So much for another quiet offseason for the Nationals.
Last week, the Nationals acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar to shore up their infield. They sent fan favorite and eighth-inning eraser Tyler Clippard to Oakland to complete the deal.
Now there are reports that the Nationals have agreed to a seven-year deal with 2013 Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who went 39-8 the past two seasons with 492 strikeouts for the Tigers.
NJ.com, which covers the Mets, believes this makes it even more difficult to catch the Nationals, who won the East by 17 games last season. The publication also wonders if the Nats will possibly deal Jordan Zimmermann now or even Ian Desmond over the next year because of the team’s payroll.
The Marlins were not going to throw the same amount of money at Scherzer as the Nationals did, and one scribe believes the D.C. team still might trade starting shortstop Desmond.
But as the writer points out, not signing Scherzer and then having to face him several times next season in your own division makes matters more difficult. The Marlins still have a formidable starting rotation and will be one of the toughest division teams for the Nationals to beat next season. The Marlins may now turn their sights toward finding a way to get James Shields.
The Braves are also most likely not to thrilled about Scherzer heading to D.C.
And from a broader perspective, if the Nationals keep all of their starters and add Scherzer, there aren’t many teams in the major leagues that can match that type of starting rotation.
Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister - that’s an imposing rotation.
This could also mean Tanner Roark would head to the bullpen to be a long man and sixth starter, allowing the team to push some of its other bullpen arms toward the eighth-inning slot vacated by Clippard.
This potential super rotation would also put even more pressure on opponents to score runs against a team that already had the best ERA in baseball at 3.03, allowing the fewest earned runs with 495.
Nats general manager Mike Rizzo envisions a stronger offensive lineup with a healthy Ryan Zimmerman at first base, a healthy Wilson Ramos for a full season behind the plate, Bryce Harper in right field, Desmond’s top power at short and Anthony Rendon at third or second. Then add the steady bats of Denard Span and Escobar to that mix, plus a hopefully healthy Jayson Werth back from surgery early in the season.
Having Escobar consistently on base will help the power bats to multi-run homers instead of solo shots and make opponents pay. Escobar has a career .347 on-base percentage and has averaged at least 135 hits per year for the past four seasons.
The Nationals were able to match the Giants’ pitching for the most part in their National League Division Series battle, but could not get the timely hit at the critical moment to win games. The 18-inning game is a great example of when the bats got squeezed too much and they were unable to plate that last at-bat run to change the series. Scherzer doesn’t solve that issue, but maybe the Nationals won’t need extra innings as much with a shutdown rotation.