One of the key dominoes in the MLB offseason has finally fallen. Max Scherzer has signed with the Washington Nationals as per MLB.com’s Jon Heyman: “Max Scherzer has an agreement on a 7-year deal with Nats.” My guess was right that the deal in question is a lucrative one since Scott Boras was involved. Problem is, if they want to trade in the event he doesn’t pan out, they may have to eat the 15 million dollars per year after the end of the contract. The deal will be good for Max though, because he’ll go to a NL team and a relatively friendly pitcher’s ballpark. He will also be re-united with former teammate Doug Fister; so the maybe the entire situation won’t be brand new.
The Cardinals have missed out on an opportunity to bring in a former Cy Young winner with excellent credentials in order to see what they have in the young starting pitchers already on the roster. This is evident after spending most of my night writing up an article on why Scherzer makes sense for the Cardinals. Recent news has this article going in an opposite—and possibly better—direction.
The recent talk around the rumor mill is that with the signing of Scherzer, the Nats would like to trade one of their in-house guys; namely Stephen Strasburg OR Jordan Zimmermann. Washington only wants to trade one, hence the capital OR. It’s been known that the Nats wanted to trade Zimmermann before now, but it’s even more of a possibility now with Scherzer locked up. John Mozeliak had to have a sense that this deal was going to go down which subsequently made him balk on Scherzer. Recent rumors like the aforementioned make me wonder if Mozeliak might be working the phones with a little more conviction in the next couple weeks.
Both of these players are hard to pass up and would be inning-eating assets to any franchise they become a part of. This is pivotal when thinking about the health concerns surrounding Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. If both of those players go down, the only players the Cardinals will allow to go over 200 innings are Lance Lynn and John Lackey. Each player has their respective red flags; the peak for both is having Tommy John surgery. Obviously it would be difficult to sign either pitcher to a long-term extension, but it would be possible. Zimmermann’s main red flags apart from the surgery are that he is only a three-pitch pitcher and he only has a year left on his contract. This means he can be figured out more than normal if a grinder like Matt Carpenter were to have a couple cracks at him. He has come back from his surgery effective and has been one of the best starters in the league since. Strasburg, on the other hand, has a couple more aspects to be wary of. His pitching mechanics have been called into question multiple times; with many analysts describing that his foot plants too soon, thus causing his shoulder rotate too soon. Playoff experience can be a worry as well because he only has one game in which he lost.
Now let’s get to the positives by starting with Jordan Zimmermann. The man is a solid work horse who averaged 202 innings the last three years and posted 32 starts each season. On top of that, he has been in the Cy Young race the past two years; finishing 7th in ’13 and 5th in ’14. Watching tape of Zimmermann, it’s easy to see why he’s so effective. The speed difference alone between his 94-95 mph fastball and 81 mph breaking ball is ridiculous. His fastball has a tailing movement to it that is downright nasty when it’s right as you can tell by watching him mow down the Braves lineup in the video below. There’s several reasons John Mozeliak could add Jordan Zimmermann, but perhaps the top reason is that he has proven he can go the distance with his no-hitter last year. It was truly a masterful game that he will no doubt remember for the rest of his life.
Then there is this player named Stephen Strasburg who has been reportedly made available. You may have heard of him. He was only touted as the “most hyped and closely watched pitching prospect in the history of baseball” by Sports Illustrated. The phenom is a four pitch pitcher that can touch 98 with his fastball and go as low as 79 with his curveball. That variation in speeds ultimately led to a league-leading 242 strikeouts with 10 whiffs per 9 innings. He has shown that he can rebound from surgery and be a front of the rotation starter by logging 215 innings and starting 34 games, which led the league. Oh, and Strasburg is a pretty good hitter as well—earning a Silver Slugger award in 2012 with a .277 batting average and a dinger. The best and most valuable element in trading for Strasburg is that he has two years left on his contract. That would give the Cardinals extra time to sign phenom long term. Think about the damage a rotation with Strasburg could do. Wainwright, Strasburg, Wacha, Lynn, and Martinez in 2016 sounds like a deadly rotation to me.
Mozeliak obviously has the power and we have no say in any trade. As much fun as it would be to see either of these guys with the birds on their chest, there may be too many moving parts to make a trade work. I am confident in Mo and he definitely knows what he is doing. The talent on the Cardinals is undeniable and there are backup plans in place for their backup plans. That being said, it’s fun to dream isn’t it?
Thanks for reading!