The Nationals offseason has produced an offensive influx (offensive in more ways than one). However, Stan & Jim's Home for the Criminally Talented has done next to nothing to improve a very bad starting pitching staff. Due respect to Tyler Clippard, Bobby Brownlie, Jason Stanford and Dennis Tankersley, but none of those guys is a difference maker on the mound.
To be sure, there is reason to hope that holdovers John Patterson, Shawn Hill and Jason Bergmann will improve with better health and youngsters like Matt Chico, and John Lannan (American Hero) will benefit from their major league experience, but let's be honest, any team that's counting on Tim Redding as a mid-rotation innings-eater is a team with room for improvement.
There are a number of free agent starting pitchers still on the market on the cusp of the New Year. Some are likely to be too expensive for Uncle Teddy's accountants, others too far past their prime and some were just never that good to begin with. The remainder are injury risks or career minor leaguers. You know, like the rest of our starting staff. With that in mind, here are the official NTP Best Bets to occupy the 2008 Jason Simontacchi Memorial Wasted Roster Spot:
- Bartolo Colon - Bartolo makes ¡Livan! look like Jamey Carroll. He'll be 35 next season, pitched just 155.2 innings over the last two seasons and looked terrible doing it. He's also the only free agent Cy Young winner not given a starring role in the Mitchell Report. If he's recovered from myriad elbow, back and shoulder problems his talent is undeniable. Plus, there's a cosmic justice angle to bringing back the pitcher whose 117 innings in 2002 cost the franchise Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips.
- Jason Jennings - Jennings is just one season removed from being one of the hottest young pitchers in baseball, but man, what a terrible season. Elbow problems sidelined Jennings after 99 innings and a 6.45 ERA. Still, in 2006 Jason posted a 3.78 ERA (130 ERA+) in Colorado's Flying Circus, and he'll be just 30 at mid-season. Like Colon, if he's healthy the talent will shine through.
- Freddy Garcia - Freddy is probably on the long-term recovery plan, meaning he might require a 2-year deal to see any return on the investment. On the other hand, he can probably be 60-day DL'ed at the first opportunity, meaning that he won't be occupying a roster spot while he rehabs. Before Philly ruined him Garcia pitched 200+ innings in 7 of the previous 8 seasons.
- Josh Towers - I dunno, just to piss off Peter Angelos? FWIW, Lookout Landing considers Towers the functional equivalent of Carlos Silva. So he's got that going for him.
- Wade Miller - Miller makes John Patterson look like ¡Livan! Over the past four seasons he's pitched 89, 91, 22 and 14 innings, respectively. The 31-year old does have a career 110 ERA+ though... Consider him an adequate fill-in for J-Pattsy's DL spot if Patterson is miraculously healthy this season.
- Eric Milton - Technically Milton isn't really one of Jim Bowden's boys, but he is an ex-Red, so anything is possible.
- Livan Hernandez - probably costs too much for too many years, plus ¡Livan!, Ray King, Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard on the same roster probably exceeds Uncle Teddy's post-game buffet budget. But wouldn't it be fun to recreate Opening Night 2005? Maybe the Braves'll sign Lance Cormier so we can boo him all over again! Good times, good times.
- Tomo Ohka - Time to undo the bad juju surrounding that Junior Spivey trade. Plus, we didn't get nearly enough mileage out of the Tomo Ohka Song.
- Tony Armas - C'mon, you know you want to. After all, this could be the season he puts it all together. He's only 29. And remember his dad, wasn't he... adequate?
- Brian Lawrence - He was on the Nats. Swear to God! For like 30 seconds after they traded Vinny Castilla to San Diego. Wasn't that awesome when somebody traded for Vinny Castilla? Good times, good times.