The Nationals are on the lookout for starting pitching now that Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are out of the picture and their hunt has led them to at least consider one of the best options still available. Free agent Wei-Yin Chen is on the Nationals’ radar, a source tells Bill Ladson of MLB.com, though that source isn’t sure whether Washington would give him the five-year deal that he is seeking.
Every team in the league would obviously love to add a solid starter like Chen, but his price tag has so far left him dangling on the market without a ton of buzz as to where he might land. Last week, it was reported that the Scott Boras client is seeking a five-year, $100MM commitment. Earlier this offseason, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected that Chen would land a five-year deal worth $80MM. Chen is – at least for now – aiming a whole lot higher.
The Nationals were recently said to have some interest in right-hander Mike Leake and GM Mike Rizzo even confirmed that an offer was made. However, the price tag was apparently too rich for their blood and their interest quickly cooled off. Overall, Rizzo indicated that the club hasn’t been very active on the market for starters. The Nats already have a top three of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez plus Tanner Roark and Joe Ross in the backend. Beyond them, youngsters like A.J. Cole and Lucas Giolito knocking on the door.
The 30-year-old Chen is coming off a nice four-year run with the Orioles which was highlighted by a particularly strong two-year platform in 2014-15. Over the past two seasons, he’s logged a 3.44 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9 to go along with a 40.8 percent ground-ball rate in 377 innings of work. Chen turned down a qualifying offer from the Orioles earlier this offseason, so signing him would require a team to forfeit its first eligible draft pick. That’s a notable disadvantage for Chen compared to quality pitchers remaining on the free agent market such as Mike Leake, Scott Kazmir, and Kenta Maeda. Late last month, Tim took an in-depth look at Chen and speculated on the type of deal he could land.
Right now, there isn’t an obvious landing spot for Chen. Cardinals appeared to be a solid fit for a pitcher like Chen but GM John Mozeliak recently said that the team is unlikely to make a “dynamic” signing at this stage of the offseason. The Giants were known to have some level of interest in Chen, but they are almost definitely out on high-priced pitching after adding Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto this winter.