The Washington Nationals do one thing very well: failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs. That’s their thing. They LOVE doing it. They’re addicted to it. If there was a gold medal for failing to get past the NLDS, they’d win. No contest. They love it so much they’ve gotten the Capitals and the Wizards to do it too! As a Mets fan, it’s my favorite thing to watch.
It’s not like they haven’t been trying to get out of the first round. You could even argue that the Nats main goal isn’t to win a World Series anymore. Oh no, they want to get out of the first round.
They traded away their top prospects for outfield speed. They bolstered the bullpen in an attempt to fix their late-game woes. The Front Office invested in the contracts of Scherzer, Strasburg, Murphy, etc. All this to get to the promised land of the NLCS. Can you blame them? No. You can’t.
The Nationals are heading into choppy waters these next few years. All the back-loaded deals, increased values, arbitration, and players hitting free agency, the window is closing. If the Nats are going to pull this off, they need an Ace up their sleeve.
… Okay so the Nats already have two aces already on their staff, not including Gio Gonzalez, an Ace on any other roster. With Strasburg’s injury history and Scherzer taking on the brunt of the workload, another solid arm wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. All this in the year before the Nationals lose Bryce Harper.
The Nationals are reportedly interested in Jake Arrieta. That’s exactly what the doctor ordered for Washington. This coming after Arrieta changed his mind on his 6-year/$200 million dollar demand. If Washington can sneak in, offering a similar deal, they could very well snag the 2015 Cy Young Winner. Add in the possibility of a postseason run to that deal and Jake is all yours.
If the Nationals make this work they would have a staff that boasts 4 Cy Young plaques in the last 5 years. Sweet Jesus.
Of course, with the Nationals horrendous finances, the question is whether they can pay for him or not.
Short answer: Yes, they can. Long Answer: Well… Kinda.
There’s no way the Nationals can sign him to a long-term deal. Yet, if Arrieta is looking for a deal like the one J.D. Martinez got, there’s a solid chance that the Nationals could get him, and get him for less. Washington also offers Arrieta something he’s known for: playing the hero in October.
Will Jake bounce back from his rough 2017? If you consider going 14-10, with a 3.53 ERA and 1.28 WHIP rough, then yes, sure. Arrieta is coming back down to Earth, so his numbers from last year are more likely going to become the new normal. That’s what the doctor ordered for the Nationals. A solid, reliable arm.
Doesn’t everyone need that? Yes, of course. But, for the Nationals to get out of the first round, they need it more than anyone.
In the last 8 years, teams that made it to the League Championship Series had more than three solid starters. Those teams include the The Dodgers rotation (2017- Kershaw, Wood, Hill, Darvish), the Cubs rotations (2017 – Arrieta, Lester, Hendricks, Quintana and 2016 – Arrieta, Lester, Hendricks, Lackey), the Astros rotation (2017 – Keuchel, Verlander, Morton, McCullers) and the Mets rotation (2015 – deGrom, Syndergaard, Harvey, Matz), to name a few. There are exceptions, of course, the 2016 Cleveland Indians, and the 2015 Kansas City Royals, who cobbled together a rotation after injuries and drone strikes took out their starters, but the majority were four solid guys deep.
AP, David Goldman
If the Nationals want to beat the first round curse they need to add some more firepower to their rotation. Even in the 2017 NLDS, with the series tied up, Dusty Baker couldn’t trust Tanner Roark to pitch Game 3. So what makes you think he’d pitch in Games 4 or 5, or even Game 2?
Roark should have been the #4 guy in this rotation, especially after coming out as hot as he did in 2016. He’s the #5 guy if it weren’t for A.J. Cole and Joe Ross hanging around. Even Edwin “Suitcase” Jackson seems like a step up from Roark. These two guys should be jockeying for the 5th spot and a bullpen job, not 4th and 5th in the rotation.
For comparison sake, let’s talk numbers. Roark boasts a career 3.41 ERA in 111 career starts. In his 5 seasons in the league, he’s had 3 seasons with double-digit wins. Those same three seasons also saw double-digit losses handed to Roark. His WHIP tends to fluctuate, ebbing and flowing from north of 1.300 to around 1.100, which is par for the course with Roark.
Arrieta is a completely different animal. Holding a career ERA of 3.57, in 191 starts, Arrieta is nasty. Adding to his resumé a 2015 Cy Young and his World Series ring with the Cubs, Jake also owns the record for most Pirates struck out in a Wildcard game. With a 1.161 WHIP and an 8.3 K/9, it’s no wonder Arrieta’s known for beating teams into submission. He also has a sub 3.00 ERA against almost every NL East team in his career. The only teams higher than 3.00 are the Phillies and the Nats. One team he can easily beat, and the other… he might be wearing their jersey.
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The Nationals can breathe a lot easier this season with Arrieta on their roster. That’s what this is about, isn’t it? After losing in the NLDS 4 times in the last 6 years, anything short of advancing to the NLCS is going to a failure. Once a fluke, twice a habit, 4 times in the last 6 years… that’s a pattern of behavior that needs to be rectified.
If there’s one guy who knows about getting to the NLCS it’s Jake Arrieta, a guy who’s been there the past 3 seasons. There’s no question Jake Arrieta can help you get there, it’s a matter of asking for his help.
Washington. Do it. What do you have to lose…. besides another NLDS?