March 31, 2009

If the Price is Right

Ken Rosenthal has a throw away line in his latest column on the Tampa Bay Rays enviable pitching depth. In a development utterly foreign to the Nationals, the Rays have six starting pitchers vying for five rotation spots. The sixth man out, Jason Hammel or Jeff Niemann, could be trade bait. Robothal sez:

"A number of clubs have shown interest in Hammel and/or Niemann, including the Rangers, Nationals and Indians; published reports indicate that the Padres, Pirates and Rockies also are in the mix, and the Brewers are yet another possibility."

For those of you keeping score at home that's a trade rumor linked to roughly 25% of the league. Frankly I'm surprised more teams aren't listed, "shown interest" is a pretty low threshold to clear. Both 26 year olds are out of options, and neither would clear waivers, so wherever they end up, they'll have to stick there for the season.

Their stats aren't eye-popping (they are competing for Tampa Bay's 5th rotation spot, after all), but either would be a nice pickup for the Nats, likely instantly assuming the 3/4 rotation slot along with Daniel Cabrera. Adding another young starter would give the team flexibility to rotate Shairon Martis, Jordan Zimmermann and Collin Balester through the 5th starter spot, controlling innings, service time, injuries, etc.

This might be a good test of Mike Rizzo's creativity. Hammel and Niemann are decent pitchers with upside, not game-changers. Breaking the farm to upgrade the middle of the 2009 rotation doesn't make sense. The Nats minor leagues aren't deep enough to trade from a surplus at any position, and we're not gonna make another Elijah Dukes for Glenn Gibson deal. In fact, this will most likely go nowhere, at least for the Nats. But if there's a deal to be made... go get 'em Rizzo!

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