In late September, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo let the D.C. press corps know just what the Washington Nationals were after this winter, a starting pitcher and an outfielder, preferably a center fielder with a high-OBP leadoff guy skill set. In the first week of November, the Nats' general manager further defined the sort of pitcher he's after, describing the hypothetical addition to the rotation as a, "... good leader type of guy that's thrown a lot of innings. That has shown that he can win in the big leagues and [can] really lead our staff, not just by having the best stuff on the staff but by showing how to be a professional and how to be a winner and how to pitch 200 innings in a season many, many times in your career." Mark Buehrle's name came to mind for just about everyone who heard that description...
Reports surfaced on November 21st that the Nats were traveling to the soon-to-be-former White Sox' left-hander's St. Louis home. Buehrle, the 32-year-old, 12-year veteran was referred to at the time as the Nationals' "top target." In a Washington Post article entitled, "Nationals visiting Mark Buehrle, their top free agent target, at his home", WaPost writer Adam Kilgore reported that the Nats' GM and other team officials were traveling to Missouri to meet with the pitcher and his representatives a week after Rizzo had spoken to the agent for both former Rangers' lefty C.J. Wilson and former Phillies' right-hander Roy Oswalt.
"Wilson is widely regarded as the best free agent pitcher available," the Washington Post writer wrote, "but it appears the Nationals prefer Buehrle or Oswalt over Wilson." In the first week of November, articles linking the Nats to Oswalt, the 34-year-old former Astros' starter and NL East rival with the Phillies. "The Nationals plan a major push for free-agent right-hander Roy Oswalt," FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote in an article entitled, "Notebook: Oswalt looking good; Pap, too."
"Buehrle is a 200.0-inning machine, controls the running game, works fast, I think he'd be a good role model for our pitchers," the Nationals' general manager told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern in a November 9th MLB Network Radio interview, "As Oswalt would be,' Rizzo continued, describing the righty as, "... a fiery competitive guy who comes right at you, and both work hard. C.J. Wilson has had the taste of postseason now for a couple of years, and has really emerged since coming from the bullpen."
This morning it was the 31-year-old Wilson's turn as the Nats' top target. "Hearing the Nationals are going to push for C.J. Wilson. they want a lefty, and apparently that's their top target," SI.com's Jon Heyman (@SI_JonHeyman) reported on the Twitter. The SI.com writer put the Nats on a list of teams with interest in Wilson in late October in an article entitled, "Updates on Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson." New York Post writer Joel Sherman too identified Washington as one of the teams interest in Wilson at the time.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal in an article entitled, "Marlins pursuit of Buehrle hits snag", wrote this afternoon that Miami's reluctance to give Buehrle a no-trade clause was the, "... biggest obstacle to Mark Buehrle joining the Marlins," who might instead, "intensify the club’s pursuit of C.J. Wilson." According to the bow-tied FOXSports.com reporter, the Fish, Rangers and Angels were "most prominently in the mix" for Wilson, and, "The Nationals also are pursuing both Wilson and Buerhle."
The Nationals scouted C.J. Wilson as MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported in late September, but as the Hot Stove's approached, he seemed to fall to third behind Buehrle and Oswalt on the Nats' wish list. Wilson's name didn't even come up in Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell's winter meeting preview entitled, "At baseball winter meetings, Nationals’ Mike Rizzo is usually predictably unpredictable", but the WaPost writer did predict that whoever the Nats' top targets are, "... we’ll probably find out in a hurry."
The Winter Meetings start Monday. Is C.J. Wilson the Nats' top target? Rizzo hedging his bets with Buehrle in case Wilson's asking price is driven up beyond what they're willing to pay? Is Roy Oswalt the target? Yu Darvish? The Nats have been tied to them all. Is Rizzo playing the agents, are the agents using the Nats to drive up the price other teams will have to pay? Does D.C. GM Mike Rizzo get the pitcher he's been looking for this year after failing to acquire an ace last winter?