Late Sunday night Max Scherzer agreed to terms with the Washington Nationals, ending any pipe dream Astros’ fans had of signing the top-tier righty. Scherzer will join a Nats’ rotation that already consists of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister.
While that rotation is easily one of the best in baseball, if not hands down the best, it’s likely that Washington will trade one of these starters. Why? Zimmermann and Fister are all set to hit free agency next offseason, with Gonzalez and Strasburg hitting the market the year after. The assumption around baseball is that Zimmermann will be the one that will be dangled to other teams in an effort to land more talent.
A few weeks ago, Kennon covered Zimmermann as a trade target for the Astros, putting together a few trade scenarios that could work for both teams. With the moves that have been made this offseason, Houston has a definite surplus in a couple of areas: catcher and outfield.
The Nationals have Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton as their catching tandem on their depth chart. Carlos Corporan would be an upgrade over Lobaton, but a marginal one. The price to land the prized righty would likely have to include prospects. Trading Mark Appel for one year of Zimmermann would be unwise from a Houston standpoint, so he should be safe. A couple of names to consider would be outfield prospect Domingo Santana and catcher Jason Castro. The Nats have outfield depth with Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Denard Span, so they would theoretically be able to groom Santana at their own pace, while Houstonians believe that Castro’s 2014 campaign was a mirage.
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An option that is more enticing to me, but likely not to the Nationals, would be trying to acquire Tanner Roark, who has now been bumped from the rotation with the addition of Max Scherzer. With the aforementioned pitchers hitting free agency in the next couple of years, the likelihood of them trading Roark, who is not a free agent until after the 2019 season is marginal at best.
Who is Tanner Roark? In his first year in the rotation, Roark went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA over 198 2/3 innings. The addition of Roark would be one of those under-the-radar moves that could drastically improve the Astros, not only for next season, but for many to come.
Making a trade with the Nationals for one of their starting pitchers makes sense for Houston. These moves would show the fan base that they are ready to win, and win now. Will each of them cost the Astros? Most definitely, but Houston has prospects to spare.
Let’s throw out one more scenario for you. Say Houston acquired Zimmermann in the coming weeks. No matter how they’re doing come the trade deadline, they flip him to a contender. Why would they do this? At the deadline there would be teams clamoring for a pitcher like Zimmermann to join their staff for a postseason run. The return would likely be prospects, which may not sound great, but that would give Jeff Luhnow and company a surplus of young talent, which means they wouldn’t have to be timid about trading them in the future in the right deal; a deal that could land them a player over a longer period of time.
Why the trade deadline? If it were up to me, the timing of this trade would also coincide with the arrival of Mark Appel in Houston. While trading their ace (assuming the deal were to occur) would sting, the arrival of Appel would soothe the pain a great deal.
That’s my plan as GM. What do you think?