Asked on Monday night if the Washington Nationals were looking for starting pitching at the Winter Meetings, GM Mike Rizzo told reporters a rotation addition wasn't necessarily at the top of their list... but...
"We like the rotation that we have," Rizzo said. "We certainly like the five. We like seven or eight and we've got another wave coming soon thereafter, so we like the depth that we have in starting pitching.
"We're not coming here looking for a front-line starting pitcher, but when opportunities arise, you never know what we're going to do and whatever best fits our roster we're certainly going to look into."
Rizzo had said previously that he is comfortable slipping Joe Ross and Tanner Roark into the Nats' rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, but even then he added, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes, that, "with that said, you can never have enough good starting pitching."
So it probably shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the Nationals would be mentioned in connection to at least one starter while they're in Nashville's Opryland Resort and Convention Center this week for the Winter Meetings.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote within the last hour that the Nationals are making a push for free agent right-hander Mike Leake:
Sources: #Nationals making push for free-agent RHP Mike Leake. Other clubs also aggressive. Leake played for Dusty Baker with #Reds.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 9, 2015
Leake, 28, pitched for the Cincinnati Reds (who drafted him 8th overall in 2009) and the San Francisco Giants (who acquired him at the trade deadline) last season, going (11-10) in 30 starts with a 3.70 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 49 walks (2.30 BB/9) and 119 Ks (5.58 K/9) in 192 innings pitched, over which he was worth 1.7 fWAR.
Over six major league seasons since his debut in 2010, Leake has posted a 3.88 ERA, a 4.21 FIP, 2.28 BB/9, 6.06 K/9 and a .259/.313/.423 line against in 1,079 IP as a starter.
Of course, there's the potential for some awkwardness if the Nationals do actually sign the right-hander, since he and current Nats' starter Stephen Strasburg, the no.1 overall pick in '09, played together on a team as kids growing up in San Diego and Leake had some less-than-flattering things to say about their shared history when both were coming up in the majors.
Back in 2010, Leake told USA Today writer Bob Nightengale that as a kid, Strasburg, "... was overweight, pouty and used to cry."
"'He did a complete 180," Leake said, making things somewhat less insulting. "It's amazing how he changed.'"
He said then that he looked forward to facing off against Strasburg head-to-head:
"'It would have been pretty cool to face him,'" Leake said. "'It would be a nice little competition. That's all right. I'm sure we'll eventually meet up.'"
Washington Post writer Dave Sheinen reported in 2010 that Strasburg definitely saw Leake's comments, quoting Strasburg's SDSU teammate and catcher Erik Castro, who told the WaPost columnist that Strasburg too was looking forward to the opportunity to face Leake:
"'It really fired him up,' Castro said. 'I was the first person to talk to him about it. He got so fired up. He wants to pitch against [Leake]. He said some other things that aren't appropriate to put in a newspaper. But he definitely wants a piece of that kid.'"
I'm sure they'd get along fine now though, right? More info when/if it's available on the Nats' rumored pursuit of the free agent right-hander...