Asked about the optimism in the nation's capital for what's going to happen in 2012 in a recent interview with CSNWashington.com's Ivan Carter, Ryan Zimmerman pointed to the fact that for the first time the Nats knew who'd fill most positions next season as one reason he's optimistic. "It's the first offseason, where I think going into Spring Training next year we might have one or two positions up for grabs. Usually it's nine or ten." One position everyone from D.C. GM Mike Rizzo to Brewers' outfielder Nyjer Morgan has acknowledged the Nationals are looking to address is their lack of a prototypical leadoff man/center fielder who can provide plus defense in center and get on base, the other is the same top-of-the-rotation starter the Nats have been trying to add for two years.
In a season-ending interview with the D.C. press corps, the Nats' general manager told reporters, as quoted in Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore's article entitled, "Nationals, Mike Rizzo want to acquire outfielder, starting pitching this offseason", that the Nationals think they're close to competing with baseball's best. "I think we’re an outfield bat away and a starting pitcher away from really being a contender in the division,'" Rizzo said.
"'We’ve talked a lot about the need for a high on-base percentage top of the order bat,'" the general manager continued, "'either to fill in one of our outfield positions, either center field or a corner outfielder if you move [Jayson] Werth to center field. We’ve made that perfectly clear that that’s one of our needs.'"
While Rizzo was reiterating the fact that the Nationals were happy with what they had at first (Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse), more interested in an outfielder and unlikely to make as big a splash with an addition as they did last winter in an interview with CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman, ESPN the Magazine's Buster Olney was speculating that the Nationals were the favorites to land two of the big names available as free agents this winter, the Milwaukee Brewers' first baseman Prince Fielder and Texas Rangers' free agent lefty C.J. Wilson, citing the Nationals' connection to Scott Boras in Fielder's case and the desire to add depth to their rotation in the case of Wilson who could, "... take some pressure off young studs Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann."
The Texas Rangers have options if they do lose C.J. Wilson as CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler wrote recently in an article entitled, "Will Rangers weaken bullpen to put Ogando, Feliz in rotation?", and they don't think they'll be able to keep the soon-to-be-31-year-old starter. "'He wants $100 million, and he's not getting that from us,'" a 'person' with the Rangers tells the CBS Sports' reporter. Should Texas lose the Wilson, an '01 5th Round pick who came up through the system, the Rangers could move Neftali Feliz into the rotation or they could pursue potentially available Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish. Texas' interest in the right-hander is well-documented.
New York Post writer Joel Sherman placed the Rangers atop a list of teams interested in pursuing the 25-year-old Darvish, who is not officially available for MLB teams to pursue. "If I had to list Darvish faves in order," Mr. Sherman wrote on the Twitter (@JoelSherman1), "#Yankees not in top 5: #Rangers, #Bluejays, #Nationals, #Mariners #Royals." If the teams who are expected to get involved in the posting process do, speculation is that Darvish too could cost close to $100 million dollars including the posting fee. Will the Nationals spend $100M dollars on either pitcher in their attempts to add a starter to the top of their rotation?
The Nationals were reportedly willing to give Zack Greinke a 5-year/$90 million dollar extension last winter (though Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell commented recently about what exactly the Nationals were willing to give up to the Royals in the trade that never happened.) Wilson's got two strong seasons as a starter on his resume, one of them in a contract year. Darvish comes with all the usual questions that accompany international pitchers who've yet to test themselves against major league hitters. Will the Nats find the front-end starter they want?