Stephen Strasburg is being shut down. That is unless Mike Rizzo and Scott Boras are willing to backtrack on what they have both been saying for the entire season. Strasburg wants to pitch and has said he feels fine, the Nats would have to pry the ball out of his hands, and that he has plenty left in the tank. Mike Rizzo does things for the long term success of the franchise, and when it comes to issues of a medical nature it is always better to be safe than sorry. So, unless something drastic and unforeseen happen Strasburg is being shu tdown.
As it stands right now John Lannan would be the pitcher that would replace Strasburg in the rotation, but it may not be Lannan, and it may not even be a pitcher currently in the Nats system. Consider this idea. The non-waiver trade deadline came to an end on July 31 without the Nats being able to find a pitcher that could make 2-3 starts at the end of the season, and the Nats at this point would be foolish to trade for the type of pitcher that could clear waivers and remove Detwiler from the rotation.
Speaking of that rotation the playoff rotation for the Nationals will be Gio, Zimmermann, Detwiler, and Jackson, and that is where we can reach an interesting conclusion. The Nationals don’t need a starting pitcher on their playoff roster. They need a back of the rotation starter that is better than John Lannan. While it doesn’t make a lot of sense to take Ross Detwiler out of the rotation for Jason Vargas it might make sense to trade the marginal prospects it would take to get him and use him for the 2-3 starts Strasburg won’t be making.
There are other options out there and it is unknown what back of the rotation types have been placed on or have cleared waivers, but the point here is that the September 1 date of playoff rosters having to be set is no real deadline for the Nationals. The Nationals aren’t looking for a pitcher to replace Strasburg in the rotation. Jordan Zimmermann or Gio Gonzalez will be doing that. The Nats will be looking for a back of the rotation type to pitch 2-3 games at a level better than John Lannan.
A name to look out for on this list would be someone like the Diamondback’s Joe Saunders. Until very recently the Diamondbacks thought they were in the playoff race and weren’t going to make any moves, and with Saunders’ salary being higher than Lannan’s and he not being that much better he could be an interesting option for the Nationals. It also could be that the Nats look at a pitcher like Saunders and see that he isn’t that much better than Lannan and don’t trade even the marginal prospects it would take to get him.
The Nationals could also take a risk pitcher off of a team’s hands. They could go and get Ubaldo Jimenez or Roberto Hernandez from the Indians and allow them to make the final three Strasburg starts in the regular season and then battle for the fifth spot for 2013 along with John Lannan and Yunesky Maya in lieu of re-signing Edwin Jackson or making a run at another free agent starter. Keep in mind as the Strasburg shutdown date draws near the Nationals have their playoff rotation. All they need is a pitcher slightly better than Lannan to make 2-3 starts.