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The Benefit of Signing Jason Marquis

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 04:  Pitcher Jason Marquis #21 of the Colorado Rockies throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 4, 2009 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-3.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Josh LevittSenior Analyst IDecember 22, 2009

The market for starting pitchers is beginning to take shape as Jason Marquis and the Washington Nationals agreed to a two-year/$15 million dollar contract.

Free-agent pitcher Jason Marquis has agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with the Washington Nationals , sources confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney on Monday.

The deal is pending a physical.

The Nationals issued a "media alert," saying that they would hold a news conference at their stadium on Tuesday to announce a free-agent signing. The team did not identify the player in the release.

The 31-year-old Marquis is a right-hander who went 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 216 innings for the Colorado Rockies in 2009. He made the NL All-Star team last season, thanks to an 11-6 record and 3.65 ERA at that point. But Marquis fizzled down the stretch and wasn't part of the Rockies' postseason starting rotation.

Now, I'll be honest with you: I'm torn on this deal. I don't think it's a bad contract for the Nationals economically and a two year deal seems to be about right for both sides.

The Nationals needed to add a proven starter to the mix, who could eat a boatload of innings, take some pressure off the bullpen, provide some leadership, and give the rebuilding Nationals a legitimate chance to win every time he takes the ball. There's no doubt Marquis fits the bill.

While we question this deal for the Nationals, we have to take into account just how difficult it has been for the Nationals to lure free agents to DC in previous seasons. Sure the Nationals signed Dunn and Beimel last season, but that was after those two guys were basically shunned by the rest of the baseball world.

The only way the Nationals are going to get better and become relevant in Washington DC is if they add talented players to the mix that allows them to compete and offer hope for the future. Even though Jason Marquis is no ace, he is a substantial upgrade over some of the Nationals other options.

But on the other side, where's the upside for the Nationals, here? At best, Marquis is a middle of the rotation starter, who was great during stretches last season, but struggled mightily towards the end of the season.

In addition, committing $15 million to Marquis over two years would seem to be a logical move for a team that is looking to compete and is aiming for a playoff birth, but realistically, the Nationals are years away from contending. By the time Marquis' contract runs out, the Nationals should be in a much better position to compete for a playoff spot.

I would have loved to see the Nationals make a strong push at a long term option like Aroldis Chapman, who has far more upside than Marquis and might be an ace long term.

To me, this deal will be a success for the Nationals if Marquis can provide some stability and consistency to the Nationals starting rotation. Wins and losses will not be the ultimate judge of this deal, but if the Nationals continue to lose 100+ games a year, then it will be difficult to call this deal a success no matter how good Marquis is.

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