Nats Call Up of Maya Could Shake Up The Rotation

Steve O Speak

For the first time this season the Nationals have had to rely on a pitcher outside their top 5 starters to take the ball for them as Tom Gorzelanny is on the D.L. with a sore elbow. The Nationals are bringing up Yunesky Maya, who they signed last season after he defected from Cuba for 4 years $8 million. Maya isn’t a prospect, since he’ll turn 30 later this year, and dominated professional baseball in Cuba, but was in the minors to work on becoming a more refined pitcher and learning some of the American nuances.

The Nationals last year didn’t get much in Maya’s brief time in DC as he 0-3 with a 5.88 ERA in 5 starts. Maya has improved this year in AAA, after a solid performance in Spring Training. While Maya’s 1-4 record doesn’t appear to impressive, his 3.79 ERA, .994 WHIP, .214 opposing batting average, and 3.75-1 K to BB ratio all look pretty good. Now the question remains, can he translate that to the Major League level.

Normally I’d feel leery about being so confident, but given Maya’s background in the Cuban professional league, and international competitions, I think that he’ll be able to make the jump with relative ease. Now given Maya’s age, there isn’t much potential for him to be a top of the rotation starter. But, I think he will fit in quite nicely as a back of the rotation type of guy. He can be workhorse strike thrower, who should throw 6-7 innings every time out and give up 3-5 runs most starts. That’s not bad value given his price tag.

While Gorzelanny’s injury is a bit inconvenient for the Nationals, it could be a blessing in disguise if Maya pitches well. He will make at least one more start after today (assuming all goes well), and if he looks good in both starts the Nationals could look for ways to get him in their rotation fulltime. Given his age their isn’t anything left to prove in the minors so if he gets the job done, the Nationals could have even more incentive to trade Jason Marquis sooner rather than later.

Marquis right now is still pitching relatively well and remains one of the Nationals top trading chips to use by the July 31st deadline. If Maya shows that he is ready for the majors then the Nationals shouldn’t wait, and move Marquis to open up a spot for him. While typically most deals are done in the last 10-15 days of July, it could be beneficial to both the Nationals and another team to make a deal now.

With so many teams in tough races (20 teams are either .500 or better or within 5 games of 1st place) there aren’t many sellers right now on the market. Making Marquis one of the more attractive pitching options. He isn’t going to be an ace or number 2 on a staff, but he could be a solid 3rd or 4th on a fringe playoff team, and a 4th or 5th on a higher quality contender. The supply and demand factor will never be more in the Nationals favor than it is right now. With so few sellers, the supply is low, while the buyers and the demand is at an all-time high. The Nationals should capitalize on that fact, and look to move Marquis when Gorzelanny is ready to return.

It also can benefit the buyers since if they deal for a pitcher now, they will get an extra 6-8 starts from him, as opposed to waiting until near the deadline. If a team would win an extra 2-3 of those than they typically would, that could be the difference in making the playoffs or not. This is especially true for more low-mid market teams who know they aren’t going to pursue a big name pitcher if he becomes available, but would like to improve the back of their rotation so they aren’t conceding them as they are now. And while they might pay slightly more than what Marquis (or a similar pitcher is worth) given the lack of available arms and the extra time, it’s not as though they are giving up a top prospect that they wouldn’t have to later in the year.

While the Nats could look to move Marquis soon regardless, their decision will be a whole lot easier if they get a couple good starts out of Maya.


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