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Washington Nationals' Starter Search: Cliff Lee, Matt Garza And Zack Greinke, Nats May Come Up Empty.

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In spite of all the talk of the Chicago Cubs pursuing a deal with Tampa Bay that would send 27-year-old right-hander Matt Garza to Wrigley, St. Petersburg Times' writer Marc Tompkin writes in an article which will go into print on Sunday entitled, "Tampa Bay Rays still confident, aren't changing approach as AL East rivals hand out big-money contracts", that any, "Talk of dealing Matt Garza to the Cubs, or any of the starters, has thus far been overblown, with a deal unlikely," which is fortunate/unfortunate for the Nationals, who avoid losing another player they've pursued to Chicago, but also lose the chance of acquiring a player they've been linked to for months by rumors of interest if the Rays have no intention of dealing Garza.

Talk of the Nats' interest in the '05 Twins' 1st Round pick first surfaced back in late July when Washington was reportedly shopping Adam Dunn around the league and the Rays were looking for a slugger. As CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler wrote at the time, however, in an article entitled, "Dunn may well be dealt, but not for Garza", the Nats were asking for a lot in return and their timing couldn't have been worse:

"...the price Nats GM Mike Rizzo is asking for Dunn right now is ridiculously high. Rizzo has been telling teams that to trade Dunn, he would need to get a young starting pitcher who is either major-league ready or close to it.

"How ready? Well, according to a source familiar with the talks, last week the Nationals asked the Rays for Matt Garza.

"Obviously, that wasn't happening, even before Garza threw the first no-hitter in Rays history on Monday night against the Tigers."

The fact that the Nats happened to ask in the same week that Garza had thrown the first no-hitter in Tampa Bay Rays' history was purely a matter of coincidence and while it may have seemed a steep price in hindsight then, (ed. note - "Though I have no problem with that deal, you? As a WaPost writer I'm about to mention says, it would negate the need for the current starter search), recent reports (by Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell in his latest chat), have the D.C. GM working out a trade with the White Sox before the 2010 Non-Waiver Deadline (which the Nats' brass nixed) that would have sent Adam Dunn to Chicago in return for right-hander Edwin Jackson (who'd been acquired from Arizona by Chicago days earlier), another (may-have-just reached-his-peak) 27-year-old right-hander who also happened to throw the first no-hitter of his career this season before the D-Backs dealt him, though it wasn't the first no-no in Arizona's franchise history.

Now, of course, the White Sox have Jackson and Dunn, so not making the deal worked out for them, while the Nationals are still looking for another starter that will push the rest of the Nats' arms back a spot in the rotation, where they'd likely be if Stephen Strasburg's elbow hadn't given out on that change he threw to Phillies' outfielder Domonic Brown last August. Jordan Zimmermann as a no.2 behind an ace like Strasburg was likely the plan, but Zimmermann's essentially restarting his career after an impressive rookie campaign which ended when the then-23-now-24-year-old suffered the same injury as Strasburg.

In a more recent article, this one entitled, "When Lee signs, Greinke will go", CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler, is one of a few writers recently who've mentioned that the Nationals are one of the teams "aggressively" pursuing Kansas City Royals' ace Zack Greinke, whose own fate has been tied to that of Cliff Lee's since the 27-year-old Greinke is considered by some a consolation prize for whichever team fails to sign Lee this winter, whether it be the Rangers or the Yankees or some mystery team that's also gone in with a seven-year offer*. (ed. note - "AOL/Fanhouse's Ed Price (@ed_price) wrote on Friday that the Nats' pursuit of Greinke was aggressive, and he also wrote today that Garza was likely headed to Chicago according to a source. Who to believe?")

ESPN.com's Buster Olney, on Twitter (@Buster_ESPN) once again provided proof (or at least sourced-evidence if not proof), however, that the price for Greinke is going to be (Zimmermann&Desmond-) steep, with the Royals expecting a lot in return for their 27-year-old one-time Cy Young winner. "Heard this," Mr. Olney writes, "The Blue Jays are not close on a Zack Greinke deal, and have no intention of giving up Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider for him." Drabek, a recently-turned-23-year-old right-hander, was an '06 1st Round pick by the Phillies, ranked as Baseball America's 25th best prospect in baseball last winter, who was part of the package that brought Roy Halladay to Philly in the trade with Toronto. Snider's a 23-year-old '06 1st Round pick by the Blue Jays, who's seen time in the Majors, posting a .255/.318/.463 slash line with 40 doubles and 25 HR's in 183 games over 3 seasons in Toronto as he's put up a .302/.376/.543 line over 5 seasons in the Jays' system.

Which Nats' prospects match up with what the Royals have (by inference) asked for? The search for a starter might not produce the pitcher the Nats had hoped for earlier this winter. The Nats are reportedly still interested in Carl Pavano though some are wondering why, and the Nationals are reportedly out of the race for Cliff Lee, though one lone writer, Washington Examiner writer Jim Williams* (@wordmandc) (who hasn't pulled back from his assertion that the Nationals were willing to go seven years) still had the Nats in the mix for Lee as of yesterday...Ahhh...Hot Stove.