Mailbag: Gardner and the NationalsBy
Aaron asks: There’s been some talk in Bill Ladson’s latest mailbag that the Nationals could make a run at trying to acquire Brett Gardner. I don’t see the Yankees being interested in dealing him, but if they were, who could they look to acquire from Washington?
The Nationals have been looking for a long-term solution in the leadoff spot and in center field pretty much all season, which is why they were connected to guys like Denard Span and B.J. Upton at the trade deadline. Gardner fits both criteria and on paper he’s a perfect fit for Washington, but the question is do they have the pitching to get the Yankees interested?
Just to get this out of the way, we can forget all about Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. That’s not going to happen unless the Yankees really sweeten the pot. It would be a backwards move if the Yankees traded a starting center fielder with three years of team control left for a reliever or two, so forget about that as well. Their bullpen isn’t exactly a problem. Looking at Washington’s 40-man roster, there’s only two names that make any kind of sense for New York: John Lannan and Ross Detwiler.
Although both are reasonably the same age (Lannan just turned 27, Detwiler turns 26 in March) and are left-handed, the two are pretty different. Lannan is a classic ground ball/finesse southpaw, sitting right around 89 with his two- and four-seamers while mixing in a curve, a changeup, and a slider. His ground ball rates have consistently been above 51% (54.1% this year) and his strikeout rates have been consistently below 6.0 K/9 (5.2 this year) in his career. He’s good but not great at limiting walks (3.7 BB/9 this year, 3.4 career), and right-handers hit him hard both this year and last, though his career split is even.
Detwiler, the sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft, is much more interesting. His big league exposure is limited (172.1 IP across four seasons), in part because he underwent hip labrum surgery last year. Detwiler’s a tall and lanky drink of water (listed at 6-foot-5 and 185 lbs.), and he lives and dies with a two-seam fastball that averaged 92 mph this past season. He also throws a changeup and a curveball. His peripheral stats (career 5.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9, and 43.3% grounders) are very similar to Lannan’s with the exception of the ground ball rate, but I think there’s a little more upside here because he throws harder and is getting further away from surgery. Maybe I’m just blinded by the high draft pick thing, though.
Lannan is a Super Two and is arbitration-eligible for the second time this year, so his team controls his rights for another three years like Gardner. Detwiler is still in his pre-arbitration years and is under team control for another four years by my unofficial count. Both guys are back-end starters in the NL right now, so I can’t imagine them being any better in the AL East. Larry Rothschild has a reputation of improving his pitchers’ strikeout abilities, but you can’t count on that. The Yankees need pitching, but I can’t imagine they’re desperate enough to trade Gardner, a valuable but still flawed player, for one of Lannan or Detwiler. A 2-for-1 deal would be a bit more interesting, but I still wouldn’t pull the trigger.