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Ross Detwiler could get squeezed out of the rotation with Gio Gonzalez now a National.
There was excitement from those thrilled to be getting a 26-year-old All-Star who can't become a free agent for another four years. There was disgust from minor-league aficionados who can't believe the Nationals gave up as much as they did.
Even Bryce Harper felt the need to chime in, first posting on his Twitter account: "SHOCKED!!!!!" and later adding "Now all we need to do is get Prince!hah"
Now that the dust has settled and we've had a chance to analyze the situation, the ramifications of this blockbuster start to come into focus. Make no mistake, the trade has far-reaching implications across the entire organization.
Start with the obvious: What this means for the Nationals' rotation, both in 2012 and beyond. Gonzalez joins Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann to form one of the legitimately better young starting trios in baseball right now. All have averaged more than 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings in the big leagues. Few clubs can boast three starters with those numbers.
But who fills the final two spots in the rotation? That's where it starts getting a bit tricky. The Nationals (or, more specifically, Davey Johnson) seemed to be perfectly content to enter 2012 with a rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan and Ross Detwiler. Now, there are only two available slots for three remaining starters. Who's the odd man out? There's no easy answer.
Wang is probably the biggest question mark of the bunch because of his injury history, but the Nationals have already signed the veteran right-hander for $4 million plus incentives, and you wouldn't think they'd dump the guy now after spending all that time and money getting him healthy again.
Lannan probably has the lowest ceiling of the three, but he's also the surest bet of the group. You know what you're going to get out of the left-hander: 30 starts and a sub-4.00 ERA. He'll wind up making about $5 million in arbitration.
Detwiler, as we've been saying for years, has loads of potential and at long last flashed some glimmer of it late this season, certainly enough to warrant the final spot in the Opening Day rotation. Even if the Nationals wanted to give the young lefty some more seasoning at Class AAA Syracuse, they would be hamstrung by the fact Detwiler is now out of options and thus can't be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers.
So what does Mike Rizzo do? Does he try to shop Lannan or Detwiler, perhaps hoping one of the lefties (packaged with someone else) could land him the center fielder he so covets? That's all well and good, but Rizzo is smart enough to know he's going to need more than five starting pitchers in 2012. Someone will get hurt along the way, and we already know Strasburg is going to be on an innings limit.
There will be a need for both Lannan and Detwiler in the rotation at some point, especially now that the two guys who most likely would have been waiting in the wings at Syracuse in case of emergency -- Peacock and Milone -- are on their way to Oakland. Who else is ready and available within the organization? Tom Gorzelanny? Yunesky Maya? Craig Stammen? Danny Rosenbaum?
Which also raises the question of what the Nationals' rotation will look like beyond 2012. Obviously, the new "Big Three" will be around for awhile -- Gonzalez and Zimmermann can't become free agents until 2016, Strasburg can't leave until 2017 -- but the future of the back of the rotation is less clear. Wang is on a one-year contract. Lannan could easily cost $7 million to $8 million in 2013, then is eligible for free agency after that. Detwiler has plenty of years left, but he's yet to establish himself as a big-league regular.
Prior to Thursday, you had to figure either Peacock or Milone (or perhaps both) would figure prominently into the Nationals' long-term plans. Now, they'll have to wait for the next wave of starters -- Alex Meyer, Matt Purke, Sammy Solis -- to reach the big leagues. At this moment, only Solis has taken the mound for a regular-season game as a professional, and he finished this year at Class A Potomac (and now may be dealing with an elbow injury).
In other words, the Nationals really have to pray this current core group of starters avoids serious injury, or else be willing to dive into the open market again in future offseasons.
There's plenty of time, of course, before anyone has to worry about that. Above all else, Thursday's trade confirmed what many around here have hoped: The Nationals are serious about trying to win right now. They see a window of opportunity, beginning in 2012 and extending through 2015, in which they can challenge (and perhaps overtake) the big boys in the NL East.
They've now got three bona fide front-line starters, not to mention depth at the back of the rotation. They already had one of the better bullpens in the majors. They've got a lineup full of players who aren't going anywhere anytime soon -- Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse each are locked up for two more years, Ian Desmond is locked up for four more years, Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa are locked up for five more years, Jayson Werth is locked up for six more years and Bryce Harper is probably locked up for seven more years (as long as he doesn't make the Opening Day roster).
Are there still question marks scattered up and down the roster? Sure. There's still no legitimate leadoff hitter. Ramos, Espinosa and Desmond all need to progress. The bench still needs a major makeover, even with the addition of Mark DeRosa. The club needs to decide if it's going to try to lock up Zimmerman and Morse before either even catches a whiff of free agency.
But these questions pale in comparison to those that had been asked around these parts in all previous offseasons. Seriously, think about how many times the Nationals reported for spring training without even three legitimate starting pitchers. Now they have six.
Was the Gonzalez trade a stroke of genius by Rizzo or a panic move that stripped the organization of multiple long-term pieces? It'll be years before we can answer that question.
Either way, we'll probably look back at this day as a defining moment for a franchise that for seven years has been waiting to make its move and now has stated in no uncertain terms it believes it's ready to contend.