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Sleeper Alert: Pedro Astacio signs with the Nationals

The Nationals suffered a blow this weekend when Brian Lawrence was lost to a shoulder injury. According to the Washington Post, he had a torn rotator cuff and labrum repaired on Sunday. Who will replace him in the rotation? Well, hopefully Tony Armas, but just in case he's not up to the task, the team also signed Pedro Astacio to a one-year deal, pending an examination:

Astacio also has a history of shoulder problems, including surgery to repair a torn labrum in June 2003, which caused him to miss the rest of that season and all but the final month of the 2004 season.

He struggled to a 2-8 record and a 6.04 ERA for the Rangers in 2005 before being released in June, but he pitched well for the Padres, going 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA in 12 appearances (10 of them starts) and helping them win the NL West.

RFK Stadium was notoriously kind to pitchers last season, and Astacio's success at a similar pitcher's park in San Diego last year bodes well for his immediate future. He could be an interesting sleeper at the right price. Draft him too early, though, and he could easily become a liability, so be careful.

Here's what Federal Baseball had to say:

Astacio had a weird campaign last season. With Texas, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was outstanding, four-to-one, but he surrendered a homer every five innings pitched, which was up in Ramon Ortiz Land. However, with San Diego, Astacio's strikeout-to-walk ratio flattened tremendously (not much better than even), yet his home run rate dropped to one every fifteen innings.

The decline in homers is pretty easy to explain: Astacio took a real shining to Petco Park, allowing zero homers there in 32.2 innings pitched. You may choose how to regard this turn of events---whether the good news is that he's headed to similarly power-repressed RFK Stadium, or whether the bad news is that, as a Padre, he still surrendered long balls at a rate greater than one per every seven innings pitched.

On a non-fantasy sidenote, watch manager Frank Robinson continue to take shots at GM Jim Bowden when indicating that the team probably should have had Lawrence undergo an MRI before he was acquired from the Padres last September (emphasis mine):
"That's our bad," Robinson said. "We chose not to give him an MRI. The physicals should cover everything. . . . I would think that would be something to get our attention for the future, at least. Why not? [An MRI is] the only way you're going to be able to look at someone. But I don't make policy around here."

If you remember, Robinson was none-too-pleased a couple of weeks ago when he heard Bowden was recommending that Robert Fick and Matt LeCroy be the primary backup catchers, saying, "I would think that would be something coming from the manager, wouldn't it? I'm not going to comment and second-guess the general manager."

Don't you just love the fireworks?

Nats Acquire Pitcher Astacio [Washington Post]