It's a universally held notion that the Nats need to fix (replace?) the starting rotation before the 2010 season. The bullpen has some good pieces in MacDougal, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett so GM Mike Rizzo probably only needs to fill out the depth of the bullpen. We don't need another overhaul like we had twice this year. CF was a huge problem until the Nyjer Morgan trade. Likewise, 2B and/or SS was seen as a problem area but Ian Desmond could be ready to step up full-time next year. Pete Orr and Mike Morse may be able to provide decent support as backups/utility players. So that leaves the starting rotation as the area most in need of attention.
John Lannan is really the only effective starter of the current group. Scott Olsen struggled early this year and then pitched better after his first injury, before succumbing to a season-ending injury later on. Livan Hernandez has some good games but he also has some truly awful ones. All the rookies who have been in and out of the rotation have shown some flashes of greatness but more often than not, they have shown an unwillingness to pitch to contact. The result is walk after walk, or 2-0 counts that lead to fastballs down the middle of the plate or hanging curve balls that get hit hard. Jordan Zimmermann is said to have the best "stuff" among all of the starters but he will probably miss the entire 2010 season because of his elbow surgery.
Of course Stephen Strasburg will be working over the fall and winter in an attempt to make the big league roster out of spring training. Even if he does, will he really be a star right out of the gates? Maybe, maybe not. I don't think anyone can really say either way. We just have to wait and see.
So we have John Lannan, who is probably a no. 4 starter on a contending team (his walk-to-K ratio is not very good and his BAA is kind of high at .270), Scott Olsen who is a no. 5 on a contending team and Livan Hernandez who might be a no. 4 or 5 on a contending team, or not on such a team at all. You can't pencil in Strasburg as the team's ace until he proves himself in real games. He might not even be on the major league team until mid-summer.
Thus, we have a gaping hole at the no. 1 and no. 2 spots. Will Ted Lerner go out and get a veteran free agent pitcher or trade for one? The offense is certainly good enough to win now, as long as Nyjer Morgan stays healthy. (Sliding cleats-first could help ensure that he stays in the line-up.) Morgan's presence will also shore up the defense. Desmond, Orr and Morse should help too. It's probably too much to expect Lerner to remake the team by getting a tandem like Schilling and Randy Johnson a la Arizona earlier this decade. Would it be worthwhile to get at least one established veteran, preferably a true ace? And then "hope" that Strasburg is as good as advertised?
Consecutive 100-loss seasons is just flat-out embarrassing. If Lerner and Rizzo don't find a real ace, then we could see another 100-loss season in 2010. And that would truly be a joke. So what do you think? Any realistic chance for Rizzo to remake this rotation over the winter and put together a solid group for 2010? What are some of the possibilities? Any disgruntled Cy Young winners out there (hopefully under the age of 30) looking to get traded from their current teams? Arizona showed that an organization can turn around a franchise very quickly if you can get two great pitchers. Having one great pitcher and two very good pitchers would also work. I really don't want to see the Nats field another AAA team next year. (Though the offense had some quality veterans, the starting rotation consisted of four rookies and one 2nd-year player for the majority of the season.)