The Washington Nationals' biggest offseason pursuit - landing a starter to anchor their rotation - has already yielded a pair of swings and misses, and the team heads into next week's Winter Meetings with a list of options seemingly getting shorter by the day.
Another possible target wriggled away from the Nationals on Monday night, when Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa reportedly closed in on a new deal with Colorado that will pay him $33 million over the next three years. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported the Nationals made De La Rosa an offer - which squares with the thought that De La Rosa was at the top of their list after Cliff Lee - but De La Rosa chose to remain in Colorado, where he'd developed a level of comfort with pitching coach Bob Apodaca.
So with De La Rosa and Javier Vazquez off the market, the Nationals' free agent options would seemingly be down to Lee and Carl Pavano. Both wield a tremendous amount of leverage over the market, and with so many teams seeking pitching, their positions only get stronger headed into the Winter Meetings, which begin Monday in Orlando. The Nationals are expected to make a push for former Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb, who was drafted by Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo when he was with Arizona, but it's possible Webb could be all they get, unless they can swing a trade for a younger pitcher like Kansas City's Zack Greinke.
I've talked to a few of you who are ready to drop the hammer on the Nationals for failing to get a pitcher, and while it's probably still too early for that, the team's front office is going to have its work cut out for it next week. It's a bit surprising to see De La Rosa off the market before the Winter Meetings, and before Lee signs, but the Rockies made his decision easy. And for the Nationals, things only get harder. There will be six or seven teams bidding for Lee, and probably almost that many looking at Pavano next week. They could kick the tires on San Diego's Kevin Correia or the Dodgers' Vicente Padilla, but neither one is the anchor the Nationals are looking for. It could end up being a trade, an injury risk like Webb or a new plan.
Let me know how you're feeling about the pitching situation at this point. Not getting De La Rosa is obviously a blow, though he's been far from a sure thing with the Rockies. How discouraging is it? And what do you want to see the Nationals do now?
We can discuss all that and more, too, at our meetup on Friday night -- 6:15 at the Front Page near Dupont Circle.