- No. 1 starter: John Lannan
What's undeniable is that Lannan had an incredibly rare season in 2009, posting a 3.88 ERA over 206.1 innings while striking out only 3.9 batters per 9 innings. Chien-Ming Wang in 2006 was the only other pitcher in the last 15 years to do that.
Lannan will be just 25 years old next season and will have plenty of time to show that he's better than this top Baseball Reference comp. Of course, he's eligible for arbitration after next year, so if he DOES continue at his current pace, he's going to get real expensive real fast.
- No. 2 starter: Craig Stammen
Stammen had his moments in 2009. Lots of groundballs, not too many walks. The Nationals would be ok if he was the fifth starter.
- No. 3 starter: Garrett Mock
- No. 4 starter: J.D. Martin
- No. 5 starter: Ross Detwiler
In the Minors
- Stephen Strasburg
- Jordan Zimmermann
- Collin Balester
- Shairon Martis
- Aaron Thompson
- Brad Meyers
Courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors, here's this year's list of free agent starting pitchers:
Brandon Backe (32)
Cha Seung Baek (30)
Miguel Batista (39)
Erik Bedard (31) - Type B, not offered arb
Kris Benson (34)
Paul Byrd (39)
Daniel Cabrera (29)
Aroldis Chapman (22)
Bartolo Colon (37)
Jose Contreras (38)
Doug Davis (34) - Type B, not offered arb
Lenny DiNardo (30)
Justin Duchscherer (32) - Type B, offered arb
Adam Eaton (32)
Shawn Estes (37)
Josh Fogg (33)
Jon Garland (30) - Type B, not offered arb
Tom Glavine (44)
Mike Hampton (37)
Rich Harden (28) - Type B, not offered arb
Mark Hendrickson (36)
Livan Hernandez (35)
Rich Hill (30)
Shawn Hill (29)
Jason Jennings (31)
Jason Johnson (36)
Randy Johnson (46) - Type B, not offered arb
John Lackey (31) - Type A, offered arb
Braden Looper (35) - Type B, not offered arb
Rodrigo Lopez (34)
Noah Lowry (29)
Jason Marquis (31) - Type B, offered arb
Pedro Martinez (38)
Eric Milton (34)
Mark Mulder (32)
Brett Myers (29)
Vicente Padilla (32) - Type B, not offered arb
Carl Pavano (34) - Type B, offered arb
Brad Penny (32)
Odalis Perez (33)
Andy Pettitte (38) - Type B, not offered arb
Joel Pineiro (31) - Type B, offered arb
Sidney Ponson (33)
Mark Prior (28)
Horacio Ramirez (30)
Jason Schmidt (37)
Ben Sheets (31)
John Smoltz (43)
Brett Tomko (37)
Jarrod Washburn (35)
Todd Wellemeyer (31)
Kip Wells (33)
Randy Wolf (33) - Type A, not offered arb
This year, it's all about getting at least two solid veterans in the fold. Between Stammen, Mock, Detwiler, Martin, and Olsen, you're not going to get more than two viable starters, and you really can't count on any of them. Of course, you could just assume that the Nationals are going to lose 90-100 games again, and between those five and Thompson, Meyers, Martis, Balester, and a couple dirt-cheap Livan Hernandez-types, you could muddle through. Why spend tens of millions of dollars to get from 100 losses to 95?
Here's the biggest problem: you never want to be in a situation where you're sending Stephen Strasburg to the mound with a burnt 'pen and a losing streak. It's not just about eating innings. It's about taking pressure off. They need to make sure that the best pitcher in a generation (and even some of the lesser lights who might help you in meaningful games three to four years down the road) don't pitch through pain and hide injuries like Jordan Zimmermann and Craig Stammen did this year.
First sign one of these guys: Carl Pavano, Jon Garland, Braden Looper, Joel Piniero, or Jarrod Washburn. (Actually, I'm seeing now that he's going to accept arbitration with the Twins, which means he could have been had cheap if anyone wanted him.) But any of these pitchers will give you a solid veteran with good command and no value to the future whatsoever. Doug Davis or Todd Wellemeyer could fit in this group as well, though I like them less.
Then, I'd put a one-year, $10 million contract on the table for one of these guys: Rich Harden or Erik Bedard. Or Ben Sheets for a little less. It's possible some contender will give them some ridiculous multi-year deals, thinking that these guys might give them the special pitcher they need to get over the top, but I doubt it. If they suck, well, it's one year. Take it out of the revenue sharing money and call it even. You just might get a Cy Young-type season and a no-hitter. Certainly I'd rather watch these guys pitch than Daniel Cabrera or Scott Olsen.
Then, sign Randy Johnson or John Smoltz. Standing ovation! Woo!!
Finally, Livan Hernandez. Tell him he can compete for a job in spring training, but plan to send him to AAA to wait for an injury or two. If he doesn't like that plan, you could let him sit unemployed for a while like Odalis Perez and see how he feels in May (what's he doing anyway? Chico, can you find out for us before you start your new gig at Martha Stewart Living?). The point is to just to have someone around so you don't have to force a guy who's not ready again (see: Detwiler, 2009).
Seriously now, wouldn't a rotation of Lannan, Harden, Garland, Smoltz, and Stammen be more fun than what you've been watching? And it really wouldn't cost all that much.
Then, I know it's sacrilege for most Nationals fans, but I really think the Nationals should be shopping John Lannan. There are half a dozen free agents pitchers at least who could give the Nationals more production for less money than Lannan will cost over the next two or three seasons. And a 25-year-old pitcher who's proven to be able to throw 200 innings a year should be in high demand. I wouldn't insist on dealing him if a good deal didn't materialize, but if he could be a key piece of a package for let's say Lannan and Willingham for Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez, I would do that.
Finally, I wouldn't do Wolf or Lackey, because both of them will require long-term commitments that won't make sense for DC. Think if we were stuck with Alfonso Soriano till age 38. It would be like that. And I would stay away from the head cases who may pitch well, but will cause more trouble than they're worth in a young clubhouse: Brett Myers, Brad Penny, and Vicente Padilla. And for the love of god, please non-tender Scott Olsen.