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MLB Winter Meetings 2017: Washington Nationals expressing interest in Jake Arrieta?

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As previously reported, the Washington Nationals are at least interested in free agent starter Jake Arrieta, though given the history with Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, this talk was inevitable...

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MLB: NLDS-Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Multiple reports this morning have the Washington Nationals at least expressing some interest in free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta, who would give the defending NL East champs a stacked rotation if he joined Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark in the nation’s capital.

Over at The Athletic last week, bow-tied reporter Ken Rosenthal wrote that sources told him the Nationals were “kicking around the idea,” of pursuing Arrieta, who is, of course, a Scott Boras client, which meant speculation tying him to the Nationals was inevitable given the history of deals between Boras’ clients and the Nats.

The Nationals are considering the possibility, Rosenthal wrote, “... knowing [Erick] Fedde is not quite ready while [Gio] Gonzalez is a free agent after 2018 and [Tanner] Roark after ‘19.”

Late last night, at the end of the first day of the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that Boras was taking his pitch for Arrieta straight to the top, or the ownership level.

MLB: NLDS-Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

"Scott's big thing is to show these owners that it's good business to sign his players,'' an anonymous “baseball insider” said. "I think he's doing it more now because he had so much success with the Tigers and the Nationals.''

Boras, of course, reportedly pitched Max Scherzer to the Nats’ owners before the right-hander signed a 7-year/$210M deal with the Nationals in January of 2015, though GM Mike Rizzo, who oversaw the selection of Scherzer in the first round of the 2006 Draft while he was the scouting director in Arizona, had a long history with the righty.

Matt Wieters’ 2-year/$21M deal with the Nats last winter was also reportedly pitched to the Lerner family, with Rosenthal, then at FOXSports.com writing at the time that, “... [v]irtually everyone in the industry predicted that the Nats would be the landing spot for Wieters,” while noting that, “as so often happens with this team, agent Scott Boras’ relationship with ownership proved decisive.”

Arrieta, who will turn 32 in March, put up a 3.53 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 55 walks (2.94 BB/9), 163 Ks (8.71 K/9), and a .234/.305/.411 line against in 168 1⁄3 innings for the Chicago Cubs in 2017, with second-half numbers (2.28 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 2.69 BB/9, 8.19 K/9, .213/.280/.394 line against in 67 IP) that were an improvement over those he put up in a rough first half (4.35 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 3.11 BB/9, 9.06 K/9, .247/.320/.422 in 101 1⁄3 IP).

MLBTraderumors.com is predicting that Arrieta will look for a five or six-year deal and eventually settle for something like a 4-year/$100M contract.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman suggested a 5-year/$125M for Jake Arrieta in his own free agent predictions.

Will the Nationals once again strengthen a strength and add Arrieta to an already-strong starting rotation?

Rizzo talked about the Nationals’ pursuit of a fifth starter on Monday, when he met with reporters at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL, downplaying the idea that he was looking for high-end arms, while talking up in-house options and suggesting that the Nats were more interested in adding depth.

“We have great confidence in our in-house options,” Rizzo said. “A.J. Cole threw the ball extremely well his last seven starts last year. His stuff was good, it up-ticked at the end of the season, and of course we love Fedde. He’ll be healthy and have some major league time under his belt, so we feel good about where we’re at. So what we’ll be looking for is depth, just because it’s a very long season and very few seasons you go through with five starters, so we want to add to our depth.”

Will Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office (or the Nats’ owners) instead add an arm to the top of the rotation?

Here’s the Twitter chatter on the Nats and Arrieta from this morning: