As the Washington Nationals begin to shape their roster for the 2014 season, they are still unsure regarding who will be starting in the back end of the pitching rotation. The battle for rotation spots will most likely continue into spring training, and the Nationals could be players in the free agent market.
Last season, the Nationals fourth starter was Dan Haren. Haren, however, was signed to a one year contract and most likely will not return to the club this year. The Nationals also had two solid rookies, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark.
Though both Jordan and Roark were solid starters for the Nationals last year, their spots are not guaranteed in the rotation for the year to come. Jordan was shut down after 160 innings due to a previous Tommy John Surgery and finished the end of the year on the DL.
Roark had a fantastic 1.51 ERA and a 7-1 record. Though his work last year was great, if the Nationals add a free agent, his spot as a starter could be in jeopardy. Roark still must prove himself during spring training if he wants to lock up a starting spot long term.
Ross Detwiler, a starter for the Nationals before the call ups of Jordan and Roark, also will most likely return to the rotation next year. Detwiler has been a proven starter for over two years, but moving him to the bullpen may be an option. The Nationals need a lefty out of the pen, and Detwiler could be a valuable asset in this role.
Finally, the Nationals could add a front line starter in the free agent market or via a trade. There have been rumors that the Nationals have been interested in Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price who is likely to be on the move this offseason. If Price, or a pitcher near his caliber is added to the Washington roster, the rotation could look something like: Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and one of Detwiler, Jordan and Roark.
Clearly, even if the Nationals do not add another player, there will be competition for rotation spots this season. Currently, two spots appear to be on the line however an addition of a free agent could reduce that number to one. One thing we know for sure is, a surplus of starting pitchers is rarely looked upon as a negative.