Photo courtesy Associated Press

Photo courtesy Associated Press

With the Nationals signing Max Scherzer to a mammoth contract, this would be the time when most teams sit back, pop open a very expensive bottle of champagne, and enjoy the victory of a successful offseason.

Don’t expect that to be the case in D.C., though. In fact, it’s probably a safer bet that this signing is the first of many dominoes to fall. How many, exactly, however, remains to be seen.

Let’s start with the first problem. You simply can’t add a Cy Young winner to what was the best rotation in baseball a season ago without subtracting anything. So who loses his spot in the rotation? Well, here’s a look at the staff by last year’s stats compared to Scherzer.

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Max Scherzer
18-5 | 220.1 IP | 3.15 ERA | 1.175 WHIP | 252 SO

Jordan Zimmermann
14-5 | 199.2 IP | 2.66 ERA | 1.072 WHIP | 182 SO
Doug Fister
16-6 | 164.0 IP | 2.41 ERA | 1.079 WHIP | 98 SO
Stephen Strasburg
14-11 |215.0 IP | 3.14 ERA | 1.121 WHIP | 242 SO
Gio Gonzalez
10-10 | 158.2 IP | 3.57 ERA | 1.197 WHIP | 162 SO
Tanner Roark
15-10 | 198.2 IP | 2.85 ERA | 1.092 WHIP | 138 SO

If we’re going by prestige factor alone, Roark is probably the odd man out. But Roark isn’t even arbitration eligible which means the Nationals can hold onto him for essentially peanuts. So how do you justify relegating a guy with a sub-3.00 ERA to the bullpen?

I sure can’t.

And if you can’t make an argument for putting Roark back in the bullpen, you certainly can’t do it to one of the other four, which means someone has to go.

That guy is most likely Zimmermann, Strasburg, Fister, or Gonzalez in that order if you’re going by speculation. Why is Gonzalez – the guy with the weakest numbers from 2014 – least likely to be moved? Well, for one thing he’s three years removed from finishing third in the Cy Young voting and just about everyone is willing to chalk ’14 up to a bad season. An outlier, if you will. But secondly and most importantly, of the four pitchers, he’s the only signed through 2016. Zimmermann’s two-year deal is up after this season and Strasburg and Gonzalez were both signed to one-year deals this offseason.

That makes them the most movable trade commodities.

In fact, in landing this contract, Max Scherzer is the only starting pitcher on the roster right now that seems to be guaranteed to stay in Washington for quite some time. And all these pitchers – and likely Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper – and their agents are all going to use Scherzer’s deal as a benchmark for what they should receive when their contracts are up soon.

Then there’s the logic in filling out a roster. The Nationals’ have an embarrassment of riches with starting pitching, but could likely use some more offense and definitely could add an arm or two to the bullpen after dealing away longtime setup man and fill-in closer Tyler Clippard. Right now if a ball is rolled to second base, it’s probably Danny Espinosa that’s picking the ball up. Meanwhile, you have to bump someone off your best pitching staff in baseball to make room for a Cy Young winner.

It doesn’t take the world’s greatest baseball scout to realize there’s probably an imbalance there.

You don’t need six premier starters on a staff. In fact, if you’re the Nationals, you really don’t even need five as you’re going to drop down to a three- or four-man rotation in the playoffs where, two of the last three seasons, the Nats have lost their last game.

It seems obvious that moving one or two guys to pick up a second baseman or first baseman (or both) would just make sense logically. Yes, dealing a fan favorite like Zimmermann or Strasburg is bound to a sour taste in some fans’ mouths, but it may just get you a championship.

And that’s something this most of the guys on this team and their fans have yet to taste.