Chien-Mang Wang is a National again this year. To many it may be surprising that he even was a National last year considering he never pitched an inning. Wang must have made strides rehabbing last year though because he was offered and accepted a $1 million contract (with $5 million in incentives) from the Nationals.
This deal is a very savvy move by Nationals GM Mike Rizzo because the Nationals have added a pitcher that has good upside for a very low price. If Wang can reach the pitchers mound he will easily be worth his contract.
When healthy, Wang won 19 games in back-to-back seasons and had an ERA under four. Wang gained this success with control, not speed. Wang never was a hard thrower and only topped 100 strikeouts in a season once. If he can pitch to hitters and keep his walks very far and in between he could be a consistent starter, something the Nationals desperately need.
While this acquisition while bolster a pitching rotation that features Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, Jordan Zimmerman and a whole mess of others the Nationals will still end up at the bottom of the barrel in the NL East. Livan Hernandez had a tremendous season last year posting an ERA of 3.66, his last three seasons averaging out to be above a five ERA.
I wouldn't find it very surprising at all if his ERA went back to his career average of 4.39. Marquis was a 2010 offseason acquisition who couldn't get an out and is battling for a spot in the rotation.
Jordan Zimmerman is a young pitcher still struggling in the big leagues who will be competing with Josh Lannan and a host of others. What the Nationals do have is a young and talented bullpen which had to pitch the most innings of any major league club (545.2), but finished at No. 5 in ERA at 3.35. However, the Nationals still lack an ace, a solid rotation, and an imposing offensive unit.
The Nationals offense now finds itself weaker then a season ago with the departure of Adam Dunn and the trade of Josh Willingham to the Athletics for prospects Corey Brown (OF) and Henry Rodriguez (RP). Jayson Werth was brought in to fill in for Adam Dunn who provided the Nationals with 38 home runs and over 100 RBIs for back-to-back seasons.
While Werth has had an amazing career in Philadelphia, he played in a hitter's ballpark with a lineup that included Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, etc. In the last three years, Werth has hit 13 more home runs and slugging .04 higher at Citizens Bank Park.
While his power numbers increased at home his average and on-base percentage stayed the same. With this in mind, Werth will probably be able to provide some pop for the Nationals, just in the park of 25-30 home runs. While he will be a defensive upgrade from Dunn, he will not be able to fill in the power vacuum left by Adam Dunn.
The only other notable offensive unit added to the Nationals is Rick Ankiel, who signed a one-year deal for $1.5 million plus incentives which will platoon in the OF. Jayson Werth and Rick Ankiel are not the men who will be able to rally around Ryan Zimmerman and give the Nationals a winning team.
Jayson Werth and Rick Ankiel are by no means better then the combination of Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn that the Nationals had last year. At this point I just start to feel bad for Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman will once again have to carry the Nationals offensively in what is sure to be another losing year.
But the worst thing for the Nationals is that every team in the NL East improved in some way this offseason. The Braves gained power-hitting second baseman Dan Uggla and utility man Erik Hinske while bolstering its bullpen with George Sherill.
The Marlins signed Javier Vazquez and shored up its bullpen dilemma via free agency and trade.
The Mets added very few players this off season, but have added Carrasco to replace Feliciano and are looking to a team that features Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes healthy.
Finally, the Phillies have added Cliff Lee to its rotation to create one of the best rotations in Major League history.
The Nationals will be a team to look out for in the future with such stars as Strasburg, Harper and Ramos. For the 2011 season, though, the Nationals will still finish last in the division due to a horrible rotation, a lack of offense and an improved division.
I predict the Nationals will therefore regress this season, eventually finishing the year at 65-95.