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Nationals rumors: Gio Gonzalez on trading block, Wei-Yin Chen emerging as a target

The Washington Nationals have made their left-handed starter available via trade and are targeting another lefty in his stead.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals have been shopping Gio Gonzalez on the trade market, according to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Furthermore, the Nationals would reportedly fill that vacant spot in their rotation by potentially adding free agent lefty Wei-Yin Chen.

The fact that the Nationals are shopping Gonzalez comes as little surprise. Prior to the Shelby Miller trade, Gonzalez was reportedly offered to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Ender Inciarte. The Diamondbacks General Manager, Dave Stewart, elected to use Inciarte in the Miller trade.

The more surprising part of the report is that the Nationals would then target Chen. Chen, who is tied to draft pick compensation because of his qualifying offer, was actually a worse pitcher than Gonzalez last season by FIP. That being said, by Baseball Prospectus' DRA (Deserved Run Average), Gonzalez and Chen were basically the same at 4.22 and 4.18 respectively.

To improve the club, making Gonzalez available could be in Mike Rizzo's interest. However, Gonzalez has been an extremely serviceable mid-rotation starter over the past six seasons. Going into his age-30 season, Gonzalez is barely younger than Chen and would be an asset to any team. He has three seasons left on his contract worth an average annual value of $12 million. Furthermore, the 2017 and 2018 seasons are team options. That's a fairly team-friendly contract for a very good left-handed starter.

Then, the Nationals would have to consider the fact that they would be parting with their first-round draft pick -- the 22nd overall pick -- in order to acquire Chen. It would be a puzzling move. If Rizzo had targeted Inciarte, then the outfield might actually be the Nationals main concern. With Jayson Werth, Michael Taylor, and Bryce Harper stationed there for 2016, an improvement isn't necessary, but it could be desirable.

The good news for the Nationals is that they could, hypothetically, retain Gonzalez and make their outfield better by signing Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes, who are still free agents.

It's just a puzzling scenario for the Nationals. They have a left-handed pitcher under a team-friendly deal who has started in at least 27 games over the last six seasons. Chen only has four seasons total under his belt and, while he has been very good, he comes with slightly more uncertainty and could likely want more than the $36 million still due to Gonzalez.