John Smoltz was on NBC SportsTalk last night and gave his opinion of shutting down Stephen Strasburg, and it’s a pretty smart, informed and nuanced one:
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I think Smoltz made a key point early: “maybe if they had to do it over again [the Nationals] would have done something without alerting everyone to what was going to happen.” They didn’t, of course, so here we are. It makes me wonder if the Nats realized that they’d be as good as they are and if they didn’t just figure that the season could be functionally over by late August so, hey, why not let him pitch regularly until shutdown as opposed to pacing him differently? Regardless, I agree with Smoltz’s point: if you have an innings limit, great, enforce it. But do so in a way that gets him through an entire season so as not to bollocks-up competitive expectations.
Also fun: when Eric Kuselias brings up Steve Avery and his heavy workload at a young age, comparing it unfavorably to the young workloads of Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux. Smoltz was not impressed with the analogy, noting that Avery had a different kind of motion — higher up, which was harder on the shoulder — and that he tried to pitch through injury.
That flowed into Smoltz’s general point, which was a good one: every pitcher is a different case. Some guys could throw 300 innings a year and never get hurt. Some guys could be treated as gently as can be and disintegrate. Genetics, physics, physiology and pure dumb chance all play into it, making it impossible for anyone to say for certain that a given workload will either hurt a guy or save a guy.
Fact is, Stephen Strasburg could be shut down now and destroy his arm on the first pitch of next season. Or he could be let loose for 250 innings this year and never feel so much as a twinge in his elbow. Or anything in between. Neither those of us who hate shutting down an ace in a pennant race nor the Nationals and Scott Boras who are relying on doctor’s advice have any real certainty about this. If we did, we’d have an insight into pitching and injuries that has thus far eluded every team, doctor and pitcher who has ever weighed in on the subject.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.