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Nationals Rumors: Nats expressed interest in White Sox’ Chris Sale... due diligence or more?

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USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale reported on Monday that the Washington Nationals are the latest team to inquire as to the availability Chicago White Sox’ lefty Chris Sale.

Washington Nationals v Chicago White Sox Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With starters on the roster including NL Cy Young Award finalist Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Joe Ross and Gio Gonzalez, and starting depth that includes Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole and Austin Voth, GM Mike Rizzo told reporters including Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo at the GM Meetings last week, that he was happy with the available options the Washington Nationals have, though he said that as always, you “... never stop looking for starting pitching.”

“We feel fortunate in the depth we have in pitching at the big league level and prospect wise,” Rizzo said, as quoted in the WaPost, adding that other teams he discusses pitching with say that they would love to have the Nats’ options.

He went on to say that there is never enough pitching, and the Nationals are “... always on the hunt for that.”

That hunt, apparently, includes checking in on Chicago White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale, if this report from Monday afternoon is accurate:

As USA Today’s Bob Nightengale notes, the Nationals are just the latest team to inquire as to Sale’s availability, though he added that the White Sox have reportedly had, “... no serious talks with anyone yet.”

Fanrag’s Jon Heyman wrote on Monday that the, “White Sox listened to offers at the July trade deadline... but rival teams seem to believe there is a greater likelihood than ever that Sale will be dealt this winter.”

White Sox’ GM Rick Hahn is not saying that Sale is available, but Chicago is reportedly gauging interest in the left-hander again, after entertaining offers last summer.

Sale went (17-10) in 32 starts last season with a 3.34 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 45 walks (1.79 BB/9) and 233 Ks (9.25 K/9) in 226 23 IP, over which he was worth 5.2 fWAR. He’s owed $12M in 2017 and the 5-year/$32.5M extension he signed in 2013 includes club options for $12.5M in 2018 and $13.5M in 2019 (or a $1M buyout in each instance).

"We have a pretty firm sense internally about what we want to accomplish,'' Hahn told reporters last week, as quoted by ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.

"But I've been saying this for months back in Chicago: There's just not any advantage to us to declare publicly exactly what we're trying to accomplish.

"Once we start making deals, we'll explain precisely the rationale behind them. Are we looking to add and compete right now, or are we looking for a more long-term benefit? The last few years, we've taken a shorter-term, stopgap type of approach, and obviously that hasn't borne fruit.''

Heyman reported yesterday that the Atlanta Braves are the latest team to check in on the White Sox’ left-hander and they have, “joined the Chris Sale derby in a big way and are among the teams trying hardest to land one of baseball’s best pitchers.”

LA’s Dodgers have reportedly checked in as well, and as Heyman notes, “[j]ust about any team interested in contending presumably would have some interest.”

Are the Nationals and Rizzo just doing their due diligence?

With Strasburg’s injury issues this past season, Ross a question mark (after he missed significant time with right shoulder inflammation), and the up-and-down nature of Gio Gonzalez’s last few seasons, does the idea adding top-end pitching to the rotation this winter make sense for the Nationals?

FWIW: In discussing the Boston Red Sox’ attempts to land Sale last summer, Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo wrote this weekend that in talking to White Sox’ “scouting personnel” he’d heard that Chicago has, “... always coveted Jackie Bradley Jr., and they would also have to get an elite prospect back such as Yoan Moncada and/or Rafael Devers.” What would be an equivalent package from the Nationals’ system?