Race for pitching heats up as Nationals head toward Winter Meetings

A week from today, the Nationals will set up shop at the Winter Meetings in Dallas, where they’ll be looking to cross two items - a veteran starting pitcher and a leadoff hitter - off their offseason shopping list. But it’s as clear as ever this morning that they shouldn’t expect their hunt for a pitcher to be easy.

The Tigers are reportedly interested in former White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, according to a Detroit News report, and their addition to the sweepstakes means almost half the teams in baseball have some interest in the veteran left-hander.

That’s likely to drive Buehrle’s price up even further, and while the Nationals aren’t wanting for cash, they could need to strike with a bold offer early in the process to land him. They have already met with Buehrle at his home in St. Louis, like they did with Jayson Werth last winter, and if that pattern follows what they did in 2010, the Nationals could try to put a tempting offer on the table before other teams have a chance to talk with Buehrle’s agent, Jeff Berry, in Dallas.

We’ll have plenty of coverage leading up to and going through the Winter Meetings this week; MASNsports.com’s Byron Kerr and Pete Kerzel will host a live video chat at 1 p.m. tomorrow, previewing what the Nationals could do at the Winter Meetings.