At this point, the Nationals' search for a No. 1 starter is largely dependent on other teams' willingness to part with a pitcher under their control. It's an expensive proposition, made even more costly by the fact that the two teams believed to be taking offers for young pitchers this winter - the Kansas City Royals (on Zack Greinke) and the Tampa Bay Rays (on Matt Garza) - are in no rush to deal either one.
But there could be another option for the Nationals, albeit one that comes with its own question marks: the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco.
Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reported on Saturday that the Marlins are at an impasse in contract extension talks with the 28-year-old, who is eligible for arbitration. The two sides have been talking about a three-year deal, and the Marlins are stocked with pitching - enough that they could field a formidable rotation without Nolasco.
They have Josh Johnson locked up, and young pitchers Alex Sanabia, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad are all under team control. They also signed Javier Vazquez to a one-year deal, so Nolasco could be dealt for the right package. Like Greinke and Garza, he'd be an expensive piece to acquire. And like Garza especially, he's been somewhat erratic in Florida - he's posted ERAs of 5.06 and 4.51 the last two years after putting up a 3.52 ERA in 2008. But he's got a low 90s fastball along with a good slider, a curveball and a splitter, and though he gives up too many homers, he doesn't walk many batters. And with the Marlins, there's precedent for the Nationals acquiring a player like Nolasco.
They got Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen - like Nolasco, both arbitration-eligible Matt Sosnick clients the Marlins wanted to unload - in a Nov. 2008 trade for Emilio Bonifacio. And the Marlins just traded Dan Uggla to the Braves instead of signing him to an extension. When they have a player whose contract becomes a concern, they've shown they'll deal him to a team in the division. The Nationals will just have to wait and see if Nolasco's contract becomes a bigger problem, and whether they'd have the right players to pry him loose.
It's not a sure thing, but in a pitching market short on good options, Nolasco might be another one for the Nationals.