Rounding Third: No excuses for pitching-rich Nats

Philadelphia, PA ( – The easy part for the Washington
Nationals was signing former American League Cy Young Award winner Max
Scherzer to a contract.

All they had to do for that to happen was shell out $210 million over seven

The hard part, of course, will now be living up to some lofty expectations
since most gambling web sites have pegged the Nationals as the odds-on
favorite to win the World Series in the wake of Scherzer signing.

With or without Scherzer, though, the Nats were going to have an extra eye or
two on them. That’s what happens when you win an NL-best 96 games and bow out
in the first round of the playoffs. In fact, the Nats have won two of the last
three NL East titles and still have yet to win a playoff series since 1981 when
the franchise was located north of the border in Montreal.

In fact, no team has done less with more than the Nationals over the past
three years. But with a $200 million-plus pitcher like Scherzer at the top of
that rotation now, there is no more wiggle room.

Speaking of that rotation. Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Gio
Gonzalez, Doug Fister. Tanner Roarke. Five spots for six guys. Someone figures
to be the odd man out, especially when realize the rotation alone makes
$61 million-plus this season.

By the way, this is a problem 29 other managers wouldn’t mind having.

“What our plan is right now is to make sure everybody is training to be a
starter. All of our guys are training who were scheduled to be starters are
training as starters because you just don’t know,” Washington manager Matt
Williams said.

“We’ll go into spring training in that mode. Again, during spring training you
need multiple starters anyways, you need multiple starters for sure. It will
work itself out. Right now everybody is getting ready for spring. We’ve got
less than a month before we get down there. Everybody is working hard and
getting prepared. All of those guys are getting their arms in shape to be
starters for us.”

You can never have enough pitching anyway, right?

Of course, this is a formula that doesn’t always work. Ask the 2011
Philadelphia Phillies, who boasted Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and
Roy Oswalt. Yes, they may have won 102 games, but they didn’t get out of the
first round of the playoffs.

The smart money would be on Roark being the odd man out, but his 15 wins a
season ago were one behind Fister for the team lead. But, Roark is the least
distinguished of the group and he has pitched out of the bullpen in the past.

Zimmermann and Fister are free agents at season’s end. There was some
speculation that Zimmermann was going to be dealt earlier this offseason. And
that could still be the case, but I’d doubt it.

Why deal him? Go for it this year, let Zimmermann walk at the end of the
season and settle for the first-round pick that would come the Nats’ way.

Some have even said they could deal Strasburg. Again, I just don’t see it. He
hasn’t been as good as advertised, but at times he is electric. Plus, he’s
only 25 and still under contract for at least two more seasons.

And in case you are keeping score, Strasburg is a Scott Boras guy, the same
agent who just got the Nats to break the bank for Scherzer. Boras also
represents Washington sluggers Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.

By the way, there is no truth to the rumor the Nationals are changing their
nickname to the Fighting Boras’.

Scherzer, though, is a horse. If I was running a team, Jon Lester would have
been my target, but I’d hate to live on the difference between the two. Both
are awesome.

The 30-year-old Scherzer won the 2013 AL Cy Young Award, going 21-3 with a 2.90
ERA. He wasn’t as sharp last season, but was still one of the best pitchers in
baseball, posting a 18-5 ledger with a 3.15 ERA.

“I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot,” Scherzer said.
“When you look at near term and long term, this is an organization you want to
be a part of. I want to win and that’s why I’m here.”

Scherzer doesn’t give the Nationals the best rotation in baseball. They
already were without him. It may give them a better shot in October.

And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.