Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

With Tanaka’s injury, will Yankees come calling?


Free Ross Detwiler!  Photo Haraz Ghanbari/AP via

Free Ross Detwiler! Photo Haraz Ghanbari/AP via

Heard an interesting trade idea floated in Buster Olney‘s daily podcast last week while talking with Keith Law.

In light of Masahiro Tanaka‘s possible season-ending injury further depleting the Yankees rotation (which is already without projected 2014 starters CC SabathiaMichael Pineda and Ivan Nova and is depending on two 15th round picks who you couldn’t pick out of a lineup in Shane Greene and Chase Whitley right now), could the Yankees come calling the Nationals looking for Ross Detwiler in trade?

Despite all their rotational issues, the Yankees at the All-Star break sit 5 games back of a weak AL East and just 3.5 back in the Wild Card.  The Yankees don’t “pack it in,” ever, and have never shied away from spending to get what they need.  They’ve already made one shrewd starter acquisition in Brandon McCarthy (traded for cash and ineffective starter Vidal Nuno) and look like they could now use another (Greene has looked ok, but Whitley has not, and the Yankees starting pitching depth in the minors looks pretty bleak).

I’m on record saying the Nats should cash in on Detwiler.  And I still am.  My arguments are still the same; opportunity cost of an underutilized and replaceable pitcher versus filling a need for a team trying to mask issues at second base and a thinned farm system.  And i’m not alone (Adam Kilgore in April and May on the topic, Thomas Boswell said that “Detwiler has been wasted” in his June 23rd chat).  There’s now more than a few options for a Detwiler replacement in our system, a guy who can start or relieve, throw low-leverage innings in blowout wins or losses and still develop.  In fact, I’ll bet that our most recent 40-man addition Taylor Hill would *love* that role right now instead of pitching in upstate New York (even if the Chiefs are in first place).   If you wanted a lefty like-for-like replacement, look no further than Aaron Laffey, off-season MLFA who’s 11-3 for Syracuse on the season and who has 6 years of MLB experience starting and relieving.  Heck, maybe the Nats can trade Laffey if they’re so committed to Detwiler; Laffey pitched briefly (and somewhat effectively) for the Yankees in late 2011.

Why not see if the Yankees can give up something that the Nats could use?  Minor league depth.  Backup middle infielder.  Something, anything.

Detwiler, in the meantime, looks like he could be a nice fit in Yankee Stadium.  Lefties mitigate the short-porch in right field there, and Detwiler’s sinking fastball sports a decent ground ball rate (45.7% this year, right in line with his career average of 46.5% but below his 50% figure the last year he was healthy and starting in 2012) that could help keep the ball in the park.

(coincidentally … while googling for one of the links above, I discovered this link at the Washington Nationals Fan Forum: someone took my 5/9/14 article on this same topic and posted it there, where it got a ton of commentary.   Well shoot; why didn’t those people come and comment here?  I would have loved the discussion.  I had no idea it was there.  But the conversation continues today.  I’ll post this link there and see what happens).



16 Responses to 'With Tanaka’s injury, will Yankees come calling?'

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  1. Not only do I agree that Detwiler to the Yankees is a good Idea, I’ll give another reason to support it. Detwiler is already pulling down $3 million this year and will hit arbitration again in the offseason. Do they really want to pay around $4 million next year for a guy who has essentially become this year’s Tom Gorzelanny? Or might that money be better spent elsewhere.

    I’ve been a fan of Detwiler ever since I saw him dominate in one of his first starts at Potomac back in 2007, the year he was drafted. But for whatever reason he just hasn’t reached his full potential here. Getting something good for him now while there is still time makes perfect sense.


    14 Jul 14 at 11:33 am

  2. If detwiler stayed, he’d be non-tendered before getting offered arbitration at anything close to what he’s getting. Or traded anyway to someone who could use him. So why not cash in now? Completely agree on the Gorzelanny comp.

    Also cannot disagree with those who note his stats about 1st vs 2nd vs 3rd time through the rotation. All the more reason to try to something from a team that is desperate. Detwiler’s certainly a much cheaper alternative to someone like a Jon Danks or David Price or a Kevin Correia (other names also mentioned as tradeable assets int he same podcast).

    Todd Boss

    14 Jul 14 at 11:46 am

  3. If they could make a trade to a team that would value him as a cheap, cost-controlled #5, I’d do it. I think that gets back a B prospect or a good bullpen piece. But I am not sure that is going to be available, even from a team like the Yanks. In addition to the points you each make, there is the question of whether he can get stretched out quickly enough to be starting by Aug 1 (I think a team won’t pay up for him if they don’t see themselves getting 10 starts from him this year). If not, I’d keep him. The Nats are going for it, and they should value insurance like Det more highly than most teams.

    I also don’t think that he gets non tendered if he stays, for essentially the same reason. $4-5m for some insurance is cheap for a team in WAS’ position. Plus, they did it before with Lannan.


    14 Jul 14 at 1:09 pm

  4. If the team really treats Detwiler as surplus, he is still a LH starter who has of late performed well.

    The team does not have comparable needs at the ML level and too much talent at AAA.

    The best trade options shod be for A+ high caliber prospects, like the Morse and Karns deals yielded. The system is very thin on power and left handed starting pitching and is always well served by stocking a larger pond.

    I think it’s time to trade Span as well, for the same caliber of return.


    14 Jul 14 at 1:27 pm

  5. Forensicane – here is something from a Baseball Prospectus chat for you. I know that you don’t like these national outlets, but I think this guy lives down in FLA and goes to a lot of GCL games. Plus, always nice to hear something positive. BTW, I wouldn’t trade Span this year, I’d just ride it out. I think that would leave us thin at CF and in a go for it year, I think that you hold on to those guys. Not saying I love Span, just that he has value and this wouldn’t be the time to trade him.

    GCL guy (Sunshine state): As a Gulf Coast League observer, which position players have caught your eye, Jeff? Thanks for chatting!
    Jeff Moore: The Nationals GCL team has a strong crop of athletic Dominican players from their international signings the past two years. Tools galore at various stages of development, which is always fun to watch.


    14 Jul 14 at 2:03 pm

  6. That’s great to hear, and thank you. But as the 2013 Baby Nata have shown, some folks” skills play higher, and in Auburn 2014, some key players’ have not (yet).

    I do not think the system to be barren. But I think restocking the pond is a better return for a Detwiler. He is not HRod, and he is not Danny Espinosa. He is still a lefty starter, healthy again, and in a numbers game.

    The upper lower minors, A+ and AA, have the weaker talent in the system. Once a player gets to AA, though, his price really goes up if he is that polished.

    Rizzo buys under value well.


    14 Jul 14 at 2:30 pm

  7. I guess I would be surprised to see Ross get traded now, just as he seems to be pitching much better (although that also might increase his trade value a little). If you assume Soriano leaves after this season (as I think Rizzo really thinks 10M+ for any reliever is too much), then Det at $3-4M does start to appear to be a more reasonable potential option for one of those 7/8 inning set-up guys if he can use the rest of this season to gain back that confidence level from the club. As Wally notes, Rizzo has proven that he can be very patient holding onto potential insurance options.


    14 Jul 14 at 4:29 pm

  8. Sometimes I get Natmospheric whiplash between reading the “all in!” posts of those who think the Nats should trade A. J. Cole for Ben Zobrist and the “think of the future!” posts that would have the Nats dump ALR, Span or Detwiler to rebuild the farm system. FWIW (not much) I’m pretty appalled by both extremes. If the Nats trade someone it should not come at the expense of their chances this season. Deteiler, for example, may be close to displacing Blevins as first LHP out of the ‘pen.

    But they have no burning need that I can see that would justify stripping the farm system. The Nats have some transition coming up next year, but are built to contend through 2016-7 at least. They have older players, but the core going forward (outside of Werth) is still quite young. Harper, Rendon, Desmond, Ramos, Strasburg & Gonzalez is a pretty good core to build around, and Zim should be a solid contributor as well. Yes, the clock is ticking (for all of us). But it’s not ticking so loud that the team should give up the future for incremental improvement now.

    John C.

    14 Jul 14 at 6:12 pm

  9. John C., I think you need to read my post more carefully. I said IF the team treats Detwiler as surplus.

    My point is only to say that there are areas of greater need within the system, and that any trade would return equal or better value ONLY if it returns farm system pieces where there is less depth – power and left handed starting.

    I do think we should trade Span, but only if there is adequate return. Not adequate as in a serviceable part, but adequate in the way the team traded Nate Karns and clearly obtained opportunity for a lot of value, and traded Morse for realized value.

    I don’t think it’s extreme, it’s just an opinion about where the organization’s greatest needs are right now. They are in first place and so is their AAA team, despite injuries that have not allowed the ML team to play as a unit for an extended period.

    Your point about Blevins is well taken. Some of the stronger arguments to trade Detwiler, however, consider that in Cedeno and Grace, the organization can replace Detwiler even if he is dealt.

    There is a dearth of LH starting pitching, however, and Detwiler does provide insurance if he can climb out of yet another doghouse (he has been there before). More than the Blevins point, the depth he provides may offset the coin he will draw after this year.


    14 Jul 14 at 7:40 pm

  10. The Nats do not have a good enough offense now, getting ready for the pennant race. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that it would be nice to find replacements at 2B, CF, and 1B, in that order. 1B? Yes, ALR is having a decent season, but has been tailing lately, and we really don’t have any imposing HR hitters and that should be a 1B prerequisite.

    I am a big fan of Det, and think he has a lot of value around the league. I’d be curious what the value is of Espy, Span, and ALR. Seems like the A’s would be interested in all of those guys and I’d be interested in Cespedes…

    Andrew R

    14 Jul 14 at 11:36 pm

  11. Fair enough, forensicane. I wasn’t responding specifically to your post, more to a general phenomenon that I’ve noticed on the interNats.

    My personal opinion is that, to move ALR, Detwiler or Span, the Nats would have to conclude that they are better off in 2014 and coming seasons. I think it’s likely their “window” is at least the next three years, perhaps longer if the cards fall the right way – so they’re not likely to spike those seasons in favor of 2014. But whatever their window turns out to be, it’s open now – so they’re not likely to spike the present in favor of 2015-6.

    It’s hard to see how they could meet both those tests, so I don’t worry much about it. If they can get a LH bench bat with thump they may put Hairston out to pasture, figuring that Frandsen and Espinosa can cover for him as bats against LH pitching. If they can get a true lockdown LOOGY for cheap they may make a move – but that guy would have to be pretty good to have more potential impact than what they already have. So possibly chivvying around the margins, but a blockbuster deal is vanishingly unlikely.

    John C.

    14 Jul 14 at 11:36 pm

  12. Here’s the key point to Todd’s question – if the Nats were to trade Detwiler to the Yankees, what does the Evil Empire have that we would want in return? Um, nothing that I can see. Our biggest need right now is a second baseman, and the Yanks’ only decent one is in A-ball. Somehow I doubt they’d give us Ellsbury for Det and Span!

    I wouldn’t mind parting with Det for the right price, but that price has to be a cog that can help the Nats RIGHT NOW. This is not prospecting time. This is win-now time If you want to stockpile prospects, trade T-Mo.

    Another point about Det is that Stamman has had a couple of shaky long-man outings recently, while Det has improved. You better be sure of what you’re doing before you mess what that chemistry.

    As for Zobrist, I can’t see that the Rays would part with him for any price that the Nats should consider reasonable for a 1.5 season rental. Cole for Zobrist would be insane.

    LaRoche – can’t really shop him unless there is a 2B in return, so Zim can play 1B. I would be surprised if Rizzo trades ALR at this point, with the team clicking. Span might be more of a trade possibility, but I doubt there is a big market for him. And defensively, the only replacement the Nats have for him is Taylor, who isn’t ready for a pennant race and the playoffs.

    I did notice that Walters has been getting a few starts at 2B in Syracuse, FWIW.


    15 Jul 14 at 5:34 am

  13. Ellsbury is too expensive to want him as a return. Span is replaceable by Harper as well in CF (Zimm or Souza to LF) until Taylor (or Goodwin) is ready).

    I’d consider Cole for Zobrist. It’s a steep price, but I’m not convinced about Cole and Zobrist would solidify the lineup very well for this year and next.

    Andrew R

    15 Jul 14 at 9:44 am

  14. Good discussion; was OOO yesterday afternoon so catching up.

    – I totally get the “we’re trying to win a pennant so why would we trade anyone?” argument. Believe me. So this post in lots of ways is speculative.
    – Yankees have nearly nothing at the upper levels of their farm system, but have great depth at A+ and A-. So any trade they make would be about prospects. Which, I also totally agree with John C, is useless to a team like the Nats trying to fine-tune holes in the MLB lineup ahead of (hopefully) a playoff run.
    – NO way this team trades their pending FAs at this point (Span, LaRoche). That’s a “we’re out of it so lets cash in” move. Just isn’t happening.
    – Zobrist for AJ Cole? Idiocy. Who proposed that trade? AJ Cole (along with Giolito) are going to be incredibly important arms to this team. I believe at this point that the team stands to lose Zimmermann and likely Fister after 2015, and maybe Strasburg after 2016 (would you commit Kershaw/Greinke money to Strasburg at this point? I don’t think the Nats would hamstring themselves like that while a team like the Dodgers would have no issues). So they’re going to need to rebuild their rotation. Cole/Giolito are key parts of that equation.
    – Walters playing some 2B? Finally. If Walters can play anything close to passable 2nd base, then next year’s infield questions may be resolved. He’s listed as 6’2″210 … kinda big for a second baseman. Jeff Kent was always considered a “big” 2nd-baseman and he was 6’1″. (if you believe height/weight stats on But I’d roll the dice on a Rendon-Desmond-Walters-Zimmerman infield with Harper-Taylor-Werth in the OF and Espinosa, Souza, McLouth and a 4th guy (Moore?) off the bench. That bench covers the difficult backup positions to cover off the bench (SS/2B/CF) and has good lefty righty balance. It does depend on two rookies as starters.

    Just some random thoughts reading the comments.

    Todd Boss

    15 Jul 14 at 9:50 am

  15. Just consider that under your rationale, the trade for Morse, for three A+, would have been useless.

    If the team is confident in its 25 man, and it should be, TMo Burris and others are better options than the Scott Hairston flotsam that we trade prospects for and absorb high contracts. Blech,


    15 Jul 14 at 11:22 am

  16. History has taught us not to deal LaRoche in a contract year, and he is a real glue to the team.

    With that said, we are not discussing Matt Skole, but he has definitely made it clear that he is the next big thumper thing. He will be quite the rage on these boards by the end of the year. Maybe 2015 is to soon, but any guy who hits in the clutch the way he does has a future in a starting lineup for an organization with half a brain. We have every reason to consider that his ETA may coincide with Taylor’s.

    Nice problem to have.


    16 Jul 14 at 12:01 am

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