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Posted at 8:52 AM ET, 01/31/2011

Why Justin Duchsherer is not a Nat

By Ryan Korby

The Nationals lost a bargain bin battle last night against the Orioles in a fight for right-handed pitcher Justin Duchsherer. It's a free agency fight that I predicted the the Nats wouldn't win, but in a world where your blog posts the morning after you wrote it, I don't get to brag about my prescience. Here's why I thought Duchsherer would end up doing exactly what he did:

Duchsherer had a breakout season in 2008 winning 10 games in 22 starts with a 2.54 ERA. Since then he has been hampered by shoulder and hip injuries. Now with a clean bill of health, Duchsherer fit the Mike Rizzo model of signing low risk, but potentially high reward pitchers.

At first, the Nationals seemed to be a good fit for Duchsherer. He has said that he preferred a team on the East Coast so that he can be close to his son who lives in New Jersey, which put the Mariners, who were also been mentioned in the Duchsherer sweepstakes, at a disadvantage. Others also cited that playing in the pitching-unfriendly AL East would give the Nats the upper hand.

In the end, I think Duchsherer realized that the Orioles are a better fit for him. MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli quoted Duchsherer as saying "I want a team that's going to be honest with me and say, 'If you're healthy, you're going to start.'" I don't think the Nationals were able to say that to him with a straight face. They're loaded with players that they see as starters. Who would a player who hasn't played a full season in two seasons rightfully bump out of the rotation from this group: Livan Hernandez, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan, Jason Marquis, and Tom Gorzelanny? Don't forget that the Nats will also want to see Chien-Ming Wang, Yunesky Maya and Ross Detwiler compete to start. It was evident that the Nats' front line was too crowded to be able to promise Duchsherer a chance to start.

The Orioles also offered Duchsherer a major league contract. It's not known whether the Nationals matched that offer.

Plus, last time I checked Baltimore is much closer to New Jersey, which was an important factor in Duchsherer's decision.

I don't think Duchsherer's choice represents a league wide preference for the Orioles over the Nationals. I think the Nationals do have a better chance to field a winning team in the near future given the competitive landscape of the NL East versus the AL East. Duchsherer's choice was what was best for him in a unique situation. Losing Duchsherer and Derrek Lee to the Orioles shouldn't be seen as a sign of a Beltway hierarchy. You win some and you lose some in free agency, and the Nats did get their first choice with Jayson Werth. The fact that the Nats lost out on a guy who wasn't a high priority target isn't a sign of club weakness.

By Ryan Korby  | January 31, 2011; 8:52 AM ET
Categories:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  | Tags:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  
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Comments

It's sad that the O's and Nats have to compete in the bargain bin, but thats what happens in a market now overcrowded with teams. Seeing the list of the Nats "front line starters" gave me a good chuckle though - besides Zimmermann they are all retreads of years past.

Posted by: jesstyr | January 31, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

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