Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo had a preliminary meeting Monday night with the agent for top free agent pitchers Roy Oswalt and C.J. Wilson, and before he leaves the GM Meetings here, he said, he’ll also visit with Jeff Berry of CAA Sports, the representative for left-hander Mark Buehrle.
The Nationals want to add a veteran starter to their deep, young rotation, and all three starters – widely regarded as the three best starting pitchers currently available on the free agent market – fit that bill. It is believed that their top priority is Buehrle, but that could change based on the price for each pitcher develops.
Rizzo also said the Nationals “have interest” in Tsuyoshi Wada, a Japanese left-hander expected to become available via the posting system, in which teams provide anonymous bids for the right to negotiate with a player. Wada, whom Rizzo said the Nationals have “scouted extensively,” is a soft-tossing left-hander who had an ERA below 2.00.
The Nationals are looking for a starter, but that’s where their desire to add big-name pitching ends. While there have been some rumblings about the Nationals pursuing free agent closer Ryan Madson, who could command a four-year deal worth more than $40 million, Rizzo indicated the Nationals will not try to sign a closer, showing confidence in Drew Storen after the 24-year-old saved 43 games this season.
“We have a big closer already,” Rizzo said. “Anything can happen. But we like where our bullpen is at. Can we improve the bullpen? Certainly, we could improve the bullpen. But we’re really satisfied that we have three guys who are very young, very controllable, very talented. When anybody who walks up to me, that’s what they talk about. They talk about our bullpen. A closer, at this point in time, that is not at the top of the priorities.”
Storen still has another year before he becomes eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player. The Nationals still have three years of team control of Tyler Clippard, who may have been the most valuable reliever in the National League this season. They also have flamethrowing Henry Rodriguez, 24, who looked untouchable in the final month of his rookie season.