The Nats are reportedly adding Zach Davies on a minors deal

On Wednesday, general manager Mike Rizzo faced the music as the Washington Nationals officially opened up their Spring Training facility for player check-ins. Rizzo spoke to reporters and knew he would be asked about the lack of signings to his MLB roster — and in particular not adding a new starting pitcher.

“It’s never the plan going in. It’s just kind of how things filled out during the offseason. I just couldn’t find that starting pitcher that was going to impact us at this time, for not only the right amount of years — but the right salary at this time.”

— Rizzo said to the media on Wednesday

Well, Rizzo probably knew that he had Zach Davies in the mix on Wednesday when he faced the media and said that he didn’t expect to add any more players on MLB deals. He had spent under $10 million on new acquisitions this offseason — a pittance compared to an average year since 2011.

So news broke today that Davies, a once thriving starter for the Brewers, was on his way to West Palm Beach on a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp. His 7.00 ERA and oblique and back injuries last year ruined his chance to score big this year in free agency. He was actually released by Arizona to make roster space in September. Davies recent history has been a mixed bag of results. He was great for the Padres in the COVID season of 2020, and then traded after the season to the Cubs where he had his worst season of his career. He made the Diamondbacks team in 2021 and pitched well — but averaged just under 5.0 innings per game.

Sources told us that he turned down some early offers and with Spring Training camp opened he accepted the Nats deal. His lifetime ERA in Nationals Park is 2.08 with one of his best games of his career pitched there in 2017 against a very good Nats team. Last year, he had his fifth best start of the season just giving up 2-runs and striking out eight Nats’ hitters. His best four starts last year were games he gave up zero or just one run to teams that were all in playoff contention: Dodgers, Orioles, Rays, and Cincinnati. In games that Davies started in 2023, his team went 10-8. Again, he had injury and stamina issues causing him to be the pitcher of record in just seven games.

The D’Backs readily pulled him with a lead around the fifth inning. His W/L record showed he also wasn’t getting run support. The 7.00 ERA for the full season was more about Davies being either really good — or really bad. He got hammered in three games, but two of those games he pitched while he was dealing with an injured oblique, and back inflammation. He was pulled on April 8 and went on the IL for over a month, and again on July 18 when he was bombed for nine runs. That will kill your ERA.

Yes, Davies is a finesse pitcher and won’t blow you away with his high 80’s to low 90’s fastball, but he learned a lot last year from pitching coach Brent Strom who got that team to the World Series with an improved pitching staff. Last season, Davies threw seven different pitches per Statcast: Sinker (32.5%), Changeup (24.8%), Four Seamer (22.5%), Cutter (11.3%), Curveball (6.2%), Slider (1.9%) and Sweeper (0.8%).

The injuries did Davies in. But with any luck, the Nationals can take advantage of this signing. Of course there is the alternative that he is just a depth move to pull from Triple-A Rochester if the team needs a starter during the season.

“What we did last year with our starters was incredible, to go with just [eight] starters all year long. So we want to make sure we’re covered in case anything does happen, and bringing in a guy like [Davies] who’s done really well over his career, it’s nice to have him.”

– manager Dave Martinez said

Last week, Davies turned 31 years old. Can he stay healthy, and will Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez give this pitcher a legit shot at making the rotation if everyone is healthy? Just yesterday, it appeared that the starting rotation was set with Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, Jake Irvin, Patrick Corbin and Trevor Williams. Looks can oftentimes be deceiving.

We were told before Rizzo spoke to the media on Wednesday that the team was looking at lower level pitchers, and they felt, “There are several good ones still there.” Some took that out of context and didn’t read the immediate follow-up that explained it might not be an upgrade over anyone in the rotation. Yes, they were looking at minimal deals, and pitchers like Davies needed a job — even on a Minor League contract.

In the past, you would have to go back maybe to 2012 for any real surprise in the starting rotation out of camp when Ross Detwiler shocked almost everyone when he got the final roster spot over John Lannan who was named by his manager, Davey Johnson, as his fifth starter. Can Davies unseed anyone to grab the fifth spot in the rotation or is he just depth and destined for the April freezing weather in Rochester?

With Mason Thompson injured, and two spots potentially open in the bullpen, maybe Rizzo moves Williams back to the hybrid role he had with the Mets, and fill that spot in the Nats’ bullpen. But then again, Williams was effective in ERA as a starter last year for the Nats in April and May. Also as mentioned yesterday, Cade Cavalli could be ready to return to the rotation in June from his UCL injury.

Maybe one of the most interesting fun facts is that Davies is a Boras Corporation client per his page on In tabloid fodder, there is a strange story out there about Davies going on a road trip and stopped communicating with his wife. That ended in a divorce, and his now, ex-wife, blasted him publicly on Instagram and accused him of “ghosting” her and having an affair. There are two sides to every story, and Davies said nothing about it. One more interesting tidbit is that he was drafted by the Orioles in 2011 and traded in 2015 for a guy named Baby Shark, uh, Gerardo Parra.

This will add to the storylines of Spring Training, and we will see where this goes.

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