DALLAS — The biggest development for the Nationals on Wednesday in Dallas was the top free agent who went to another team. Well, not just any other team, the Miami Marlins — the same place every top free agent has gone this winter thus far.
It was no doubt a blow to the Nationals, who had Buehrle in their crosshairs all offseason, made him their top priority and felt good about their chances. Still, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was frank and relatively upbeat when discussing what had transpired over the afternoon.
“We’re good,” he said. “We’re going to move on to Plan B and see if we can help ourselves.”
So what exactly is ‘Plan B’?
Well, loosely defined, Rizzo said Plan B involves the free agent market, the trade market and the international market. Seems like they’re keeping their options open, no?
In all seriousness, the next logical stop for them will be Roy Oswalt — who is represented by the same agent as C.J. Wilson — and is considered the “back-up” plan for a number of teams interested in both Buehrle and Wilson who miss out on either. Oswalt is right-handed, older than the other two and coming off a year in which he dealt with a significant back injury.
The Nationals will explore that option, especially given Oswalt’s experience and the leadership he could bring in the clubhouse, but one line of thinking is that if they were only willing to go three years to Buehrle (a pitcher with little injury history to speak of and one two years younger) you’d be hard-pressed to see them give three years to Oswalt.
The rest of the free agent market is thin after the top tier guys are gone which could push the Nationals more toward a trade option.
Before we begin to really delve into this, it’s important to remember that teams discuss possible trades all the time — and especially here. General managers call one another, ask which players they could get for which players, etc., etc.
That being said, the Nationals are among a number of teams who’ve checked in with the Athletics about 26-year-old left Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez has been a 200-plus inning guy for the A’s the last two years, both years with an ERA under 3.25 and he was an All-Star this past season. He’s also young, controllable for another four years and extremely talented. The price is high.
“We have spoken to Oakland,” Rizzo said. “Gio he fits what we’re looking for. He’s a young, controllable, talented starting pitcher that’s got a proven track record. But with that said those guys come at a cost so we have to balance what the cost is and what the gain is to the club in the long term.”
Rizzo said the team has a number of “lines in the water” when it comes to trades and while nothing appeared imminent Wednesday afternoon, the lines of communication had been opened on several fronts.
Their search could also take them to the international market where they’ll find Yu Darvish, if he indeed does post, as well as soft-tossing lefty Tsuyoshi Wada. Wada’s name has come up in the Nationals meetings this week and they’ve scouted him. One Nationals scout explained him to me as an even-softer-tossing Tommy Milone, so it doesn’t appear he’d fit the bill for the Nationals with regard to a “front line starter,” but he could be a good compliment.
And then there’s the in-house options. Ross Detwiler, Milone, Brad Peacock and maybe even Tom Gorzelanny, though he appears bound for the bullpen if not non-tendered next week. The Nationals know what they had last year in those guys, but they don’t know for sure if any of them (particularly Detwiler, Milone or Peacock) will seize an opportunity and prove their worth in the major leagues. Detwiler began to do that at the end of the season with some dazzling starts and Milone and Peacock weren’t far behind.
The general feeling Rizzo gave off in a brief chat with reporters this evening, though, is that the Nationals plans for progress have not been derailed completely by one free agent (who most see as a No. 3 starter) choosing to go to another team.