From the start of the Washington Nationals' offseason search for improvements to a roster that produced only 69 wins in 2010, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo has been clear that he believes the Nats now have enough depth in the organization to trade prospects without leaving the proverbial cupboard bare. The rumored collection of talent that Mr. Rizzo was reportedly willing to part with in return for the proven major league arm of 28-year-old former Cy Young Award-winner Zack Greinke would have tested the General Manager's contention, but in the view of most who've examined yesterday's trade for Chicago Cubs' left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, (who'll never be mistaken for Greinke), the prospects included came from positions where redundancies existed within the Nats' system.
The same is true for the Cubs, of course, whose acquisition of right-hander Matt Garza (another pitcher the Nationals reportedly pursued) for a package of highly-regarded prospects left them with what ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine described in a recent article entitled, "Cubs may move Gorzelanny", as an, "abundance of starting-pitching options and budgetary issues," which combined to make Gorzelanny available.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo reviewed the prospects the Nationals sent to the Cubs in an article last night entitled, "Scouting report on prospects in Gorzelanny deal", describing 22-year-old '07 1st/supplementary round pick outfielder Michael Burgess as, "a slightly below-average defender overall," whose, "power remains largely untapped," while projecting that 24-year-old A.J. Morris could potentially be a, "setup type who could get to the big leagues fairly quickly." 21-year-old lefty Graham Hicks, according to Mr. Mayo, is, "a slender southpaw with plenty of projectability," who, "remains just that," after three unremarkable seasons in the Nats' system.
Former Nats' GM Jim Bowden was asked about Burgess, and offered a slightly more optimistic scouting report yesterday during his Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio show "Inside Pitch." Bowden, who oversaw the selection of Burgess in his role as the Nats' GM while current general manager, Mr. Rizzo, was then the scouting director in Washington, said he was surprised Cubs' GM Jim Hendry was able to get the outfielder from the Nationals:
Jim Bowden: "[Burgess has] tremendous power, he's got 30-35 HR power, light-tower-power, when he hits them, he hits them a mile. He's got a great arm. He was a pitcher in high school, came out of Tampa, but a great arm. A good fielder, I'd say an average fielder with an above average [arm], he will throw you out. You try to score, you're not going to. You try to go first to third, Michael Burgess will throw you out. Now, what's the downside. High strikeouts. One out of four at bats he punches out. He's got some holes. He's got some mechanical things in his swing, I'm not going to call it a hitch, but he's got a little pump at the end that doesn't clear, and he hasn't been able to get rid of it yet, but, he's only 21-year-old, and that's when you look at prospects like this and you're seeing a guy that reaches all the way up to Double-A at twenty-one, if he was in the draft, he'd be coming out as a junior or senior in college and he'd be starting at A-ball or rookie ball. So, to me, you look at the age and go, okay only 21, he's got the power, and by the way, he's kept improving each year. I think it was a good pickup for [Cubs' GM] Jim Hendry. Look, he's not a sure thing, but if he makes it, if he can make some adjustments with the bat, and make more contact, Hendry might have just stolen a 25-30 HR major league hitter."
Baseball America's Jim Callis (@JimCallisBA) similarly described Burgess on Twitter as having, "Big raw power mixed with a lot of strikeouts. Strong RF arm," and later wrote that, "Morris ranked No. 18, Burgess No. 19 on our #Nationals Top 30 in the upcoming Prospect Handbook. [Hicks] wasn't on Top 30." SI.com's Jon Heyman (@SI_JonHeyman) wondered aloud on Twitter, "How can Tom Gorzellany be worth 3 allegedly solid prospects?" writing that, "#Cubs GM Jim Hendry is having himself a splendid winter."
Gorzelanny, the Pirates' 2nd Round pick in the '03 Draft, who'll turn 29 in July, was the highest-ranked pitcher on Baseball America's John Perotto's '05 list of the Pirates' Top 10 Prospects before his major league debut that season, and he was the 95th overall prospect in baseball before the '06 campaign. After an impressive '07 season in which the lefty was (14-10) with a 3.88 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 135 K's (6.02 K/9) and 68 walks (3.03 BB/9) in 201.2 IP, however, the left-hander has stalled at the major league level, struggling with his control and bouncing back and forth between the majors and minors in 2008 before getting dealt to Chicago in 2009 where he's split time between the bullpen and rotation with the Cubs, striking out 8.2 K/9 but walking 4.2 BB/9 in 42 games, 30 starts and 136.1 innings pitched.
Will Gorzelanny be able to crack the Nationals' rotation? The Nats avoided arbitration with left-hander John Lannan yesterday, agreeing on what is reportedly a one-year/$2.75M dollar deal, but Lannan struggled at the start of the 2010 campaign and had to go down to Double-A to work with his old pitching coach before finding his game and putting together a strong second-half in D.C. The Nationals expect lefty Ross Detwiler to be a part of the 2010 rotation, though he's yet to produce or live up to his promise at the Major League level. Gorzelanny's fellow one-time Pirates' prospect Sean Burnett, who'll now be his teammate in Washington told MLB.com's Bill Ladson yesterday in an article entitled, "Nats acquire lefty Gorzelanny from Cubs", that Gorzelanny was a, "...competitive lefty who is going to add to depth to the rotation...[and] will make our rotation deeper." Is there room in the Nats' rotation? Will the left-hander end up in the bullpen where the Nationals already have two lefties, Burnett and veteran Doug Slaten? If he doesn't end up starting, did the Nationals give up too much? Is Rizzo done dealing?