With DC GM Mike Rizzo talking to the Nats beat reporters yesterday in a clubhouse interview I was not privy to about the Nationals' plans to pursue a starting pitcher on the free agent market or via trade this winter, with a top of the rotation arm in particular the target, some past reports and the Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman's comments from the pregame press conference seemed to take on some more significance. When Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore listed, "James Shields, Matt Garza and Zack Greinke," as pitchers that, "...could become available in a trade," in an article entitled, "Mike Rizzo makes a No. 1 starter the Nationals' offseason priority", after Mr. Rizzo's remarks, a report from this past July's trade deadline came to mind.
The Nats were said at the time to have asked the Tampa Bay Rays about acquiring the Rays' soon-to-be 27-year-old right-hander Matt Garza while discussing possible deals for Adam Dunn as the deadline approached, but unfortunately the timing of the reported requests came in the weeks before the former Minnesota Twins' '05 1st Round pick's July 26th no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers, which made the idea of Tampa Bay parting with Garza appear unlikely. More recently, Newsday.com's Ken Davidoff, in an article entitled, "Davidoff: Sneak-peak of the MLB offseason", quoted a "a person familiar with the [Royals'] thinking" who said that Kansas City's '02 1st Rounder Zack Grienke, who'll turn 27 this October, was a pitcher who could be available via trade if another team made a solid offer, and Mr. Davidoff wrote that, "Plenty of teams — the Yankees, Texas, Detroit, maybe even Washington — would be interested."
Less than an hour before the DC GM's remarks regarding the Nats' offseason plans, I'd asked the Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman if he thought a healthy Jason Marquis and Jordan Zimmermann along with the pitchers already expected to be in the rotation would be enough for the Nationals next year, after he'd said that, "to really take the next step and to add another 10 wins," to the Nats' improvements this season, the Nats would need to improve the starting pitching and Mr. Riggleman responded that the way John Lannan and Marquis pitched late this year was encouraging, but, "...if what we see from those guys is what we saw in April and May that's not going to work."
In a follow-up question Mr. Riggleman said that Stephen Strasburg getting hurt set the Nats' plans back as he was expected to be the no.1 starter now and in the future, so, in Mr. Riggleman's words, "we certainly need somebody at the top of the rotation...a guy that we think can go out there and win 14 or 15 ballgames, pitch 200.0, 220.0 innings," but he acknowledges that though, "Mike [Rizzo] talks about it all the time, and he's dedicated to try and do that, those guys just don't show up for you."
As for Jordan Zimmermann, Mr. Riggleman said, "I think he's been encouraging, I think his last outing was his best, looking forward to seeing his next one there in New York, but he's still a work in progress. He's got to go out there and show that he can handle it, 120-150.0 innings to start off with and build on that for the next year, but his stuff is certainly good enough, and when you're matching up against some of those [Tim] Hudsons, [Jair] Jurrjens and [Josh] Johnsons, [Roy] Halladays, [Tommy] Hamels, [Roy] Oswalt, you need somebody who's going to put some zeros on the board until maybe somebody pops one." Will that theoretical someone who "pops one" be Adam Dunn? That's a whole other story, for now let's focus on who the Nats could add as a top-of-the-rotation arm.