Max Scherzer, who had pitched his previous five seasons with the Detroit Tigers and won the Cy Young in 2013, has signed a seven-year contract with the Washington Nationals. The contract will be worth $210 million, according to Ken Rosenthal. The 30-year-old who is coming off of two consecutive All-Star seasons was the premier free agent pitcher and he took until January 19 to sign with a team partly because his agent is Scott Boras.
He will give the Nats an even more imposing rotation than they had before, but his signing does mean that they have six starters for five spots in the rotation. Scherzer’s signing means that he would currently be in the rotation with Jordan Zimmermann (2.66 ERA in 2014), Stephen Strasburg (3.14 ERA in 2014), Gio Gonzalez (3.57 ERA in 2014), Doug Fister (2.41 ERA in 2014) and Tanner Roark (2.85 ERA in 2014). Even without one of these five pitchers, the Nationals will still likely have the best rotation in baseball next season.
Scherzer would have greatly helped the Yankees rotation, but General Manager Brian Cashman has not had interest in him throughout the offseason because he does not want to give another long-term contract to a pitcher. The Yankees already have CC Sabathia on an eight-year, $182 million contract that expires in 2016 and Masahiro Tanaka on a seven-year, $155 million contract that expires in 2019. Sabathia, who is 34, has to reinvent himself as a pitcher this season because he doesn’t have the velocity on his fastball that he used to and is coming off of surgery to repair his knee.
Based on the Yankees need for another starter and the Nationals current excess of starters it would makes sense if the Yankees traded for Doug Fister (30 & 31 in February) or Jordan Zimmerman (28). They are both on short-term contracts as Fister is on a one-year, $11.4 million deal and Zimmerman is on a two-year, $24 million contract that ends after the 2015 season. The Yankees should definitely make a trade especially if they can get some kind of a guarantee that they would re-sign.
Zimmermann, who is in his prime, is coming off of two consecutive All-Star seasons and is entering his seventh MLB campaign. He made 32 starts last season, had a career-low 2.66 ERA, two shutouts, a career-high 182 strikeouts, only 29 walks and a career-low 1.3 walks/9 innings. He is an ace with excellent control who is represented by Relativity Baseball, which is a benefit for a possible future contract (they are not Boras).
Fister, who is also entering his seventh season after playing last season for the Nationals and before that the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners, is coming off of a season where he finished fourth in the National League in ERA. In 2014, he finished with a career-low 2.41 ERA, a career-high 16 wins, a very low 1.079 WHIP, 98 strikeouts and only 24 walks.
Both of these pitchers are worth trading for. They both have similar career ERAs with Zimmermann’s at 3.24 and Fister’s at 3.34. Zimmerman has more years left as a top of the rotation starter as he is two years younger than Fister. On the other hand, since Fister is two years older and is not the strikeout pitcher that Zimmermann is, his contract after the 2015 season would likely be less than Zimmermann’s.
The Yankees could put together a combination of top catching prospect Gary Sanchez, infielder Jose Pirela and one of their many relief pitchers for Zimmermann or Fister. Sanchez is coming off of a season where he hit 13 homers and drove in 65 runs with a .270 average in 110 games at Double-A Trenton. Pirela is a utility infielder that the Nationals could use and their bullpen isn’t very deep.
Wilson Ramos, who is only 27, has been their starting catcher for the last four seasons and has one more year left on his contract. Sanchez could potentially be the Nationals starter in 2016. However, Sanchez is known much more for his offense than his defense so the Nationals could have him switch to first base in 2015. Sanchez at first would allow Ryan Zimmerman to switch back to his natural third base position.
This trade makes sense for the Yankees because the need another starter so that Capuano will not have to be relied on next season, and the Yankees still have Brian McCann under contract at catcher for the next four seasons. With Zimmermann or Fister, the Yankees rotation could be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova (when he returns by June), CC Sabathia and Zimmermann or Fister. The Yankees recently traded for Nate Eovaldi, but he could be the odd man as he led the NL in hits last year.