Yesterday I wrote a chronicle of the major league life of Tom Gorzelanny, new Nats starter(?) just acquired from the Cubs. What I didn’t know at the time was who he was traded for, so I couldn’t make an assessment of whether or not I liked the trade. Let’s again look at what the Nats got in Gorzelanny.

They got a relatively young lefty, under control for 3 more seasons, who profiles as a starter. He has been a strong pitcher at times, but when his control disappears so does his ability to get people out. Last year, as a starter, he was pretty successful. He was very good until he got nailed with a liner in the finger, that’s when he got shifted to the bullpen and barely appeared. Coming back on June 30, the rest of his season wasn’t as good, and he had a few really rough outings to go with the good ones. Despite all that, his numbers, in terms of ERA and WAR, would have made him the 3rd best starter on the Nats last year, behind Livan and Strasburg.

In exchange, the biggest NAME the Nats gave up was Michael Burgess. Burgess hits the ball very far, and has a very good arm out in right field. When he hits the ball, he shows 30 homer potential. He also did well in limited time in AA this year, and is only 22. Those are his positives. Negatives are that he is a below average outfielder, and he doesn’t hit the ball very much. Keith Law’s take on him is interesting. Here’s what he said:

Burgess doesn’t project as an everyday player in the majors — he has plus raw power and puts on a show in BP, but doesn’t recognize offspeed stuff at all and unless that changes he won’t make enough contact to be more than an emergency callup.

You may or may not believe that assessment, but that is enough to tell me that at the very least, Burgess isn’t a guarantee to make the majors. That, coupled with poor defense, may have been enough to make Rizzo ready to move him.

The best player they gave up was probably not Burgess, but A.J. Morris. He began his minor league career as a starter, but was moved to the bullpen when he didn’t show much success with a third pitch. Sure, there’s a chance he could pick up that change and be a starter, but it’s more likely that he’d end up as a reliever in the majors. He doesn’t have the stuff that suggests closer, but in a perfect world, he might wind up in a setup role. He’s another guy that, sure, you’d love to have to make the minors system deeper. But if you aren’t willing to trade guys like him, there aren’t any trades you’d be willing to make. He has some use, but the Nats probably won’t miss him.

The third player in the deal is Graham Hicks, who has some potential. He is a starter, a lefty, and he’s only 21. But he hasn’t been able to get guys out consistently, at any level. His potential really lies in the possibility of being a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. While that’s nice to have, they are pretty easy to find as well. If that’s all the Nats saw him as, he was certainly worth moving.

In the end, the Nats moved 3 youngsters that they may not have envisioned ever adding much to the major league roster. If that’s the case, this deal makes alot of sense, assuming they believe Gorzy is one of their starters this year. I think he gets penciled in BEFORE Lannan, basically at the number 2 spot right now. At some point, Jordan Zimmermann will pass him, but right now he’s the second best starter on their roster.

There is some “competition” at the back of the pen, but I don’t think Gorzelanny is involved. Detwiler still hasn’t shown he can pitch in the majors, he may need more time in AAA. Maya has yet to show he’s a major league pitcher, he may have been rushed last year. He’s gotta show he can succeed now before being thrown into the rotation. Wang has yet to show he can throw the ball. Marquis is probably the #5 guy at the moment, but he’s gone after this year, and was bad enough last year that I would imagine he’s on a short leash. And if he’s good, they might trade him as soon as they can. Let’s talk about ONE of those guys establishing themselves before we get carried away and imagine two of them doing it.

There’s quite a few people who don’t like this trade – giving up youngsters that they’ve heard of in exchange for a guy who’s struggled at times. But I have a feeling they will be pleasantly surprised with what Gorzelanny does this season.

By Charlie