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Washington Nationals Rumors: Conflicting reports on Nats’ interest in Jose Quintana

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Are the Nationals looking to add starting pitching, or was the pursuit of Chris Sale about a unique opportunity to add a talented starter?

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. - Asked after the Washington Nationals fell short in their bid to acquire Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox, if the attempt was about Sale being a unique, available talent or a need to add starting pitching, General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that it was more about Sale than anything else.

“Chris Sale is a player that improves any club,” he said. “So it was more about the player that was available more than a position of need.”

According to a Washington Post report by Barry Svrluga late last night, the Nats were interested enough in Sale to offer the Sox three top prospects: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Victor Robles.

Rizzo said the discussions with the White Sox had been going on for several weeks and picked up as the Winter Meetings began at the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland this week.

Chicago is reportedly willing to deal a number of players this winter, so, a reporter wondered, was there anyone else on the White Sox’ roster that interested Rizzo?

“They’ve got some players of interest to a lot of teams,” Rizzo said, before repeating a version of his Winter Meetings mantra.

“There are a lot of different avenues we can go and we’re going to continue to look.”

After missing out on their bid to acquire Sale, Rizzo said, the plan was to move on to their next targets.

“We pivot and we start working on the next deal,” he explained. “We’ve got plans A, B and C in place and when that door shuts, another door opens.”

Late last night, reports suggested that another door might be opening to trade for a different White Sox’ starter, Jose Quintana:

That talk of interest in Chicago’s southpaw continued this morning:

While some of the national baseball writers were hearing the Nationals were, in fact, interested in Quintana, Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes wrote on Twitter that the Nationals weren’t “actively pursuing” the lefty:

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal wrote early this morning that he was hearing the same as the WaPost reporter:

“Sale was the only starting pitcher the Nationals wanted, sources said — they are not interested in acquiring the [White Sox’] lesser prize, left-hander Jose Quintana, or any other starter.”

Quintana, 27, is coming off a (13-12) season in 2016, in which he put up a 3.20 ERA, a 3.56 FIP, 50 walks (2.16 BB/9) and 181 Ks (7.83 K/9) in 208 IP. He held opposing hitters to a combined .245/.295/.393 line and finished the year at 4.8 fWAR.

He’s also under contract through 2018 (at $6M in 2017 and $8.35M in 2018) with club options for 2019 ($10.5M or a $1M buyout) and 2020 ($10.5M or a $1M buyout).

As Craig Edwards wrote at Fangraphs this morning, the price for Quintana, like the price for Sale, should be sky high:

“[T]hat Victor Robles/Lucas Giolito package that was thought to be the Nationals initial push for Sale? That’s not an unreasonable ask for Quintana.”

Will Rizzo look to add pitchers not named Sale to the Nationals’ rotation at that high a price?

At least one other report out there says they have expressed interest in the Tampa Bay Rays’ Chris Archer as well: