|Nats GM Mike Rizzo hasn't landed a pitcher this off-season...yet. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
The last "impact" free agent starter left standing? Carl Pavano, and he appears to be headed back to Minnesota.
His next pursuit: Tampa Bay's Matt Garza. But Garza's been shipped off to the Cubs now, for a decent package of prospects.
***Let me be perfectly clear at this point: I was not in favor of sacrificing a huge part of the Nationals' future to acquire a starting pitcher via trade. The prospects that would have been needed to sacrifice for Greinke or Garza would have crippled the Nats franchise for years. They just aren't deep enough to make those types of trades yet. Not that it hasn't kept Rizzo from trying.
All of which leaves Rizzo and the Nats at the unenviable position of signing a starter off the scrap heap of what's left in the free agent pool (Jeff Francis? Jeremy Bonderman? Dave Bush?) or (shudder) go into 2011 with the same crew as last year.
Right now, the Nats depth chart at starter is: Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, and a pool of candidates that will rotate in and out as the fifth starter, led presumably by Yunesky Maya.
How Hernandez did what he did last year (3.66 ERA) mystifies. In 2008 and 2009 he went 6.05 and 5.44. Soft-tossing Lannan was sent back to Double-A for a few weeks last year and has a decidely limited ceiling. Zimmermann is coming off Tommy John surgery and hopefully returns to the promise of his rookie year. Marquis was indescribably bad (6.60 in just 13 starts) last season. Maya has dominated Winter League but hasn't played competitively in over two years after defecting and has a flat fastball to go with his array of junk.
After that, it's the same names we're heard for a couple years now, trying to stick at the Major League level: Garrett Mock coming back from a cervical spine issue. J.D. Martin, returning from his own back injury. Ross Detwiler and his hip problems from lousy mechanics. Chein-Ming Wang and his "football" injury.
The rest down on the farm are all too young (or not qualified) to make an impact this year.
Rizzo went out and made adjustments to positions he thought were trouble spots last season. He acquired Jayson Werth (for the GNP of Austria) to man right field until Bryce Harper ascends, and waited until Adam LaRoche fell to him to get a better glove at first base. And he picked up a couple bullpen arms to add to the competition there.
But he's failed to upgrade the one area on the team that needed it most, despite his apparent acknowledgement and involvement.
The "pitching and defense" mantra only goes so far if you don't have the first part.