Given the contracts that Edwin Jackson (four years, $52 million), Anibal Sanchez (five years, $80 million) and Zack Greinke (six years, $147 million) have scored this offseason, can you imagine what any of the Nationals’ top three starters would fetch on the open market if they were all free agents this offseason?
What type of deal would Gio Gonzalez land after winning 21 games, posting a 2.89 ERA and notching 207 strikeouts in 2012?
How much money would a 26-year-old Jordan Zimmermann bring in after putting up a 3.18 ERA in his first season following Tommy John surgery and then backing it up with a 2.94 ERA in 195 2/3 innings this last season?
And can you even imagine the madness we would see if Stephen Strasburg was a free agent? Strasburg is just 24, is already one of the most dominant starters in the bigs and hasn’t even had a chance to pitch a full season as part of a major league rotation yet.
Picture the insane numbers teams would toss at Strasburg if he was out there in free agency, open for business.
Actually, don’t picture those type of numbers. They might make you start to openly weep, which is never what you want around the holidays.
Taking this line of thinking just reinforces how special the Nationals’ rotation could be both in 2013 and in the years to come.
On top of Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann, you add in Ross Detwiler, a hard-throwing, 26-year-old lefty with a 3.28 ERA the last two years, and Dan Haren, a veteran righty who will make $13 million this season and might have been able to earn even more had he not put a priority on signing with a playoff-contending team.
If every starting pitcher in baseball was a free agent this offseason, I’m not sure any team’s starting five would earn more collective money than the Nationals’ cluster of starters.
The Giants have a pretty filthy rotation with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner leading the way, but Ryan Vogelsong is 34 and Tim Lincecum is coming off a season in which he put up a hefty 5.18 ERA. Those two might have a hard time landing big-time deals, even in this market.
The Dodgers are set up pretty nicely with Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett and South Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu likely to make up their starting five. That group might rival the Nationals’, but there are a couple of big question marks in there.
Regardless, it’s clear the Nationals have the potential to do some pretty special things on the mound in the near future.
Strasburg and Detwiler will enter 2013 with plenty of valuable experience under their belts. Gonzalez is now fully settled into the National League, not that it took him long to feel comfortable. Zimmermann will be completely unrestrained and should expect to top 200 innings. Haren, if healthy, could be a major difference-maker at the back of the rotation.
That’s why, while the Nats are focused on adding starting pitching depth at the Triple-A level, general manager Mike Rizzo should be plenty confident about the makeup of the Nats’ big league rotation for the next few years to come. Each starter except Haren is under contract through at least 2015, and while this group already looks like an elite rotation, there’s reason to believe things could only get better.