There’s always Alex Cobb, I guess. Or the Nationals could trade for a pitcher. But it’s not going to be Jake Arrieta joining Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg at the front end of Washington’s rotation. Arrieta, according to multiple reports tonight, has a 3-year/$75M deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, who already signed Carlos Santana earlier this winter (3/$60M) and have now added a veteran starter to the top of their rotation.
Washington, as USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale noted in an early story on the now-former Cubs’ starter’s deal with the Nationals’ NL East rivals tonight, was, “... believed to be a likely landing spot for Arrieta,” since the Nats are heading into 2018 with A.J. Cole as the frontrunner for the fifth starter’s spot, since they expect to compete for a third straight division title (and a first World Series championship), and since they don’t have a ton of starting depth behind their top four (Scherzer, Stras, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark), Cole, top right-handed prospect Erick Fedde, Edwin Jackson, and... Tommy Milone?
Asked about that depth in the organization earlier this winter, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo also added 2017 Draft picks Seth Romero (the 21-year-old left-hander who was banished from Spring Training last week over curfew violations apparently) and Wil Crowe (a right-hander who was ranked 7th overall on Baseball America’s list of the organization’s top 10 prospects this winter), to the mix.
“We’ve got the new young stable of guys, the Crowes and the Romeros, and that type of thing behind the Coles and the Feddes, so, we feel good about — our depth is good,” Rizzo told reporters in mid-December.
“It’s strong, and on the big league side we’ve got three guys locked up long-term, we’ve got Gio for this year, and so we’re four strong this year, and our two young kids, and we feel good about both of those guys.”
The GM and President of Baseball Operations in D.C. did, however, acknowledge that the team talked with Arrieta’s agent when ownership met with Scott Boras this winter.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk about Jake Arrieta, one of the premier pitchers in the game,” Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings, though as MASN’s Mark Zuckerman noted after the right-hander’s deal with the Phillies was announced, “Nats folks insisted from the beginning Boras was trying to make them more interested in Arrieta than they were,” and in the end, “... [t]hey held firm... even though they could’ve had him on a 3-year deal.”
Asked this afternoon, during MASN’s broadcast of the Nationals’ Grapefruit League game with the St. Louis Cardinals, about the free agents still out there and the slow pace of the market this offseason, Rizzo said that most of the work the front office in D.C. wanted to get done was done early.
“We signed a lot of free agents this year,” Rizzo explained, “... we just did our business and our shopping early and got the players that we really identified and wanted.”
Will the Nationals try to add starting depth before Opening Day? Will they try to trade for a starter who can slot in behind their top two, or fill in the back end? Will the Nationals start the season with their in-house options and see what they need at the non-waiver deadline or whenever a deal becomes, or is deemed necessary?
Will the money they saved by not signing Arrieta (or another high-end arm this winter) go into the likely ridiculous bid they make for Bryce Harper at some point this season or into a big offer once he hits free agency?
So... Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Roark, and Cole? Fedde? Who’s it going to be? Cole is out of options, and ended the 2017 campaign on a high note, which is why he’s seemed to be the frontrunner from the start this Spring.
Did the Nationals miss out on a reasonably-priced Arrieta, or do you think they made a wise move in not signing the veteran starter, (who’s shown signs of decline over the last few seasons), but would have made a nice addition to an already impressive rotation?