The most straightforward piece of the Nationals’ offseason is filling out their starting rotation. The Nationals effectively moved on from Edwin Jackson when they did not offer him a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer last Friday, a signal they would rather lose him without receiving a compensatory draft pick than risk him coming back at that price. Rizzo simply saw more desirable options on the free agent market.
“Those are decisions that you talk about internally,” Rizzo said. “We felt with the depth we had at the major league level and the depth of free agents that we had out there that we had as good or better options.”
While the Nationals have in-house options — they still have John Lannan under team control and September call-up Christian Garcia will convert from relieving to starting — Rizzo seems intent on adding a starter in free agency.
Last year, the Nationals made Mark Buehrle their top free agent target before he ultimately chose the Miami Marlins’ more lucrative offer. Rizzo coveted Buehrle for his experience and durability. This winter, though, Rizzo will aim higher when he tries to add a starter.
“I’m much more open-minded with it this year,” Rizzo said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a veteran, it doesn’t have to necessarily need to be a fifth-starter type of guy. We just want to get the most quality type of pitcher that we can.”
Rizzo also said the matriculation of their top pitching prospects, led by Alex Meyer, would not inhibit them from signing a starter to a multiple-year deal. Essentially, Rizzo will not limit the scope of his search for a fifth starter in a free agent market that includes Zack Greinke, the former Cy Young winner whom the Nationals nearly traded for in December 2010.
“It would depend on the price, of course,” Rizzo said. “But we’re not in the market for a quote-unquote fifth starter. We want to get as good of a starting pitcher as we possibly can. He may pitch fifth in our rotation, but we don’t necessarily want a No. 5-quality starter.”