(Jim Prisching/AP)

The Nationals identified Buehrle as their top free agent target at the start of the winter, and during the week leading up Thanksgiving a contingent of Nationals officials, led by General Manager Mike Rizzo, visited him at his home in St. Louis.

Buehrle precisely fits the profile of the kind of starting pitcher the Nationals want to add, a veteran with a consistent, durable track record. Buehrle, 32, has thrown at least 200 innings in all 11 of his major league seasons. Despite his experience, he’s only one year older than C.J. Wilson, who is regarded as the best free agent starter available. (The Nationals, though, are not vying to sign him.)

If the Nationals miss out on Buehrle, they would move to sign Roy Oswalt, a free agent right-hander. Rizzo said yesterday he would also consider searching for a starting pitcher via trade. The Nationals have ample depth in their rotation, but adding Buehrle and pairing him with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann would give the Nationals one of the most formidable rotations in the league.

Buehrle wants a no-trade clause included in his contract. Rizzo is loathe to give them out, but he said yesterday he would be open to offering one for the “right fit.” For the Nationals, Buehrle would be that right fit.