2. Gio Gonzalez will be traded.
The Nationals have the ninth-rated farm system according to Baseball America, but it is heavy on pitchers and light on position players. At the Major League level, the Nationals have so much starting pitching depth that Tanner Roark and his career 2.57 ERA will start the season in the pen. The battle for the fifth rotation spot came down to Roark and Gonzalez, with Gio winning for now.
The Nationals control Gonzalez for four more years at $47 million when considering the 2017 and 2018 option years. This is an incredibly tradable contract considering Rick Porcello just signed a four-year deal north of $80 million. Trading Gonzalez and inserting Roark into the rotation would likely have little to no impact on the club’s World Series aspirations, as the fifth starter often spends most of the playoffs in the bullpen.
Freeing up salary space by moving Gonzalez would give the Nationals more freedom to lock up Jordan Zimmermann, who will test free agency for the first time after the season. With the impending free agency, Zimmermann’s trade value is greatly reduced, as he could turn out to be only a rental. The Nationals have an opportunity to restock their farm system’s position player pool with a trade of Gonzalez without hurting their chances this year.