Starting to look at a couple more starters

As I mentioned yesterday, the Nationals did not issue a qualifying offer to either of their two free agents this offseason - Dan Haren or Chad Tracy.

Again, no surprise there.

Nine major league teams did issue qualifying offers to a total of 13 free agents yesterday, however, meaning we will see a bunch of guys hit the free agent market with their value being affected by the draft pick compensation that is now attached to them.

The Red Sox and Yankees both issued three qualifying offers, and could end up with a nice little bundle of picks should their free agents choose to sign elsewhere.

Here is the list of players who were issued qualifying offers yesterday:

SP Hiroki Kuroda (Yankees)
SP Ubaldo Jimenez (Indians)
SP Ervin Santana (Royals)
C Brian McCann (Braves)
1B Kendrys Morales (Mariners)
1B Mike Napoli (Red Sox)
2B Robinson Cano (Yankees)
SS Stephen Drew (Red Sox)
OF Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox)
OF Carlos Beltran (Cardinals)
OF Nelson Cruz (Rangers)
OF Shin-Soo Choo (Reds)
OF Curtis Granderson (Yankees)

These 13 players now have until Nov. 11 to accept or reject the qualifying offer of $14.1 million for the 2014 season, but can still negotiate a new deal with their previous team even if they reject the qualifying offer.

Of the starting pitchers who didn’t receive offers yesterday, two stand out to me as guys who could interest the Nationals - Tim Hudson and Josh Johnson.

The crop of free agent starters isn’t too strong this season. So unless the Nats want to package some of their top trade chips to make a deal or spend big for a guy like Matt Garza, who would bring some risk on a long-term, big-money contract, they could be left looking at another one-year deal for a veteran starter.

That is, if they feel they need to bring in an outside arm at all. There seems to be a growing faction of the fan base (at least from what I’ve seen) that wants the Nats to stick with Ross Detwiler as the No. 4 starter and either Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan or Ross Ohlendorf as the No. 5 guy.

The last two seasons, the Nats have signed a veteran, free agent right-hander to supplement their in-house options, and if they choose to do so again, Hudson and Johnson could be interesting targets.

The Nats obviously know Hudson well, and signing him would probably fall under the “if you can’t beat him, sign him” logic. The 38-year-old righty has dominated the Nats in his career, going 16-5 with a 2.45 ERA in 29 starts, and he’s had a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the last seven seasons.

That ERA has risen each of the last four years, however, and in those campaigns, his innings have dropped from 228 2/3 in 2010, to 215 in 2011, to 179 in 2012, to 131 1/3 in 2013. This year, Hudson fractured his ankle in late July when covering first base on a ground ball, ending his season.

Hudson is one of the older starters on the free agent market, but he seems to still have a good bit left in the tank, and luring him away from the Braves would not only bolster the Nats rotation, but weaken a top division rival.

Johnson, meanwhile, would be an even bigger risk, largely because of how many injuries he’s dealt with in recent years. This season, he landed on the DL with triceps tightness in April, was knocked out for the season with a forearm injury in August and then underwent arthroscopic surgery on his elbow to remove loose bodies and a bone spur in October.

Yeah, and that’s just this season alone.

But despite the lengthy list of ailments, there’s no doubting Johnson’s ability. From 2009-10, he went 26-11 with a 2.80 ERA, 377 strikeouts and 106 walks in 392 2/3 innings, and he worked 191 1/3 innings while with the Marlins in 2012. He’s looking for a one-year deal this offseason, hoping to improve his stock and cash in with a multi-year deal next year around this time.

Both Hudson and Johnson are flawed, but so are pretty much all of the free agent starters available this offseason. Neither the Edwin Jackson signing nor the Haren deal worked out all that well for the Nats the last two seasons, but if they want to add a starter to the back of their rotation this winter, another one-year deal for a veteran could be what they’re looking at.

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