Nationals Rumors: Nats' RHP Taylor Jordan Is Popular In D.C. And Elsewhere

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

When teams were talking trades with the Washington Nationals this winter, one name kept coming up, but the Nats weren't interested in dealing Taylor Jordan, a 25-year-old right-hander who is poised to contribute at the major league level this season after debuting last year.

Before the Washington Nationals acquired catcher Jose Lobaton from the Tampa Bay Rays, ending their search for a backup capable of playing every day should 25-year-old no.1 backstop Wilson Ramos deal with injuries again this season, Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell reported that the Nats, who later said Lobaton was their no.1 target all along, had, at one point, pursued another receiver.

"I don't think he knows how good his stuff is yet. He relies a lot on the catcher about where to go to and he doesn't think about the count." - Davey Johnson on Taylor Jordan, August 2013

The Nationals, "...hoped to deal for then-Reds backup catcher Ryan Hanigan," Boswell wrote, "but would not give up a young pitcher such as Taylor Jordan or Sammy Solis."

Tampa Bay ended up acquiring Hanigan in a three-team trade with Cincinnati and the Arizona Diamondbacks which sent 22-year-old Arizona D-Backs' lefty David Holmberg to the Reds. Hanigan joined the Rays' catching corps, giving them a strong tandem with Jose Molina that freed Lobaton up for the eventual deal with the Nationals. The 29-year-old Rays' catcher was eventually dealt to the Nats along with 22-year-old left-hander Felipe Rivero and 22-year-old outfield prospect Drew Vettleson in return for 26-year-old starter Nathan Karns, a right-hander drafted by Washington in the 12th Round in 2009 who debuted in the majors last season. Tampa GM Andrew Friedman said he sees Karns as a potential 200-inning starter. Friedman later said Karns was an essential part of the deal:

"'Karns was the guy that we wanted to try and figure out a way to acquire,' Friedman said.  'We talked about numerous different scenarios; some that acquired him, some that didn't. Eventually, we got to the point where we were able to line up on something.'"

For Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo, Felipe Rivero was a key part of the deal. As he explained it to reporters, including MASN's Dan Kolko, "...we've got very, very strong reports on [Rivero]. He's pitched at 21 years old in the Florida State League, throws 95, 96 (mph), he can spin the breaking ball and he's got a huge upside."

Acquiring Rivero along with Lobaton also added depth to the organization Rizzo wanted to replenish after he traded two 22-year-old left-handers to Detroit this winter. Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore wrote that Rivero, who was ranked 17th in the Rays' organization by Baseball America, replaced Robbie Ray in Rizzo's mind.

(ed. note - "The WaPost's Thomas Boswell said Rivero essentially replaced Ian Krol, but either way.")

Ray, a 2010 Nationals' 12th Round pick and the top lefty in the Nats' organization before the deal according to Baseball America, went to the Tigers in the trade that brought right-hander Doug Fister to D.C.

Before the Tigers traded Fister for a package that included Ray, 22-year-old lefty Ian Krol and 25-year-old utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi, GM Dave Dombrowski too, according to the WaPost's Mr. Boswell, inquired as to the availability of Taylor Jordan.

"In the Fister deal," Boswell wrote in a chat with readers, "the other player Detroit's stellar GM Dave Dombrowski wanted was Jordan; he wanted Jordan AND Robbie Ray at first, probably knew he'd only get one of them." He got Ray.

The Nationals were not going to deal Taylor Jordan this winter.

On an innings limit this season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, the 25-year-old '09 9th Round pick worked his way up from High-A Potomac to Double-A Harrisburg and eventually the majors where he made his major league debut and nine starts total for the Nationals before he was shut down. In 51 2/3 IP, the right-hander put up a 3.66 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 11 walks (1.29 BB/9) and 29 Ks (5.05 K/9) and finished at +0.7 fWAR.

According to the Washington Post's Mr. Boswell, Jordan made quite an impression in 2013:

"The staff loves Taylor Jordan's stuff, goofy motion that adds deception and his ability to 'sit' at 91-92-93, then reach back for 96 when he needs it. Lot of movement on his fastball/sinker. Nats fans probably remember 3-1, 3.66 in 51.2 decent innings, but Nats front office also remembers his 9-1, 1.00 ERA in 90.1 innings in A+ and AA."

Jordan is in the mix for the fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation this Spring. If he can't beat out Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, Ross Ohlendorf and whichever other pitchers are legitimately being considered, the right-hander is high on the list of potential replacements should the Nats' starters have any issues.

It's a list that Boswell points out includes Jordan, Solis, Roark, Matt Purke (who has impressed early in camp), A.J. Cole and even further down the line, 2012 1st Round pick Lucas Giolito. Rizzo dealt Robbie Ray, Ian Krol and Nathan Karns this winter, but there's still depth in the system. The Nationals got what they wanted this winter and held on to Jordan and Solis when there was interest around baseball. Will either or both make an impact at the major league level this season?

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