WASHINGTON – Adding a starting pitcher at last this offseason, the Washington Nationals finalized their trade to acquire left-hander Tom Gorzelanny from the Chicago Cubs for three minor league prospects on Wednesday.
Washington also agreed to a $2 million, one-year contract with utility player Jerry Hairston Jr., and unconditionally released pitcher J.D. Martin, who had lower-back surgery in August. Martin's move cleared space on the 40-man roster for first baseman Adam LaRoche, a free-agent whose contract recently was approved by Major League Baseball.
General manager Mike Rizzo hoped to land a top-of-the-rotation starter for the 2011 season, but that hasn't happened. The 28-year-old Gorzelanny is 36-37 with a 4.68 ERA in six major league seasons with the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates.
He went 7-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 23 starts and six relief appearances last year, and the Cubs dealt him after obtaining starter Matt Garza in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Rizzo said Nationals scouts saw Gorzelanny consistently throw at 92 mph and reach 94 mph in 2010.
Before the trade to the Nationals became official, Gorzelanny avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $2.1 million, one-year deal with the Cubs.
The Nationals sent outfielder Michael Burgess, right-hander A.J. Morris and left-hander Graham Hicks to Chicago.
"We think there's still some upside to this guy, and we think he's going to have a big rebound year," Rizzo said. "We see him somewhere in the rotation. We're going to have a good competition there this spring training, and we're looking forward to it."
With Stephen Strasburg expected to miss most — if not all — of 2011 after reconstructive elbow surgery, the Nationals are expected to have Livo Hernandez, Jordan Zimmermann and Gorzelanny in their rotation, along with perhaps Jason Marquis, Yunesky Maya or Ross Detwiler.
Rizzo also noted that right-hander Chien-Ming Wang — who is trying to come back from shoulder surgery and hasn't pitched since July 2009 — will be ready for the start of spring training. Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Viera, Fla., on Feb. 15.
"He's not in rehabilitation mode right now; he's in preparation mode to get ready for spring training," Rizzo said.
The 34-year-old Hairston is a career .257 hitter with 59 homers and 341 RBIs across 13 seasons with six clubs.
He hit .244 with 10 homers and a career-high 50 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last season.
Rizzo said that Hairston, a member of the 2009 World Series champion New York Yankees, would be "very, very comfortable and very effective" playing any position in the field other than first base or catcher.
"He gives the manager a lot of options," Rizzo said. "He's a very versatile player. Very upbeat. High-energy guy. Good clubhouse presence. And a guy with a championship ring that knows how to win and knows how to be a good teammate."
Hairston can earn an additional $1 million in performance bonuses.