The Washington Nationals and Trading for an Elite Starting Pitcher

 

I can't help but think the rumors of the Nationals wanting an elite starting pitcher are an example of the telephone game that gets played all off-season between the media and their sources. Mike Rizzo tells an assistant that he wants an effective starting pitcher and this is overheard and passed on to someone else as an efficient starting pitcher and by the time it makes it to the media the Nationals are looking to add an elite starting pitcher. There are rumored to be two on the trading block right now in Max Scherzer and David Price. Mike Rizzo was still with Arizona at the time Scherzer was drafted and Nats fans know how much Rizzo likes to bring in players and personnel from his Arizona days, but what would that trade look like?  

Figuring out what a trade for either Price or Scherzer is difficult because a team like St. Louis could swoop in and offer something like Wacha, Tavarez, and Wong and blow everyone out of the water, but there is a strong chance that none of those players are close to available in a trade which means more teams will be able to enter the bidding. As with anything it is hard to know what exactly has to be paid when the price is a mystery, but this reminds me of the last time I was in Arizona.  

Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were dominating the headlines and the fields. Even at games they weren't playing in they were all anyone talked about, and I remember watching Bryce Harper and how, even at 19, he appeared much bigger than any of the other prospects, but Harper wasn't the only Washington Nationals prospect I watched that fall. Derek Norris was part of the Fall League that season and was still wearing a Washington Nationals jersey. Shortly after the Fall League ended that season Norris, along with AJ Cole, Brad Peacock, and Tommy Milone, was traded for Gio Gonzalez. It has been a fair trade for both sides and might give us some hint as to what it would take to get someone like Scherzer or Price. 

Both of the pitchers rumored to be on the block this off-season are a step above where Gonzalez was at that time. Gonzalez was viewed as a top to mid rotation starter whereas both Scherzer and Price are viewed as league Aces, Price more so than Scherzer. Scherzer is going to win the AL Cy Young this season, but he hasn't been consistently in the talks for the award season after season in the way Price has. He has had other good seasons, but 2013 was his breakout and as with any breakout season the question has to be asked, was this a breakout season or a career year?  

As far as what it would take for the Nationals to get Scherzer or Price I do not think it will be anything but minor leaguers. Both the Tigers and Rays would ask for Rendon, but it is doubtful that any other team would offer something that good so he can be pulled back. Brian Goodwin, who I am currently watching in the AFL and who has impressed me the two times I've seen him, could be part of a deal. AJ Cole was recently listed as the Nationals number one prospect by Baseball America and that is excellent for his trade value. AJ Cole looks to be much more of a third or fourth starter long term at the big league level and his best value to the Nationals could be as part of a trade.  

There is a possibility that those two as the center piece of the deal would be enough to make it happen or the Rays or Tigers would insist on Giolito being included as well. At that point it becomes wise to walk away. Not even the Royals gave up all three of their top three prospects for James Shields. The third name will likely be someone still in the top ten but not in the top five and then a name from the top 30 range. At the end of it all I think that is how the trade will look no matter which team Scherzer and Price end up on. 

The question still looming is do the Nationals need to make this type of trade, and the answer to that is no. They do not need a fourth Ace level starting pitcher and that is why I think this is an example of a telephone game level of miscommunication or the Nationals bandied about the word elite, but didn't mean what we think they meant by the word elite. Perhaps they want an elite innings eater like Bronson Arroyo or to take a flyer on a pitcher who was once elite like Roy Halladay or Tim Hudson. There are lots of possibilities for what was actually meant, and we won't know until something happens. The Washington Nationals don't need another Ace in their rotation to be successful in 2014 and further weakening the farm system for 2015 and beyond could end up narrowing the window of opportunity to win a World Series.    

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