Looking at the rotation and the available starters on the market

When it comes to the back of their rotation, the Nationals have options.

They could tender John Lannan a contract and go into spring training thinking he’ll take the No. 5 spot in their rotation. They could re-sign Edwin Jackson to a multi-year deal and go forward with him as one of their top five guys.

They could also dip into the free agent market and bring someone in to round out what sets up as one of baseball’s top starting staffs with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler already on board.

In reality, the Nationals might end up signing at least one outside free agent regardless of what happens with Lannan and Jackson. You can never have enough starting pitching, and while the Nats got lucky this season and never saw one of the five guys in their opening day rotation land on the disabled list, that won’t happen every season.

Lannan made $5 million this season and will likely earn a raise in arbitration if the Nationals choose to go down that road with him. Jackson will definitely ask for a multi-year deal, one which should give him over $10 million per season.

If the Nationals choose to turn to free agency to fill out their rotation, below is a list of the guys that they will be picking through, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. This is a list of potential free agent starters, with an asterisk next to a player’s name indicating he has an option for the 2013 season.

Scott Baker, MIN *
Erik Bedard, PIT
Joe Blanton, LAD
Bartolo Colon, OAK
Aaron Cook, BOS
Kevin Correia, PIT
Jorge De La Rosa, COL *
Ryan Dempster, TEX
R.A. Dickey, NYM *
Scott Feldman, TEX *
Gavin Floyd, CWS *
Jeff Francis, COL
Freddy Garcia, NYY
Zack Greinke, LAA
Jeremy Guthrie, KC
Rich Harden, OAK
Dan Haren, LAA *
Roberto Hernandez, CLE*
Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA
Edwin Jackson, WAS
Hiroki Kuroda, NYY
Colby Lewis, TEX
Francisco Liriano, CWS
Kyle Lohse, STL
Derek Lowe, NYY
Paul Maholm, ATL *
Shaun Marcum, MIL
Jason Marquis, SD
Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS
Brandon McCarthy, OAK
Kevin Millwood, SEA
Roy Oswalt, TEX
Carl Pavano, MIN
Jake Peavy, CWS *
Anibal Sanchez, DET
Jonathan Sanchez, COL
Ervin Santana, LAA *
Joe Saunders, BAL
James Shields, TB *
Carlos Villanueva, TOR
Chien-Ming Wang, WAS
Kip Wells, SD
Randy Wolf, BAL
Chris Young, NYM
Carlos Zambrano, MIA

I think it’s safe to say we can say goodbye to Chien-Ming Wang. He’s likely seen his last of a Nationals jersey.

There are a few intriguing options in that list, but not many. Lohse will command big money, as will Greinke. Kuroda appears likely to re-up with the Yankees. Baseball Prospectus doesn’t have Shields as a guy who has an option for 2013, but he does actually hold one, and if the Rays pick it up, one of the more attractive names on the free agent market will disappear.

The key here is that the Nationals won’t need to splurge on a big-name free agent starter. They can if they want to, but they have an incredibly strong top four already, and could just add a couple guys to compete for that No. 5 job.

Lannan could be in the mix, or he could be non-tendered. Jackson probably will look for big money elsewhere. That No. 5 spot is still open, and the Nats have plenty of options when deciding how to fill it.

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