(Patrick Smith/GETTY IMAGES)

The Nationals, though, are now free to wade into the pool and see if there’s anything they like. For a team looking for a starter and bench help, there are a few options worth at least considering. Without knowing if the Nationals are interested in these players, here are three names that make sense for them to check out:

Joe Saunders was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks. He’s by no means Mark Buehrle – Saunders has a 97 ERA+ over and a 1.66 K/BB rate over the past three years, while Buehrle’s numbers are 113 and 2.25. But Saunders, an alum of West Springfield and Virginia Tech, fits the veteran, innings-eating profile Mike Rizzo is looking for, having thrown more than 200 innings two straight seasons. He made $5.5 million last year, so you’re looking at a lefty who will make far more than John Lannan for about the same production.

Brooks Conrad was non-tendered by the Braves, and he fits what the Nationals are looking for on their bench. He’s a switch-hitter who can play every infield position except shortstop. He could provide a power threat off the bench, having hit one home run every 23.7 at-bats in his career. That he’s never played outfield is a drawback. But he understands his role and has experience as a pinch-hitter, going 27 for 138 with seven homers in his career.

Ryan Spilborghs was non-tendered by the Rockies. He had a dreadful 2011 season, but he can play all three outfield spots and has hit .305/.411/.425 in his career as a pinch-hitter over 209 plate appearances. He would be useful as a late-inning defensive replacement. His lack of power is a concern given Manager Davey Johnson’s preference. Spilborghs has hit 42 homers in 1,561 at-bats despite playing his whole career at Coors Field.


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