Strasburg on the Market? Indians a Possibility?


The Washington Nationals just signed former Detroit Tigers ace, Max Scherzer to a 7-year, $210 million contract.  Now the Nationals face one of the best conundrums to have in sports: too many good players at one position.  As it currently stands the Nationals rotation would look like this:

SP: Max Scherzer
SP: Stephen Strasburg
SP: Jordan Zimmerman
SP: Gio Gonzalez
SP: Doug Fister

Not to mention their 6th starter, Tanner Roark, who posted a 15-10 record with a 2.85 ERA in 2014.  Needless to say, the Nationals probably have the best rotation in the league, and will be favorites to win the 2015 World Series.  So how do the Indians fit into all this?

Well the Nationals can do one of two things.  One, they stand stand pat with their team and boast the top rotation, albeit a mighty expensive one.  Or, they can trade either Strasburg, Zimmerman, or Fister, and strengthen their organizational depth.

Jordan Zimmerman, will turn 29 mid-season, and has one season until he reaches free agency, plus he comes at a hefty price tag of $16.5 million for the 2015 season.  So unless the Indians can move either Nick Swisher or Michael Bourn’s contract, that deal won’t likely occur.  Doug Fister, will be 31 by the start of the season, and like Zimmerman will be a free agent at years end.  Fister does come at a decreased price ($11.4 million), but if you click here, you can see his numbers will be at a decline for the 2015 season.

That brings us to Strasburg, who at one time was considered a once-in-a-generation-type pitcher.  While he hasn’t quite lived up to his billing, over the last 3 seasons, he has averaged a 12-9 record, 3.10 ERA, 186.0 IP, and 210 strikeouts.  And those numbers take into account his innings-capped 2012 season.  Let’s say I haven’t completely lost my mind with this potential deal, what would it take for the Indians to make a trade like this?  If I were Chris Antonetti, I would offer up Francisco Lindor and Clint Frazier.  That’s right, the Indians top 2 prospects for Stephen Strasburg.

Why would the National do this deal?

I already touched on it a little bit above, but with the addition of Max Scherzer, the Nationals are loaded at the starting pitcher position.  And while it’s always smart to have depth at the starting pitching spot, it’s not smart to leave Tanner Roark, a guy who posted a 5.1 WAR in 2014, out of the rotation.

There are other reasons the Nationals would do this deal as well.  Current Nationals shortstop, Ian Desmond, is slated to be a free agent at years end, and the Nationals have already been shopping him around.  Adding Lindor would kill two birds with one stone.  Lindor would give the Nationals a replacement at shortstop, if they decide to either trade Desmond at mid-season, or let him walk in free agency.

If they decide to keep Desmond all year, then Lindor could play second base in his rookie season, displacing the sub-par, Yunel Escobar.  As for Clint Frazier, Jayson Werth will be 36 in 2015, and is under contract for 3 more seasons.  Clint Frazier is expected to be in the MLB by the 2017 season.  Jayson Werth will be 38 and on the last year of his deal by the time Frazier is potentially ready for the call up.

Why would the Indians do this deal?

The Indians would be dealing from a position of strength and be acquiring a position of need.  Don’t believe me?  Here is a ESPN article to back up the assertion.  Sure, dealing away the #4 prospect in the MLB is a hard pill to swallow, but the Indians still have Jose Ramirez  and Zach Walters in the MLB and guys like Erik Gonzalez and Dorssys Paulino in the minors.  The Indians are also dealing from another position of strength, the corner outfield spot, with Clint Frazier going to the Nationals.  The Indians have a gluttony of corner outfielders in the minors in guys like Tyler Naquin, Bradley Zimmer, James Ramsey, and Mike Papi.

Adding Strasburg would give the Indians one of the best rotations in the AL, and would also give them depth if an injury or regression would occur.  Here’s what the Indians rotation would look like with Strasburg in it:

SP: Corey Kluber
SP: Stephen Strasburg
SP: Carlos Carrasco
SP: Trevor Bauer
SP: Gavin Floyd

With Danny Salazar and T.J. House waiting in the minor leagues, should Carrasco, Bauer, or Floyd fail as a starter or if an injury were to occur.  It should also be noted that this deal wouldn’t hurt the projected 2015 opening day lineup.  Adding Strasburg would increase the 2015 payroll to about $93 million, but the Indians do get 2 years of Strasburg, so if they don’t like what they see, they could always move him for the 2016 season.  Strasburg will cost more for 2016 and could easily push team payroll upwards of $110 million, but the reward is much greater than the risk.  The Indians have a shot at the 2015 World Series, and adding Strasburg would get them closer to that goal.

— Chris Sladoje (@MLB_Doje)

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