Earlier this month, both the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs have made moves that figure to help their respective clubs win now. The Nationals signed free agent pitcher Max Scherzer to a 7-year deal while the Cubs traded for outfielder and leadoff man Dexter Fowler. However, could both of those moves potentially lead to another blockbuster to help the depth of both rosters?
For Washington, both Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann have voiced some displeasure about their contract talks with the team. It is a very real possibility that if contract negotiations do not improve, one or both of the pitchers could be on the move. Zimmermann is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the year while Strasburg would become a free agent in two years. During the winter meetings in December, several rumors surrounded the thought of Zimmermann being on the trading block for teams.
At the moment, the Nationals starting rotation would have five pitchers with an ERA under 3.50 which is the best in Major League Baseball. They would be a force with their front-line starting pitching. Losing one or both of these power arms would certainly take some of the sizzle out of the Scherzer signing. At other positions, Washington could be in the market to upgrade around the infield. They will have the unknown of Ryan Zimmerma moving to first base with up-and-coming Anthony Rendon now at third. While Ian Desmond did have a solid 2014 campaign at shortstop, the weak spot could be at second base with Danny Espinosa. In the event of any injuries among that group, the depth really could become a cause for concern for the Nats.
Enter the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have already bolstered their rotation with the addition of Jon Lester, and the re-addition of Jason Hammel. Chicago is likely out of the market of signing anymore big names this winter like a James Shields, but as these moves show trades are always on the table. The Cubs have the best farm system in the league, and have plenty of trade chips when and if they decide to cash them in. Chicago is a player once again, and can deliver either the cash or prospects in order to get the pieces they need to contend in October.
If Zimmermann is the target, the challenge is just that one year of team control. It would be a risk to tap to much into that farm system the Cubs worked so hard to build up on a player that could leave after a single season. On the other side of Chicago, the White Sox are in a similar spot this year with Jeff Samardzija. But the idea of Chicago building something great could be the selling point for Zimmermann to stay long-term. Zimmermann is also a Wisconsin native and 28-years old which could play a factor in a potential move as well.
To land the 26-year old Strasburg, there likely would be a much steeper asking price involved. In return, perhaps the Cubs could move Addison Russell to help Washington up the middle and land that 1A type starting arm. Russell was just named the fourth best prospect in the game by ESPN, and overall the Cubs have the top rated MiLB farm system in the league.
If the off-field incidents surrounding Starlin Castro continue to mount, suddenly that becomes another very real option for the Cubs to consider as well. Chicago could also try to move Edwin Jackson back to Washington or a Travis Wood to help fill the back-end of that Nationals’ rotation.
Both the Nationals and Cubs have bettered their teams this winter, but do not rule out more moves on the horizon. A blockbuster move of Stephen Strasburg in exchange for Starlin Castro or Addison Russell and company would certainly add more heat to the offseason hot stove.