Jonathan Newton/WP

Aside from Adam LaRoche, the Nationals top priority right now, even over plugging the final hole in their bullpen, may be signing starting pitching depth. After a season in which they suffered no involuntary attrition in their rotation, the Nationals want to build a stable of pitchers who can step if they aren’t so lucky this season.

But it will not be easy. The type of starters looking for minor league contracts gravitate toward teams that have weak rotation of possible spots open in the back end. With Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren, the Nationals’ rotation is set in stone if everyone stays healthy.

“The challenging thing with the major league rotation we have is recruiting guys who know they’re probably going to end up in AAA, barring an injury,” Nationals Minniti said. “I don’t know if we’ll sign those guys any time soon, but we’ve had negotiations and conversations with guys for the last two months. We’ll continue to try to sign guys to be depth for us. They’re critical guys.”

To combat the challenge, the Nationals are casting a wide net. They’ve reached out to more than a dozen starters, one team official said. They plan to offer out clauses that would allow a pitcher to become a free agent if not in the majors by a certain date.

I couldn’t pry any names that the Nationals are trying to focus in on. But here’s a list of free agent starters who are either likely to receive a minor league deal or are borderline to get a big league deal:

Erik Bedard (34)
Dallas Braden (29)
Aaron Cook (34)
Freddy Garcia (37)
Rich Harden (31)
Jair Jurrjens (27)
Derek Lowe (40)
Kevin Millwood (38)
Dustin Moseley (31)
Carl Pavano (37)
Jonathan Sanchez (30)
Carlos Villanueva (29)
Chien-Ming Wang (33)
Kip Wells (36)
Chris Young (34)