For starters, Nats will keep their options open

When you survey the Nationals' roster, you see only four starting pitchers locked in for the 2013 season: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler.

These four starters all put up strong 2012 campaigns and could easily end up being slotted one through four in the Nationals' rotation next season.

The current state of the Nats' starting staff has led many observers to assume that they'll end up signing another starting pitcher, but one that will be tucked at the back of the rotation. Given how strong a foursome the Nationals already have on board, many - including myself - believe that they won't go out and throw big money at one of the top starters on the market this offseason.

But that might not necessarily be the case.

Nats general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters at the GM meetings yesterday that the team will not limit its search for another starter, and will consider all options available.

Essentially, while the Nats need to find a fifth starter to fill out their rotation, it doesn't necessarily have to be a guy with No. 5 starter-type stuff.

This comment is significant largely because the top starter available on the market is one the Nats have previous ties to. Zach Greinke nearly became a National in the winter of 2010 before Greinke brought the would-be monster trade with the Royals crumbling down by declining a contract extension which would have eclipsed the $100 million mark.

The Nats clearly like what Greinke brings to the table, and since that near trade fell apart, the 29-year-old righty has continued to put up impressive numbers and prove that he's a true top-of-the-rotation type of guy.

This last season, Greinke went 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings. Imagine adding a guy like him to a rotation which already includes four rising talents under the age of 28.

Of course, Greinke will cost, and he'll cost big. Like possibly around $130-150 million big. No one is saying the Nationals will definitely be willing to drop that kind of money this offseason, but given their history with Greinke and their desire to take another step forward this season, it's not out of the question, especially if the market for Greinke doesn't develop the way many expect it will.

Outside of Greinke, there are other attractive options on the free agent market the Nats could target if they decide they want to go big when it comes to filling out their rotation.

The Nats know full well how good Anibal Sanchez can be (he's 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA in his career against Washington). Kyle Lohse is coming off a career year in which he won 16 games and posted a WHIP under 1.10. Ryan Dempster is 35, but can still pitch at a high level. Brandon McCarthy has put up two straight seasons with an ERA less than 3.35.

I still feel like the Nats are more likely to sign a guy like Dempster or McCarthy than a guy like Greinke or Lohse, but the Nationals apparently will consider all options on the table this offseason.

That should make things interesting as the hot stove really kicks into action.

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