Nov 13, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
It’s no secret Mike Rizzo would like to acquire another starting pitcher this winter, and it’s clear the Nationals general manager is willing (if not eager) to explore the trade market for such a pitcher.
And there are two legitimately elite starters out there right now who could be dealt: David Price and Max Scherzer. Either would add yet another big-time arm to a Nationals rotation that already includes Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. And if you don’t think Rizzo is intrigued by that possibility … well, you haven’t been paying enough attention to the guy since he ascended to the GM position 4 1/2 years ago.
There is, of course, just one minor sticking point to this whole endeavor: The massive return the Rays will be seeking in a trade for Price and the Tigers will want in exchange for Scherzer. We’re not talking about a couple of promising prospects. We’re talking about at least three top young players for either pitcher.
What does that mean in the Nationals’ case? Well, any trade proposal for Price or Scherzer is almost certain to begin with Anthony Rendon, the organization’s top-rated prospect entering 2013 who acquitted himself well during his rookie season.
And then is probably guaranteed to also include Lucas Giolito, the organization’s top-rated prospect entering 2014 who has come back from Tommy John surgery as strong as ever.
And then will most likely include another prospect or two from the upper reaches of the Nationals’ depth chart. Guys like A.J. Cole, Brian Goodwin and Robbie Ray.
That’s a steep price to pay, no question about it, and one that very well could scare Rizzo from consummating such a deal.
It’s easy to look back two winters ago at the Nationals’ trade for Gonzalez and applaud Rizzo for a bold move that to date has paid off. Gonzalez was a Cy Young Award finalist in 2012 and again ranked in the top 10 in hits and strikeouts per nine innings this season. What became of the four players who went from Washington to Oakland? Tommy Milone has been a solid, though not spectacular, member of the A’s rotation. Derek Norris has a .698 OPS in 158 big-league games. Brad Peacock was traded to Houston, where he posted a 5.18 ERA this year. And Cole returned to the Nationals’ organization through last winter’s Michael Morse three-team trade.
Hey, it worked two years ago with Gio. Why can’t it work again now with Price or Scherzer?
Well, it’s not nearly that simple. Both Price and Scherzer are more accomplished at this point than Gonzalez was at the time of his trade. And both Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman and Detroit president Dave Dombrowski are in advantageous negotiating positions, knowing they can play interested clubs off each other in hopes of driving up the price.
Truth be told, these potential trades bear less resemblance to the Gonzalez deal and more resemblance to Zack Greinke’s trade from Kansas City to Milwaukee three winters ago. You may remember Rizzo was close to striking a deal with the Royals, only to watch as Greinke vetoed it because he wanted to pitch for a team closer to contention.
What would the Nationals have had to give up to get Greinke? Brace yourself, because it’s a harrowing thought. Though the exact players were never agreed upon, the package would have included at least three players from this list: Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Espinosa, Drew Storen.
Would the Nationals have been better off with Greinke or the rest of those guys? Seems like a ludicrous question at this point.
Keep that in mind as this winter’s Hot Stove League heats up. Yes, Price or Scherzer would make a fantastic addition to the Nationals’ rotation. But at what cost?
Sometimes the best deals are the ones that aren’t made.
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