Dusty Baker pointed to the Washington Nationals' pitching as a strength when asked to assess the roster in his press conference at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday afternoon in Nashville, TN.
"What do you like most about the roster as it stands right now?" a reporter asked.
"Probably the pitching," Baker said, of the starting staff he's inheriting, which features Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and as of this moment, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross.
That's where it starts," the veteran skipper continued. "It starts with the pitching. We just have to -- I think we've got to get some guys hopefully have better fortune with injuries than we've had the last couple of years, and some of that's luck, and some of that's hopefully we can start training them early or training them differently in order to stay healthy because, let's face it, if I can keep my front line guys on the field more than yours, there's a good chance of our team winning."
The addition of Scherzer to an already-strong mix of starters last winter was a surprise, but after both Strasburg and Doug Fister (now a free agent) dealt with injuries in 2015, it wasn't too surprising that when Nats' GM Mike Rizzo was asked about potential rotation addition at the Winter Meetings this week, he left open the possibility of adding another arm.
"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."
Reports this morning, including one by FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, said the Nationals were "making a push" for free agent right-hander Mike Leake, 28, who pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants in 2015, going (11-10) with a 3.70 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 49 walks (2.30 BB/9) and 119 Ks (5.58 K/9) in 192 innings.
Early this afternoon, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, among others, reported that the Nationals had, in fact, made an offer and were pushing for a deal with the '09 1st Round pick, who was ineligible for a qualifying offer at the end of this season since he was traded before he became a free agent following his six major league campaign.
When he met with reporters this afternoon, Rizzo confirmed the offer, according to tweeted reports from those on the scene at the Opryland Resort and Convention Center:
Mike Rizzo confirms offer to Mike Leake.— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) December 9, 2015
Mike Rizzo said Nats have an offer to Mike Leake, but added they do for other players, too. Insisted team's interest in starters is tepid.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) December 9, 2015
ESPN.com's Buster Olney reported that the Nationals and Leake, who pitched for Baker when both were with the Reds from 2010-2013, were making progress:
Sources: Nationals have made progress in their talks with Mike Leake.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 9, 2015