Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo said several times as the 2013 campaign came to a close that he thought the Nats already had the pitching depth necessary to fill out the rotation in 2014 without making any moves or free agent signings as they did in each of the last two seasons to shore up the back end.
With the emergence of Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan and Nate Karns, and some promising arms in the system that are expected to start at Double-A or higher next season, the Nationals' 52-year-old general manager and President of Baseball Operations told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Bill Rohland late this season that he thought they once again had the necessary depth.
"We think we do," Rizzo said "We think we have several candidates for that fourth and fifth spot in the rotation." With several options after Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and a hopefully healthy Ross Detwiler, Rizzo said, "... there's going to be some stiff competition for the back end of that rotation this coming Spring Training."
"With the depth that we have in our young starting pitching," Rizzo told NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman among others in a late-season interview, "we could certainly fill from within. I don’t think it’s a necessity to go outside the organization, either in the free agent market or in the trade market. But we’re certainly not going to back away from looking at the free agent and the trade market to improve the club."
The emergence of some of the pitchers who made an impact in the majors and throughout the organization, Rizzo explained in a last season conversation with reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, put them in a position where they not only had the options in-house, but could if an opportunity presented itself once again deal for what they thought they needed after making trades the past few years which depleted the depth.
"'We see what we referred to last year as the 'next wave,' well that wave is about Major League ready in '14,'" Rizzo said, "'whereas last year we had a little bit of a gap because of the Gio [Gonzalez] trade where you lost some depth with the Tommy Milones and [Brad] Peacocks in the trade.'"
"'We certainly now again have the depth to go out and acquire a player via the trade market,'" Rizzo concluded.
The Nationals' GM is not alone in that assessment. Boston Globe reporter Nick Cafardo, in writing about potential suitors should the Tampa Bay Rays look to trade left-hander David Price this winter, mentioned the Nats as one of 13-14 teams he thought could "even entertain" the thought of trading for the 28-year-old '07 no.1 overall pick and 2012 Cy Young Award winner.
"The Nationals have players to give up, as well as the resources to sign Price," Mr. Cafardo writes, "who would then team with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez to form a pretty tough rotation." The cost? The "consensus among baseball executives," the Boston Globe writer notes, "... is that Tampa general manager Andrew Friedman will try to make another Wil Myers-type deal, obtain a player or two that are major league-ready and plug them into the lineup or rotation."
One anonymous AL executive quoted in the article considering the possibility of acquiring Price says in spite of the cost ("at least a couple of their top five prospects," Mr. Cafardo writes), and the "huge" commitment it would take to bring Price in and lock him up long-term, pitchers like him don't become available often.
"'When teams are assessing, OK, who would I trade my best prospect for,'" he tells Mr. Cafardo, "'David Price’s name would be on that list.'"
MLB.com's Bill Ladson threw Anthony Rendon's name out there when he considered the possibility in his post-2012 assessment of the Nationals' roster, writing that if, "... the Nationals want to acquire a pitcher like left-hander David Price, they might have to surrender a player like Rendon."
Should Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo even entertain the possibility? What would it take if he did?
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