When the Washington Nationals added veteran right-hander Dan Haren on a 1-year/$13M dollar deal earlier this winter, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters he was comfortable with the options available for the major league rotation and the depth at the top of the organization though they've traded away some of their best pitching prospects over the last two years. "We feel really good about our five starters in the rotation," the 52-year-old Executive Vice President of Baseball Ops and General Manager said. "We feel that we have options below that. I think what I've always said [is] we're never satisfied with what we have. If we can do better, we'll certainly attempt to do better and I'm always after depth."
"We feel very comfortable and confident with the five current rotation guys that we've got," Rizzo explained, "And the current guys that we feel that could be that sixth, seventh or eighth major league starters if need be, but again, with that said, we're always on the lookout to [improve] our ballclub." Assistant GM Bryan Minniti stayed behind at the Winter Meetings after the GM and many of the team's executives left early feeling they'd accomplished all they could at the annual event. When Mr. Minniti spoke to reporters, including the Washington Times' Amanda Comak, he admitted that finding depth for the major league rotation is difficult for one fairly obvious reason:
"I think the challenging thing with the major league rotation that we have is recruiting guys who know that they're going to probably end up in Triple-A, barring an injury," said assistant general manager Bryan Minniti. "So I don't know that we'll sign those guys anytime soon. We've had negotiations with those guys and conversations in the last six weeks, since the World Series ended, and we'll continue to try and sign guys to be depth for us."
Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore wrote this afternoon that the Nationals sent a "top scout" to watch veteran righty Javier Vazquez pitch in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente where the 36-year-old veteran of 14 MLB seasons who "retired" after pitching for the Florida/Miami Marlins in 2011 is currently pitching for the Leones de Ponce. In five starts and 23.0 IP this winter, the former Montreal Expos' starter is (1-3) with a 3.52 ERA, six walks (2.35 BB/9) and 30 Ks (11.74 K/9). In his last season in the majors in 2011, Vazquez had a 3.69 ERA, a 3.57 FIP, 50 walks (2.34 BB/9) and 162 Ks (7.57 K/9) in 32 starts and 192.2 IP, but in the last two months of the season, before he decided to stick with his decision to call it a career, the right-hander was dominant, holding opponents to a .179/.213/.288 line over the final 78.0 IP in which he walked 10 (1.15 BB/9) and K'd 76 (8.77 K/9).
The WaPost's Mr. Kilgore wrote that the Nationals would, according to a team official, prefer to sign the right-hander to a minor league deal, though he noted that it's unclear whether or not Vazquez would take anything but a major league deal. Mr. Kilgore's colleague at the Washington Post, James Wagner, wrote today about another pitcher who was willing to accept a minor league deal from the Nats, potentially adding depth to the organization. 26-year-old right-hander Tyler Herron, an '05 1st Round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals, actually signed with the Nationals back on December 7th (the same day Haren officially signed), agreeing to a minor league deal after pitching with the Fargo-Moorehead Redhawks of the independent American Association last year.
The Redhawks' official site announced the signing as well, noting that Herron had a (12-3) record with a 3.24 ERA, 30 walks (2.20 BB/9) and 105 Ks (7.68 K/9) in 123.0 innings pitched in 2012 after an arm injury sidelined him in 2011. Herron topped out at Double-A in 2009, playing in both the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates' organizations and posting a 4.40 ERA over 17 games, 13 starts and 71.2 IP. Herron is currently pitching in Puerto Rico as well, where he has a (3-3) record, a 3.72 ERA five walks (1.24 K/9) and 27 Ks (6.69 K/9) in 36.1 IP for the Atenienses de Manati.