The market for starters might be starting to open up

Of all the free agent starting pitchers on the market this offseason, I felt that Tim Hudson was one of the guys who might have made the most sense for the Nationals if he had been available at a reasonable price.

Hudson knows the National League East well from having spent the last nine years with the Braves. He has a career 3.44 ERA, and outside of a fluke ankle injury this season, has been very durable over the course of his career. Hudson wasn’t looking for a long-term deal, meaning the Nats wouldn’t have needed to put another lengthy contract on the books.

And then there’s always the if-you-can’t-beat-him angle, seeing as how Hudson has absolutely dominated the Nats over the course of his career to the tune of a 2.45 ERA in 29 starts.

Well, Hudson is now off the market, having agreed to a two-year, $23 million deal with the Giants, and according to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Nats never really made much of a push for Hudson’s services.

The Nats are in a position where they don’t need to take a risk on a starting pitcher this offseason, so I don’t really blame them for not getting heavily involved in talks on Hudson when it was clear the 38-year-old coming off ankle surgery was going to get a two-year deal.

In my mind, with the pitching prospects the Nats have coming in Sammy Solis and Matt Purke, not to mention Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan, the Nats shouldn’t be guaranteeing a rotation spot to a veteran starter for multiple years unless they’re certain it’s the right move. The Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren deals didn’t work out, but those were only one-year commitments, and the old saying is there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal.

It’s a lot different when you’re talking about multiple years, especially when Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler have established themselves as legitimate rotation pieces. If you’re going to guarantee multiple years to bring in a No. 5 starter, make sure he’s the right guy.

It sure seems like the Hudson deal might cause the rest of the free agent market for starters to heat up a bit, as teams start to get a little antsy to lock up a proven pitcher. And it also seems like the Nats aren’t in serious talks with two of the other free agent starters who could be had on short-term contracts.

During an appearance on MLB Network Radio, former Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo listed six teams that have called his agent to express interest so far this offseason, and the Nationals weren’t in that group.

Then there’s Josh Johnson, who would be a major risk for the Nationals given his injury history and rocky 2013 season. Johnson is specifically seeking a one-year deal that will allow him to raise his stock and then hit free agency again next season, but while a short-term commitment might interest the Nats, I don’t see a partnership between the two sides being likely.

The San Fransisco Chronicle has also reported that Johnson has told the Giants and Padres that they’re his top two choices at this point, although it’s unclear how hard the Giants will push for another established starter after inking Hudson.

What free agent starters does that leave as options for the Nats?

Matt Garza’s name will continue to be linked to the Nationals because of their previous interest in him and the fact that it won’t cost a draft pick to sign the 29-year-old righty. Masahiro Tanaka is thought to be a No. 2 starter in the big leagues, but the Japanese righty will cost a boatload of cash when you combine the posting fee and the contract needed to sign him. Ricky Nolasco has experience in the NL East, but he’s going to get a pretty large contract and as I’ve written previously, his career numbers aren’t incredibly impressive. Bartolo Colon has had a lot of success in recent years, but he’ll turn 42 in May.

Not a lot of attractive options out there in free agency, eh?

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