The Nationals’ inventory of possible free agent pitching targets, already at a dubiously low level, just shrunk by one; former Yankees right-hander Javier Vazquez has signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Marlins, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. MLB.com’s Bill Ladson was first to report the two sides were close to a deal.
You can see why general manager Mike Rizzo hedged his bet on getting a front-line starter at the general managers’ meetings early this month; there just aren’t that many good ones available. It should be encouraging to Rizzo that Vazquez only got a one-year deal worth $7 million, but after Cliff Lee - who will likely be the focal point of the Winter Meetings next week - the list of options isn’t long.
Expect the Nationals to make a strong push for Colorado’s Jorge de la Rosa, with Minnesota’s Carl Pavano also an option. But de la Rosa is younger, and he’s left-handed. If the Nationals are going to overpay for a pitcher, it would seem more in line with their thinking to overpay for someone like de la Rosa, who’s only 29. They could have to give him a four-year deal, but they would likely be more willing to give four years to de la Rosa than three to Pavano, who will be 35 in January.
I wouldn’t expect to see much action on the remaining pitchers until the Winter Meetings, when agents are able to meet with multiple teams in the course of a day and possibly drive up prices. Former Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb, who was drafted by Rizzo and has a good relationship with the Nationals GM, is attracting some interest from other teams, but remains a viable option, albeit one with health concerns. But if the Nationals are going to make a big acquisition in free agency, I’d expect them to chase de la Rosa in the likely event they don’t get Lee.