Manager Davey Johnson has years of experience with pennant races, including shaping a team for the stretch run. Having shepherded the Nationals to first place, he has his opinion settled on what the Nationals should do between now and the July 31 trade deadline: Nothing.
“I like what we have here,” Johnson said. “I don’t see any emergency move needed. … Where we’re at as an organization and a ball club, we’re built from the ground up. The talent that we’re on is getting an opportunity to play and filling a need now. You don’t go ahead and make a trade to regress that process. You play it out. I like the way our club is put together, and I don’t see any glaring weakness.”
One of the most commonly mentioned scenarios for the Nationals at the trade deadline is trading for a top starting pitcher to replace the innings Stephen Strasburg won’t throw if the Nationals shut him down. Johnson has chimed in with an opinion on that, too, saying the Nationals should stand pat with their rotation.
“We’ve got other options,” Johnson said. “We don’t have to ship away a couple talented minor leaguers for somebody.”
The Nationals have paid John Lannan $5 million this season and resisted many trade offers with the idea of pitching him in September. Why make him obsolete now? The Nationals would need a starter only when September arrives, and perhaps only a week or two into September.
They would essentially be dealing some of their best minor league players for three or four starts from the pitcher they acquire, instead of Lannan making those starts. Lannan lacks impact stuff, but last year he had a 3.70 ERA. How much value would the Nationals be able to squeeze out of the difference? Certainly not enough to outweigh giving up two minor leaguers they could control for six full seasons.
If the Nationals make the playoffs without Strasburg, they would throw Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler as their first four starters. That rotation still stacks up with any in the National League.
General Manager Mike Rizzo will listen to other opinions, but he values Johnson’s views. So the manager’s opinion will carry some weight.