Late Sunday night, news broke that the Washington Nationals were able to reach a 7-year deal with free agent pitcher Max Scherzer. The signing of a Cy Young winner instantly bolsters an already formidable staff for the Nationals. If Washington was not National League East favorites, and arguably NL pennant favorites already, the signing of Scherzer immediately puts them at the front of the class. However, just a few days ago Washington already had an ace in their rotation. What could this signing now mean for former number one pick Stephen Strasburg?
Barring any injuries, the 2015 season will be Strasburg’s sixth season overall. Since day one, hype has always centered around the right-hander’s potential. However, injuries have had a knack of popping up and limiting Strasburg from reaching his full ceiling.
Over the last three years, Strasburg’s innings and games started have increased. He has been named an All-Star, has had a consistent ERA, and in 2014 cracked the top 10 in Cy Young voting. Last season also saw the righty post a career high in strikeouts. But still, getting over that next level hump seems to be alluding the 26-year old. It could be the increase in hits and runs allowed, or possibly even the strains of trying to carry a staff as an ace to a world championship is weighing down on that right arm.
The last few seasons have seen the Nationals as potential favorites to win it all, only to see late fades down the stretch postpone achieving those lofty expectations. Washington has been regarded has having one of the top rotations in the game even before the signing of Scherzer Sunday night. Still, the Nats have been unable to get past the Divisional round come playoff time.
For the moment, Scherzer will likely be the number one guy in front of Strasburg, former Detroit Tiger teammate Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez. On paper, it is an intimidating rotation that will win some ball games. Of the five, Gonzalez would have the highest ERA at a mere 3.57. Granted Zimmermann’s contract discussions still have his future in D.C in doubt.
Back to Strasburg. Having Scherzer now projected to be in front of him every fifth day could be the blessing that will get Strasburg over the hump. Scherzer will now be the ace that has had the success, has won the accolades, and has led a staff into October. He will be the arm that Washington will lean on. Strasburg will now slide to the number two spot. It will potentially lead to better pitching advantages for him not always facing the other team’s ace, reduced stress of having to carry a staff, and perhaps less attention on him to be the guy to win a World Series for D.C. On paper, the signing of Scherzer is immediately beneficial on all accounts.
While Washington as a whole still needs to be able to prove that they can make a deep run into October, on Sunday night, they potentially strengthened their starting rotation by adding an ace while re-positioning another. This signing could project positive gains on multiple fronts and finally get the Nationals over the hump.
Would like to note that USA Today writer John Perrotto has tweeted this, but there have been no confirmations on the concept presented, one that suggests the Nationals are open to trading Strasburg.
— John Perrotto (@JPerrotto) January 19, 2015