There are still free agent pitchers looking to revive their careers. Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Webb, and Livan Hernandez are all still on the market and should be willing to sign minor league deals. Now you might be asking why I bring this up when just the other day I wrote about how the Nats starting rotation could be historically good. There is one big bugaboo when it comes to starting pitching, and that is the best staffs are six or seven deep.
The major league average for starters used in 2012 was 10. The Reds had the fewest with six and the Padres led the majors with fifteen, but no team made it through the season using just five starters. Be it injury, under performance, or weather every major league team is going to need a six, seventh, or eighth starter at some point during the season. The 2012 Nationals were one of the teams on the low end having used only eight starters, and Gorzelanny's start almost shouldn't count. The 2012 Nationals never had to deal with an injury to a member of their rotation, but that doesn't mean the same will hold true in 2013.
As of right now the Nationals sixth starter is Christian Garcia. The Nationals feel that he can help the team more by filling in for doubleheaders or as the emergency back-up in case anyone goes down for an extended period of time. Garcia has the repertoire of a starter and proved at the end of 2012 that he can get major league batters out. How he does as a starter has yet to be seen, but his potential gives him an edge over other sixth starters. It is much better to hope a young player can reach their potential than to pray a veteran can rebound.
After Garcia the picture gets pretty bleak. The man that would be the seventh starter is Yunesky Maya. In 15 career games he has a 5.52 ERA, 4.1 K/9, and 1.551 WHIP, and has looked over matched and out of place in every appearance. The Nationals could call up a reliever and use Zach Duke in a spot start as he was the ERA leader among the Syracuse Chiefs starters in 2012, but none of the other names from that team should inspire much if any confidence.
Diving deeper into AA and the story is much the same. The one pitcher that could have been a spot starter for the Nationals, Daniel Rosenbaum, was taken away by the Rockies in the Rule 5 draft. There are numbers that catch the eye like the 2.84 ERA Ryan Perry put up in 13 starts, but as a reliever in the majors Perry has yet to prove he can get major league batters out and even at AA with the impressive ERA he had trouble striking batters out.
The best hope for the Nationals and the emergency starter position is to
either sign a number of pitchers looking for a second chance to minor league
deals or to hope that Nathan Karns, Sammy Solis, and Robbie Ray can get on the
fast track in development and be ready to pitch in the majors when they
will inevitably be needed. How much they will be needed depends on
how the major league rotation is holding up, but even if there aren't any
injuries at that level, the Nationals can't stop weather. Not to mention, the Nats could ultimately decide that they
are better off with Christian Garcia in the bullpen over Henry Rodriguez, leaving the need for available starting pitching depth ever more apparent.