Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez

The National League is poised to have some excellent rotations

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Even with Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez still up for grabs, the National League already seems set to sport some excellent rotations in 2013. How about this for the top four:

Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler
Giants: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito
Phillies: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick
Reds: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey

The Haren addition gives the Nationals an edge over the Giants, in my opinion. There seemed to be league-wide concern about his back and hip, but he should be another above average starter to go along with the three potential aces already in the rotation.

The second four doesn’t look too bad, either:

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano
Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook
Braves: Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado
Mets: R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Jonathan Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee

The Dodgers may very well add Greinke and join the top tier. They also have Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu pending, and while there’s been some skepticism of late about getting him signed, there’s certainly nothing stopping the Dodgers from coming up with the money.

The Cardinals have question marks in their top five, most notably with Garcia’s shoulder. But they have Shelby Miller and maybe Trevor Rosenthal, if they choose to use him as a starter, ready to step in.

Likewise, the Braves’ group isn’t quite so impressive at the moment, but their best pitcher, Brandon Beachy, is planning a midseason return from Tommy John surgery.

And then there’s the Mets, if they don’t trade their Cy Young Award winner.

Honorable mention to the Diamondbacks, who have Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and some excellent prospects behind them, as well as Daniel Hudson perhaps returning from Tommy John in June or July.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.