Reeling off one of baseball’s biggest collapses in 2015, the Washington Nationals may continue their rebuilding process without starter Stephen Strasburg, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.
Strasburg, 27, went through an injury-riddled but overall productive season and was, at times, the Nationals’ most reliable starter. While he made just 23 regular season starts, Strasburg went 11-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 127-and-one-third innings. Throughout the season, the former first overall draft pick in 2009 dealt with several injuries and landed on the disabled list.
The rumors of the Nationals looking to deal Strasburg date back to last offseason. One team often mentioned to be interested was the Texas Rangers. Obviously, the two sides never reached an agreement but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported last month that the Rangers still maintain interest in Strasburg.
— Texas Rangers (@TexasRangerNews) September 16, 2015
Prior to the 2015 season, Strasburg discussed the trade rumors surrounding his name in an interview with Bill Ladson of MLB.com
“It’s tough…. I haven’t said anything like that. I don’t feel like that. You have to accept it because that’s how the system works. It’s like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage. If I let it bother me, then it would be a long day. I don’t want stuff like that to stress me out. People are going to write what they are going to write regardless if it’s true or not.”
Aside from potentially dealing Strasburg, the Nationals stand to enter 2016 with a different starting rotation. Right-hander Jordan Zimmerman, who enjoyed a fine 2015 (13-10, 3.66 ERA), is a free agent. Fellow right-hander Doug Fister is also a free agent and he did not enjoy a productive 2015 (5-7 4.19 ERA), a season in which he saw himself demoted to the bullpen.
Without those two pitchers, the Nationals’ rotation features Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Strasburg. Those first three names are signed for 2016 and beyond. As for Strasburg, he is set to hit the free agent market after next season. That could play a huge role in the course of action the Nationals decide to take with their right-hander.
If the Nationals do not expect to retain Strasburg after 2016, then trading him becomes not only a consideration but a wise move. By trading him, the Nationals could replenish their farm system, acquire Major League ready talent or a mix of both. Despite his storied injury history — which includes undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010 (via The Washington Post) — Strasburg still possess an upside.
At just 27 years of age, Strasburg’s age alone is a good reason for teams to have interest in acquiring his service. And while he has suffered from a bevy of nagging injuries, his velocity has not been drastically impacted.
According to Fangraphs, Strasburg’s fastball velocity in 2015 was 95.4 MPH. While it’s a few ticks below his fastball velocity of 97.6 MPH during his rookie season in 2010, it’s up from his 2014 fastball velocity of 94.7 MPH.
For his career, Strasburg owns a record of 54-37 with a 3.09 ERA in 776-and-two-thirds innings. So, going based off his career averages and performance, Strasburg likely has a long, effective career ahead of him — the only issue is keeping him healthy.
With manager Matt Williams and his coaching staff fired, closer Jonathan Papelbon most likely a goner, and several key team members headed for free agency, the Nationals will enter 2016 under new management. The face of the franchise and likely NL MVP Bryce Harper and Scherzer are likely the only players guaranteed to return in 2016.
Until then, everybody in the Nationals organization is on the hot seat and is not guaranteed to return next season.
[Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images]