Destination 2012: Nationals Get Gorzelanny

Yesterday, the Cubs traded superfluous lefty starter Tom Gorzelanny to the Nationals for two fringe prospects. Though the Nationals don’t look like a competitor in a tough National League East in the upcoming season, the move, coupled with other moves by the team, does seem to suggest that there’s a near-term destination in mind for the team in our nation’s capital.

The most recent pre-trade CAIRO projections have the Nationals winning only 72 games this season – improving by three wins from last year – but still not leaving the cellar. Seen in this light, it seems folly to trade prospects of any kind for a pitcher that has mostly produced confusion in his first five hundred innings as Dave Cameron so eloquently put it yesterday.

The world won’t come to an end for the Nationals system without A.J. Morris and Michael Burgess, on the other hand. Morris spent two inconspicuous years in college, striking out about five per nine at Kansas State to little fanfare. In his final year, he started 16 games, pitched 116 innings, and struck out 100 batters against 30 walks. That was enough for the Nationals, who took him in the fourth round, but 128 2/3 innings into his minor league career, he’s striking out batters at just about the same ratio (7.8 career MiLB K/9) and he doesn’t seem to own much upside. Sure, he can coax grounders, but he lacks a third pitch and, as a 23-year-old in High-A, is a little old to get excited about, especially now after a year spent relieving about half of the time. Burgess is a stocky (listed at 5’11″) 21-year-old power hitter that just reached Double-A for the first time and owns a .257/.349/.464 career minor league line built on lots of whiffs (29.4% career). He probably won’t succeed without reducing the strikeouts.

In any case, neither of these prospects is likely to be ready this season or next, and so it speaks to some sense of urgency on the Nationals. Their CAIRO projections for the season see the 2011 pitching staff, obviously affected by the loss of Stephen Strasburg, and have them giving up the most runs in the division and the third-most in the National League. The addition of Gorzelanny could be an effort to mitigate that number. Certainly Gorzelanny (3.92 2010 FIP, 4.54 career FIP) should be an upgrade over the worst of John Lannan (4.47 2010 FIP, 4.71 career FIP) or Ross Detwiler (5.64 2010 FIP, 4.33 career FIP).

But, really, how much will that win or two be worth to a team that may be the worst of a strong division? The answer – not much – may be irrelevant if the focus is 2012 and not this season. Next year, the team gets back its ace to join a more seasoned and healthy Jordan Zimmermann at the front of the rotation. They’ll also have a year’s worth of data on their uber-prospect Bryce Harper that year, and even the possibility of a late-season boost from the slugger. And, last but not least, the team will have one last year of a cheap Gorzelanny in the middle of their rotation, gobbling up innings.

Hey, if it’s not a vision that speaks to you, you are not alone. But the Nationals have seen how difficult it can be to lure top free agents to their city and their team, and this vision may just make the team a little more attractive in coming off-seasons. Just imagine it on the front of a glossy binder and part of a presentation about the future of the Nationals. Destination: 2012.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

25 Responses to “Destination 2012: Nationals Get Gorzelanny”

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  1. CircleChange11 says:

    2012 is the first year where the team can start looking at competitiveness. I don’t see that as being the first year that they ARE competitive.

    So many things have to go right for the Nats to be ready to be competitive in 2012 than even Cubs fans have to say “Whoa! Hold your horses …”

    IMO, they should be looking at 2013 and 2014 as the years where they start “doing something” in terms of significantly increasing wins.

    2012 would be the year that they see where SS and BH are, and figure out what pieces needed to be added to be a serious threat in 2013. Serious meaning that they could win the division or be within 5 wins of the leader.

    I guess I’m not as optimistic on the Nats as some are, at least not in 2012.

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    • Souldrummer says:

      2013 is certainly the year. They expect Solis to be able to enter the rotation by then. They expect themselves not to be totally dissed by every free agent under the sun, and they will be in a position where they might be able to move better prospects like Norris or Ramos at catcher or AJ Cole or Robbie Ray to make trades with the big boys.

      They will have an “if all things break right” attitude for 2012 I think and a go for the gusto a la the Brewers mentality for 2013.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Agreed. For 2012, if I’m a Nats fan, I’m basically crossing my fingers all year and hoping that “Superman Returns” is as good as the previews.

        I try not to be, but I’m really excited about Bryce Harper. I’m far too old to buy into the hype, but I want to see this kid kick some ass.

        If SS and BH are kicking butt in 2013, the Nats are going to be the “favorite team” of anyone 18 and under. They would literally be the team of generation XYZ (whatever this generation is called). The Phenoms.

        If I were the Nats, I would start mapping out what 2013 might look like, and use 2011 and 2012 to acquire the supporting cast and develop them into their roles.

        In that regard, to me, Gorzo is just a space saver. He’s keeping a rotation spot warm until someone better can come along and help the team.

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  2. Souldrummer says:

    It’s really Destination 2012-2013. Gorzelanny’s under team control until then. Even if Burgess exceeds expectations he’s blocked by both Werth and Harper presumably. If he’s not, they’re in a world of hurt and will need to do some soul searching on just how much they want to pay Ryan Zimmerman. The clock strikes midnight for the Nats after 2013 when Ryan Zimmerman becomes a free agent. They probably want to see what they have by 2012 so they can see if they want to deal Zimmerman at peak value if things don’t work out.

    The other half of this deal is that they have flippable rotation parts if all goes well. The Nats are really, really rooting for a strong April-June from Jason Marquis so that he can be sold to some contender looking for an innings eater. You hope that Rizzo has his eyes on moving Marquis and/or Livan Hernandez at the deadline for prospects of greater need (right handed platoon option in CF for Nyjer Morgan/first base/more rotation options a la Livan Hernadez for Garrett Mock and Matt Chico once upon a time or Nick Johnson for Aaron Thompson in 2009). I’m not crazy about Gorzelanny. He’s like Plan E/F of rotatoin guys they wanted after Lee (delusional), Greinke (boo that man for rejecting the trade), Brandon Webb (dang your doctor!), Matt Garza (those crazy Cubs overpaying for a fly ball guy in Wrigley), and maybe Chris Young.

    Doesn’t set the world on fire and some people in the Natmosphere think Gorzelanny is worthless and shouldn’t be acquired for a bag of balls given the arb dollars. But as the Werth signing showed us, the Nats are no longer cheap! So they are trading for a crap shoot today in the 2012-2013 window over a crap shoot in the great beyond.

    Plus Rizzo gets the pleasure of not having to file minor league reports that make him gag on two more Bowden high schoolers in Burgess and Hicks and can cut bait on AJ Morris. AJ Morris is probably the best of the three, but right handed middle relievers aren’t but so valuable and Rizzo already upgraded that need with Elvin Ramirez, Henry Rodriguez, and the two 40-man slots he’s allocated to Cole Kimball and Adam Carr.

    Looking forward to seeing where this thread heads.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      hmm, Cots says he’s a free agent in 2013, but doesn’t give him an Arb4 year. If that’s the case, my ‘jokes’ about the world ending wouldn’t work, but the trade would make a little more sense.

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      • Souldrummer says:

        I’m looking at, don’t know how reliable that they are.

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      • pdowdy83 says:

        He was a Super 2 and is not eligible for free agency til after 2013.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        Looks like twitter is confirming that Gorz is arb-eligible in 2013. So, unless the Mayans are right, the Nationals will have a decently-priced #3/4 to pair with Strasburg and Zimmermann, while the offense will still have Werth, Harper and… Desmond?

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      • Paul says:

        I hate to pee on the theme of the article, but to me this is just really simple for the Nats. As Souldrummer noted, Burgess is the definition of blocked (if either Werth or Harper turn out to not block him, they have much bigger problems that this article can’t being to address). They have basically zero rotation options until Solis arrives, and some really interesting bullpen arms, like Balester, and a few guys who will hold up well in middle relief, like Stammen and Peacock. This deal makes them a better team right now, and they gave up a redundant player. I’m not sure teams like the Nats think in terms of the year the stars align like this article does. Rizzo just improved his team’s glaring weakness, probably sold some tickets, and didn’t cost himself anything long term.

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      • Will says:

        And… Ryan “Just One N” Zimmerman, who’s signed through 2013.

        Not to mention Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos and/or Derrek Norris.

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  3. JCA says:

    “Their CAIRO projections for the season see the 2011 pitching staff, obviously affected by the loss of Stephen Strasburg, and credit 141 more runs against the Nationals this season compared to last.”
    Eno, man did you nearly give me a heart attack! I read that as saying the CAIRO projections show the Nats giving up 141 more runs than last year. 141 more runs than the 742 they gave up last year would be – 843! Yikes. What happened to the emphasis on run prevention. Then I clicked on the link and saw the projection that is there say 733. So what does that -141 under RA mean?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      uh, fixing that. my bad. maybe it’s the margin of error? if so, it’s huge.

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      • JCA says:

        It’s not really a bad on your part. It is there in the CAIRO site. It’s either their error, or their explanation does not quite make sense. They say RA is 2010 actual v. their projection, and their projection is for 733. You just picked up their number without redoing the calculation. No one expects you to recalculate every number you pick up. On the other hand, if Stephen Strasburg signs in and says -141 is the correct number, then I have to believe it because I have Faith in Him.

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      • SG says:

        Yeah, that’s a typo. Nats should show as -9 in RA.

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  4. mockcarr says:

    It does seem like Rizzo is getting rid of more Bowden debris. I suppose Burgess’s upside isn’t even as good as what a moderately-priced veteran like Ankiel can produce now. I’m coming around on this deal, mostly because I think Gorzelanny may be a more mature version of Detwiler – a lefty with K ability that has never controlled his stuff or mechanics well enough to be a consistent starter. He also has value in that he’s not tied to one path, if things go really well for their other starters, it’s not going to kill him to be a long reliever until a trade opportunity arises. A guy like Olsen was more trouble than he was worth in that regard, for instance. If you can’t get aces, get versatility and better choices on the depth chart.

    My concern is that every pitcher they have seems to require a lot of bullpen help, and they just traded some of that lower-level depth. Even so, I have to believe they can fill those A-level bullpen slots a bit easier than the AAA level spots that give Detwiler, Maya, Martin, more chances to refine their SP ability, and Wang’s perennially extended spring training…

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      perennially extended Wang…. I’m a child.

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    • Souldrummer says:

      Nats probably feel okay about their bullpen. They lost Capps/Peralta but Balester looked good in his callup. Drew Storen, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Doug Slaten, Henry Rodriguez, Cole Kimball, and Craig Stammen probably feel like a decent bullpen to them. Throw in Chad Guardin from AAA if you are so inclined and Rule 5 Elvin Ramirez potentially as well. There are a lot of power arms there. You just don’t know which one is going to step up to the task and show elite closer control and makeup. On a team whose ceiling appears to be 75-81 wins you can take the time to figure out what you have. Personally, I don’t want them to go after a bullpen guy (don’t know who is left now that Fuentes is off the table) given the high price of relievers this offseason and the potential depth. It would have to be some flippable guy.

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  5. mockcarr says:

    Not to mention, some day, the team could plug a hole with Wang

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  6. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    To many Wangs around here are jokes!!!

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  7. tyrusray367 says:

    The addition of Gorzelanny could be an effort to mitigate that number. Certainly Gorzelanny (3.92 2010 FIP, 4.54 career FIP) should be an upgrade over the worst of John Lannan (4.47 2010 FIP, 4.71 career FIP) or Ross Detwiler (5.64 2010 FIP, 4.33 career FIP). — I understand how Gorzelanny is an upgrade over Lannan (4.54<4.71). But why is he an upgrade over Detwiler? (4.33<4.54)?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I think peric has this right when it comes to Detwiler and Gorz, but I have two things to add. One, if you look at Gorz’ most recent number, you see that he’s been a 3.9ish FIP pitcher the last two years during his ‘resurgence,’ so he’s been better than Detwiler recently.

      Two, Gorz only has to be an upgrade over one of the two, hence the wording – ‘upgrade over the worst of.’

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  8. peric says:

    Hmmm, everyone seems to like to forget Corey Brown who also bats left with power. And unlike Burgess is fast on the base paths and fields well enough to play all three outfield positions. Plus plus arm like Burgess. In other words five tools?

    So let’s review: blocking Burgess would be Jayson Werth, Corey Brown, Bryce Harper, and top 10 prospect Eury Perez. Throw in the potential associated with Destin Hood? (A Joy’s boy HS pick who didn’t make the top 20 this year. We don’t have much faith in almost any HS JimBo picked.), JP Ramirez, etc.

    Do you then move Burgess to first base? What do you do with him? Trade him. Still wondering when the Chris Marerro move comes?

    I understand how Gorzelanny is an upgrade over Lannan (4.54<4.71). But why is he an upgrade over Detwiler? (4.33<4.54)

    That’s easy. Gorzelanny started 23 games with 11 quality starts. Detwiler has yet to even come close to 23 starts. In fact no other starter other than Livan Hernandez and John Lannan have come even close? And this while coming out of the bullpen for a good part of the year? Five games started for Detwiler with 1 quality start.

    The Nats bullpen was used more than that of any other major league team. That has to end.

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  9. peric says:

    you see that he’s been a 3.9ish FIP pitcher the last two years during his ‘resurgence,’ so he’s been better than Detwiler recently.

    And I’ll add this:

    The Pirates pushed Gorzelanny to 200ip before he was ready. Shades of Riggleman and Kerry Wood! He has consistently progressed since the year after, plus he was banished to the bullpen by the Pirates and then traded. His FIP and K’s/9 BB’s/9 have consistently improved. Albeit, last year he was almost lights out in the beginning of the year and around average toward the end.

    With the Nats he should receive far better treatment. What with Wang, Strasburg, Zimmermann, Barthmaier, McGeary … and the less than palatable recent Sideshow JimBo histories with Shawn Hill, Chad Cordero, and John Patterson.

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