnbb21 - Dec 2, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    Mark: You seriously think that deal is even close in value to what you're proposing? Smoak's the only legit player and he's clearly behind Desmond and Zimmermann, and I'd argue a 21-year old C that was a top 10 player in the AFL is ahead of a 1B that has struggled in a hitters park. Look at the deals for the guys I mentioned. Lee coming of one of the great seasons in MLB history and having a 2.88 ERA with 1 1/2 years of control left got only 3 backup players and an 18-year old pitcher with an injured arm.Your offer is ridiculous and Greinke won't fetch anything close to that. You might get one of those players if your KC. I personally wouldn't include any of the three in an offer for Greinke.

  13. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    Point of this post is well taken, but at the same time the Nats can't have all their eggs in the Strasburg basket because waiting on Strasburg could easily end up like the Cubs waiting for Wood/Prior, they never REALLY came back.In 2009 we said just wait until 2011 when we have Zimmnn and Stras, now we're saying just wait until 2012 when we get Stras and Zimmnn. The Nats should build a team for 2011, 2012, and 2013 based on the healthy players they have on the roster . Then if Stras comes back healthy in 2012 it would be like adding a Ciff Lee as a FA.Does that mean mortgaging the future by dealing Zimmnn, Norris, and Desmond for Greinke? Probably not, but trading Norris and Desmond or Espinoza for a young #2/3 starter plus signing an upside FA would stabilize the rotation and not compromise the future irreparably.

  14. phil dunn - Dec 2, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    In his first major league season (2010), "hot hitting prospect" Justin Smoak, hit just .218 in 100 games and 397 at bats with Texas and Seattle. I have read that Texas dumped him because he had not lived up to the hype. Maybe he's just another Lastings Milledge!

  15. Donald - Dec 2, 2010 at 5:58 PM

    Our 2011 line-up might not be as bleak without Strasburg as people assume, though there's undoubtedly an element of luck involved. Look at the SF Giants who everyone agrees has a good rotation. They had Lincecum (16-10), Cain (13-11), Zito (9-14), Sanchez (13-9), Bumgarner (7-6) and managed to win 92 games. How hard is it imagine Livo going 13-10, Lannan going 13-9, Marquis going 9-14 and Detwiler / Maya going 7-6. If JZimm has a good year he could end up at 16-10 or even 12-10 which would put the Nats close to being on par with SF.

  16. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    Donald, in order for the Nats SPs to end up with the W-L records you suggest, Quick Hook Riggleman would either have to change his ways or be fired. I vote for firing him, myself.

  17. Joe Drugan - Dec 2, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    Johnbb21, I'm glad you wouldn't offer Zimmermann, Desmond, or Norris. Then you wouldn't get Greinke. Mark is absolutely right here. In a market that's light on good pitching, Greinke would command serious prospects/major league ready players.This in no way indicates that I would trade these 3 players, or any of them at all, for Greinke for 2 years. I wouldn't. But Mark is right when he says it'd require a huge package to obtain his services.

  18. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    Seeing as the Nats have not had an SP with double digit wins and a winning record since 2005, predicting 3 in one season is a bit of a stretch…

  19. K.D. - Dec 2, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    With a Strasburg healthy return in the not so distant future, why not try and sign a Pavano or even Bonderman to a two year deal. Pavano is healthy and Bonderman is coming back and should be even better in 2011 (he is only 28) and would fit in well with Zimmermann, Storen and the like. Watched him his entire stint with Detroit, he is a steady, no-nonsense type player. If you can get Greinke, great! but there are (not as pricey) alternatives.

  20. JD - Dec 2, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    We should really quit worrying about what Ryan Zimmerman will do in 3 years. Rizzo's job is trying to improve the team; not to sign Zim's buddy.

  21. Donald - Dec 2, 2010 at 6:37 PM

    @Anon — I agree that it's a bit of a stretch, but any one of those pitchers could easily do that. Getting 3 of them to do it in the same season is the hard part, but that may have as much to do with luck as anything. They are certainly capable of it.

  22. PAY TO PLAY - Dec 2, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    Joe/Johnbb21 – The Royals can ask for whatever they want to for Greinke and it is all part of the negotiation. The reason they want to trade him is all about the money they still owe him on a slick 4 year deal they crafted.Nobody knows what Greinke will bring to any given team based on his history compared to Cliff Lee.Cliff Lee has a proven track record. Roy Halladay had a proven track record. Sabathia had a proven track record. Sorry, Greinke does not have a proven track record. He had 1 Cy Young amazing season. On a good team based on 2010, Greinke is #3 at best based on his 4.17 ERA from last year and of course a #1 if 2009 could repeat itself.I think the Royals desperately want to trade him because of the MONEY. They signed him 2 years ago to a back end loaded 4 year deal. So the Royals paid him $3 mill during his Cy Young season and $7 mill last year. Whoever takes him on now gets stuck with essentially a 2 year $26 million deal for a pitcher who is going to be more expensive than a comparable ERA in Carl Pavano who is 2 years $18 to $22 million and you don't have to give up prized prospects for Pavano!

  23. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    I agree with JayB and JD. If we can get Greinke for Desmond, Norris, and Willingham, let's go. By 2012 the MI for the Nats could (and maybe should) be Espinosa and Lombardozzi. Norris is a tough loss, but KC would love having him because he is local (from Kansas). Turning bad D (Desmond) into good pitching is great. But if you get Greinke, sign him to an extension. Get your money's worth. fpcsteve

  24. Mac - Dec 2, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    Great post. You better believe Dunn would stay for 3 years if Strassy were healthy.

  25. Section 223 - Dec 2, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    I think Mark has an interesting point on the subtraction of one very good player and the effect it has on a rotation. I also think that adding one very good player opens possibilities of making the team better in various ways. (Yes, I know this is unlikely) I would go all out for Crawford. A player like that in his prime just doesn't come along in free agency very oftern. Add money, add years, add a toaster, whatever gets him in our uniform. Put Crawford in center, Nyjer in left, Bernadina/Morse in right. Willingham can go to 1st. If Willingham is traded during the winter (or more likely the summer for a contender), move Morse to first. We might then be able to concentrate on a number two starter from somebody for a player/prospect(s). I can live with someone's solid number two starter as our number one starter and the other pitchers we already have until Strasburg returns.

  26. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 7:19 PM

    @ Phil Dunn – or maybe he is just another Ian Desmond!?I think Kansas City is trying to sell high, just like we tried with Soriano, but ultimately when they see they will not get that much during the winter meetings I think he could he could be had for one of our AAA or AA pitchers (which we have a ton of), Lombardozzi, and Norris (who Bob Boone said needs more seasoning behind the palet before he is major league ready).That being said, Mark great piece on the future of the rotation, the key word is the future, I do not think we need to sign someone for only 1 year as a stop gap but as someone who can be part of the rotation for the next 2-6 years for the following reasons:Strasburg: If Strasburg comes back 100% he still needs other guys besides JZimm around him, and not just inning eaters. Solis, Cole and Ray are at least two years away from contributing to a major league rotation.JZimm: If he can remain healthy in a full season of play, he is the other cornerstone of the rotation but what do you do the other 3 games?Livan: Hopefully he can be as good as he was last seasn but he probably no more than a 2011 inning eater and by no means is a #3 starter.Lannan: He has not proven that he should pitch every 5 days for a whole season and be successful, he is a AA pitcher throwing in the majors. If he makes it through the 2011 season, no guarantee he is in the 2012 rotation.Marquis: Probably the #3 starter on this staff in 2011, but no guarantee he will be pitching for the next 5 years.Bottom Line: We have 1 power pitcher for 2011 and 1 for 2012 and three questions mark for 2011 and 2012, so rizzo better go find some major league ready arms that do not pitch to contact sooner rather than later or this team is on pace to win 66-70 games the next two seasons especially if he let's his #4 and #5 hitters walk wihtout any replacements on the horizon!

  27. The Great Unwashed - Dec 2, 2010 at 7:28 PM

    Like it or not, Desmond and Willingham are everyday players and they're all we've got. Keep in mind how thin the Nats roster and farm system is. I don't rationalize trading both of them plus one of our better prospects (depending on your opinion) for a pitcher who controls the outcome of 1 in 5 games — less than that if you count that the bullpen or lack of run support can diminish his win total. It's not worth it to me.

  28. Steveospeak - Dec 2, 2010 at 7:45 PM

    @Johnbb21: The problem is those guys were all 1-1 and a half year rentals with the exception of Oswalt, who was more of a salary dump. I don't see how exactly you can put J. Zimmermann or Desmond over Smoak…He remains one of the best young 1B in the game despite struggling in his first go around. Desmond at best is an solid-good SS (most likely above average), that has value but I'll take a talent with elite potential over him. Zimmermann is a nice young pitching prospect and he has a good bit of value, but he hasn't exactly dominated opposing batters, not to mention the injury. If the Nationals had a deeper system than they wouldn't need to offer so much to trade, but the Tom Milone's of the world just won't cut it. Guys like Burgess, Marrero and Peacock are solid prospects but they are more likely to be a 4th or 5th piece than a headliner.

  29. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    Boswell made the point this morning that you add great players,period. Outside of Lee, the choices for FA SP's aren't that great now. That reinforces Boswell and Section 223's point on Crawford; go all in. Then plug the leaks in the pitching staff for one year and build around SS and Z'mann in 2012. Fact is, we don't have enough talent to completely solve our problems through trades or the will/money to make a really big move this year. Maybe the most we can hope for now is incremental progress until the day the farm clubs do the rebuilding from within. That makes 2011 tough for the folks buying tix. fpcsteve

  30. Wally - Dec 2, 2010 at 8:08 PM

    Who knows what Grienke goes for, it is a market and time will tell. But I wouldn't do Mark's suggested trade. I like Grienke, don't think that he is a 1 yr wonder and would be happy to build a trade around Desmond or Norris, maybe both, but not Zimm.But, while i agree that the Nats have a culture of losing that needs to be overcome in order to attract FAs, I do not believe that means that it can't be overcome. But you have to overpay, not meet the market. Like Detroit did with Maggs and Pudge. And this is where, unfortunately, I agree with JayB. I just don't see the Lerners doing it. I do not believe, for instance, that they offered a clearly better deal than the Yanks for Tex – it was essentially the same. And with two comparable deals, the FA will always choose the better organization. If the Nats added a 9th year, would he have come here? I would like to see it. If the Yanks go 5/$125m for Lee, and the Nats offered 6/$150m, I bet he comes here. I am not saying whether they should or not, just that that is what they have to do to get the big time FAs. Well, who am I kidding – I do think they should do that.

  31. Section 223 - Dec 2, 2010 at 8:42 PM

    If I were a 80 year old billionaire fan of the old Senators and found myself the owner of the baseball team in Washinton, D.C., I would certainly be spending some of that cash for what matters in baseball, ballplayers. The owner in Detroit seems to get it.

  32. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 8:42 PM

    Chien-Ming Wang non-tendered…(Taiwanese media)http://news.chinatimes.com/sports/0,5250,11051202×112010120300226,00.html

  33. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 8:51 PM

    "The owner in Detroit seems to get it."Yes. And please note how the owner in Detroit passed on the opportunity to acquire four years of Adam Dunn.

  34. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 8:55 PM

    @Anon 2:19pm and others: I've never understood the dislike of John Lannan. No, he doesn't throw 100mph and watching him pitch can be exasperating. But to call him a "AA pitcher" and write him off as a no-talent hack is not only an injustice, it ignores facts. After four seasons of work you pretty much know what you are getting with Lannan: a soft-tossing lefty who will give you 175-200 IP with an ERA of about 4.00. As a lefty with those stats he's likely to be pitching in the majors for quite a while. No, his W/L record isn't very good, but this just in: he pitches for a team that hasn't been very good. And after his return from AA banishment last year has stats were actually good – his K/9 rate was up significantly, and he pitched well enough to get his ERA down from around 6.00 to 4.66.I'm not saying he's ever going to win 20 games or a Cy Young. But he's a solid pitcher that would be starting for all but a handful of ML teams.John C.

  35. Section 223 - Dec 2, 2010 at 8:56 PM

    I certainly agree that four years is too much for Dunn. For longer contracts the player has to be able to hit and field. But, when you go out of the way to hire a baseball guy like Rizzo, who goes out and gets many baseball minds for the front office, at least show him and the fans the courtesy of paying for the product he tries to bring you. Anything else is just duplicity.

  36. Anonymous - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    Oh, please note how the owner in DC passed on the opportunity to acquire anybody that wasn't considered a bargain!

  37. JD - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:06 PM

    A couple of excerpts fro Keith Law's chat today:'Jason (NJ)To your credit, at this time last year you were saying that someone was going to dramtically overpay Figgins and be very disappointed in his performance. Feel that way about any current free agent? I'm thinking Beltre.Klaw (1:47 PM)Dunn. Maybe Beltre. Konerko if he gets multiple years.Jason (St Louis)But with Dunn, what you see is what you get. Odds are he'll keep getting on base, hitting homeruns and if he's put at first, butchering fielding low and high throws like crazy. If that is what you pay for and you feel the money you gave him was worth it, is that really overpaying?Klaw (1:50 PM)I don't think what you see today is what you'll get three and four years from now'.

  38. phil dunn - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:35 PM

    Dunn gone????3:22pm: The White Sox appear to be closing in on a deal for Dunn, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (Twitter link).

  39. Feel Wood - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:49 PM

    "Dunn gone????3:22pm: The White Sox appear to be closing in on a deal for Dunn, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (Twitter link)."Deja vu all over again from the Tigers rumors of 2 weeks ago and the A's rumors of yesterday. Look for a quick retraction. In this case, the Sox will re-sign Konerko because they can get him for less than the 4/60 Dunn is demanding. Just like the Tigers signed Martinez right after they were said to be "closing in" on Dunn.

  40. JD - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    Their no. 1 draft pick is not protected so if they sign him we'll get their pick (23rd) + the sandwich pick; we can then sign Pena or LaRoche who do not cost us draft picks and will come in significantly cheaper allowing us more flexibility elsewhere. I don't think that this is bad all.

  41. natsone_va - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    "MLBTraderumors:3:44pm: The deal is "basically done," according to Heyman (on Twitter). Peter Gammons of MLB Network confirms that it's a four-year, $56MM deal (Twitter link)."Goodbye Dunner!!!

  42. JD - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    Feel Wood, It looks like Konerko will sign with Baltimore.

  43. JayB - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:56 PM

    JD…."flexibility somewhere else"….get real…they are not spending anything that means 100 loses is back in play. Come Feb they will resign Adam Kennedy type…..Mark…guess the world passed Nats and you by with real time market place…nobody is waiting for some 20th Century face to face bar room meeting…those days are long gone.

  44. phil dunn - Dec 2, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    Dunn signs with Chisox–$56 million over 4 years.

  45. Tcostant - Dec 2, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    A couple of random points I would like to add:1 – According to a radio report (just heard on 980AM) Dunn is set to sign with the White Soxs2 – Lets stop assuming that Strasburg will be the same once he returns. It takes time, a lot was made at the All-Star game that something like half the pitchers there had TJ surgery. But wasn’t said, was most were no longer with their original team. Look at Francisco Liriano, he is just now pitching like he did in his rookie season in 2006.3 – If this season ends with no major FA addition (likely), then some of the savings must be spent now on a Troy Tulowitzki like extension. Let’s lock Ryan Zimmerman up now before he is tempted to go elsewhere. It will end of saving them money or losing him, in the long run.

  46. JD - Dec 2, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    JayB, I,m done discussing 'cheap Lerners' with you; even if you are right you are like ground hog day.

  47. JayB - Dec 2, 2010 at 10:21 PM

    Or perhaps it is the Lerners who are like ground hog day and I call it like it is……you can hide you head in the sand if you like JD but facts are stubborn things…..

  48. Richard - Dec 3, 2010 at 3:09 AM

    I'll miss the big man. I enjoyed watching him play and knowing he was a Nat, despite several large holes in his game. He brought a lot to the ballpark and was worth the price of a ticket. Can't say that about many Nats.

  49. Anonymous - Dec 3, 2010 at 4:10 AM

    I'm of the opinion that the Nationals need to acquire a top of the rotation guy (#1 to #3 SP), but they shouldn't do so at any cost. I find it hard to believe that many are making assessments that the pitching staff will be poor next year when you consider 4 candidates for next year's rotation made just 30 combined starts due to injuries or being a new acquisition. Here's my take on the current top 6 candidates:Zimmermann – excellent potential as a top of the rotation guy. He will be probably be limited in the innings he pitches this year but I believe he will start living up to some of his promise, now that he's healthy.Hernandez – had a strong year. I'm not sure if he will deliver as a strong of a year next season, but he knows how to pitch and should have his share of quality starts.Lannan – (Anon at 2:19 – ridiculous assessment, 2008 – 9 wins with 3.91 ERA on 59 win club, 2009 – 9 wins with 3.88 ERA on 59 win club, 2010 – only 8 wins but after struggling with an injury in the first half of the year, he rebounded to go 6-3 with a 3.42 ERA – looking at those 3 seasons – that's no AA pitcher there) I think he will have his strongest year yet in 2011. He's a decent #3, but would be better as a #4 or #5. Marquis – had his worst year due to injury but is a much better pitcher than that,Maya – rushed to the majors last season and showed some promise but has to overcome the big inning. He is doing very well in Winter ball.Detwiler – still has a lot of potential, despite a lost year due to his hip injury. He should be given a chance in Spring to win a rotation spot. I feel this is a make/break year for him.

  50. SonnyG10 - Dec 3, 2010 at 5:49 AM

    Well, whatever happens, I have already purchased my 2011 season tickets.

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