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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 01/18/2011

Piling up Pirates in Nats Town

By Ryan Korby

We all have our vices. Former Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden had a penchant for picking up former Reds, and rightfully so, since many were players he originally drafted or traded for when he held the same position with the Reds. Current Nats GM Mike Rizzo is more the swashbuckling type. The Nationals’ roster is being commandeered by former Pirates.

With the Tom Gorzelanny trade, the 2011 Washington Nationals starting lineup on his turn in the rotation will be one-third of the 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates lineup (Gorzelanny, Adam LaRoche, and Nyjer Morgan). Picking up players from an organization that hasn’t had a winning season since 1992 seems like a bad omen, but who knows how things will play out. Baseball is played with a 25-man roster and there’s always a few good players on historically terrible teams. Nats fans should know, we’ve witnessed Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn on the same team.

With Gorzelanny, it’s a legitimate question if adding him to the inventory of starting pitchers the Nats currently employ will materially improve the team. Gorzelanny makes starting pitcher number eight on the list of rotation hopefuls: John Lannan, Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, Yunesky Maya, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Chien-Ming Wang. Out of that list, Gorzelanny has the fourth best Career FIP Average (Fielder Independent Pitching on an ERA Scale) at 4.54. To put that number in perspective and to show the lack of quality among the quantity of Nationals starters, all but three teams in the majors had a starting rotation that averaged better than 4.54 FIP last season. It should be said that there are questions whether the three pitchers ahead of Gorzelanny on that list, Chien-Ming Wang, Jordan Zimmermann, and Ross Detwiler can continue to put up numbers better than Gozelanny (especially Wang who hasn’t thrown a pitch in forever).

Somewhere between Gorzelanny vying to be the most reliable member of the 2011 staff and him being just another filler until Stephen Strasburg returns and some of the organization’s younger pitchers mature lies the truth.

There should also be some questions about what Gorzelanny the Nats are getting for the price of three prospects. Is it the Tom Gorzelanny that had a 2.3 WAR last season for the Cubs (but not great periphery numbers as he walked four and a half batters per nine innings), or the one that got shelled for the better part of two years before the 2010 season?

It could be worth a shot to find out. Even though Michael Burgess is a top-10 prospect for the Nats, he was expendable since the team already has Jayson Werth in the outfield for the long term and three other outfield prospects including some guy named Bryce Harper in the organization’s top 10. A.J. Morris isn’t a guy to lose sleep over either. He’s 24 and has never played above A-ball. The third player, left-handed pitcher Graham Hicks is another A-baller. Honestly, he’s never been on my radar.

It looks like a pretty low-risk trade, but I’m still scared about having too many former Pirates in one clubhouse.

By Ryan Korby  | January 18, 2011; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  | Tags:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  
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