If there was any doubt about the Nationals’ desire to add one more top-of-the-rotation starter, it was erased on the first night of the General Manager meetings. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo met for about 45 minutes Monday night with Bob Garber, the agent for free agent starting pitchers C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt.
Afterward, Garber kept his remarks to a minimum out of a mutual desire for privacy in the negotiations. But he said that Rizzo expressed interest in both pitchers, and the sides will keep talking about both pitchers as the offseason moves forward.
“It was a good meeting,” Garber said. Washington “would be a good fit for both players. It was just preliminary, but there’s enough interest on both sides that we’re going to keep talking.”
Wilson, a lefty who turns 31 on Friday, is regarded as the top free agent starter on the market. He went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA last year for the American League champion Texas Rangers. An all-star this year, Wilson has thrown more than 200 innings the past two seasons, his first two as a starter after the Rangers converted him from the bullpen.
There will of course be heavy competition to sign Wilson. For example, Rizzo visited with Garber immediately after Garber returned from a meeting with Angels GM Jerry DiPoto.
Oswalt, 34, fits squarely into Rizzo’s stated hope to land a veteran, innings-devouring presence at the front of the Nationals’ rotation. A back injury limited the right-hander to 23 starts this season for the Phillies as he went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA as part of perhaps the most vaunted pitching rotation in recent memory. Oswalt has the history of a workhorse, having thrown more than 200 innings seven times, including 211 2/3 in 2010.
Oswalt would be accepted into a Nationals clubhouse that includes former Phillies teammate Jayson Werth. Earlier this offseason, two Nationals players, unprompted, said they would like to see the Nationals bring Oswalt aboard.
Acquiring either starter to go along with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann would give the Nationals one of the most formidable 1-2-3 combinations in the majors.
The Nationals will also make a strong push for left-handed free agent Mark Buerhle, a person familiar with the Nationals’ plans said.
The Nationals shored up their rotation depth when they re-signed Chien-Ming Wang early in the offseason. With the rest of their winter, they may build a rotation to be reckoned with.