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Rizzo’s No. 1 priority: No. 1 starter

Sep 29, 2010, 11:14 PM EDT

The Nationals thought they had their No. 1 starter set in stone for years to come. But Stephen Strasburg’s Tommy John surgery will leave a massive void at the top of Washington’s 2011 rotation and will leave general manager Mike Rizzo searching for a replacement this winter.

Rizzo said acquiring a No. 1 starter is his No. 1 priority this offseason.

“We need a guy to head the rotation, a front-of-the-rotation guy to put everybody in what we feel is their proper place in the rotation,” Rizzo said before tonight’s game. “That’s the No. 1 priority going into the offseason.”

The pickings on the free agent market are pretty slim, with Cliff Lee the clear-cut prize of a group that also includes Kevin Millwood, Bronson Arroyo, Javier Vazquez, Ted Lilly and Jake Westbrook.

Read the full story, which includes Rizzo’s take on the Adam Dunn situation, on CSNwashington.com.

  1. The Famous Double-Millwood maneuver - Sep 29, 2010 at 11:28 PM

    Hello I'm Kevin and this is my brother Kevin…

  2. Another_Sam - Sep 29, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    On this, Rizzo is exactly right. Oh, and sign Adam Dunn.

  3. JayB - Sep 29, 2010 at 11:44 PM

    Lee is the only top of the rotation FA it seems from you list Mark…..That is like the Tex attempt….pure PR….oh we had the top bid for Lee but he went to the Yanks….so we we settled for Millwood….come on..that a joke…just like Kennedy was just as good as Hudson and cheaper so we got him….how did that work out for the team Riz…..It is going to be ugly people because Lerners are too cheap to do it right and Rizzo needs to protect them to keep his job….which will in the end cost him his job….more likely Rizzo will walk away while he still can just like Stan.

  4. SilverSpring8 - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:15 AM

    If Millwood is a No. 1 then I'm the guy who's going to replace Ryan Zimmerman at third base.

  5. Anonymous - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:49 AM

    They need two top of the rotation pitchers. They need to go get Greinke, and they need to go get Garza. They should give up anybody other than R Zimm, J Zimm, Des or Danny (and B. Harper and Solis) to make this happen. The Stras injury was unlucky; however, not getting Daniel Hudson for Adam Dunn was pure incompetence.

  6. Knoxville Nat - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:57 AM

    I'm thinking a trade for a top shelf starter is more likely than a FA signing. Don't have a clue who would be involved in the trade, just don't see the Nats paying the kind of $$$ needed to get a Cliff Lee, nor do I see a Lee type wanting to come to DC in 2011.

  7. N. Cognito - Sep 30, 2010 at 1:08 AM

    SilverSpring8 said… "If Millwood is a No. 1 then I'm the guy who's going to replace Ryan Zimmerman at third base."Congratulations!! Are you guys flying or taking the train to New York?

  8. Evan S - Sep 30, 2010 at 1:09 AM

    who are we going to go get? Last year, their idea of a number 1 starter was Marquis. The only number 1 out there is Lee, or possibly Vazquez, but who else? How about we UNLOAD someone before we go signing pitchers? Also, resign Dunn.

  9. souldrummer - Sep 30, 2010 at 3:16 AM

    If they are serious about getting a no. 1 starter, you've got to believe that it would have to be via trade. If we're talking about trading prospects that have value, that means Derek Norris, Potomac's OBP machine who should have a chance to showcase his skills in the Arizona Fall League. Norris is a catcher who has value as a trade prospect at a position where we are relatively deep. The biggest question for me is not what they do, it's what level of commitment they have. What payroll expectation should we have? And why should we show up and support this team over affordable minor league affiliates featuring Bryce Harper if they choose not to raise payroll? The rotation was awful this year and as presently constituted, it would likely be worse next year unless there are additions made. I agree with Rizzo that the rotation is the biggest issue. What's unclear is whether it's 2011 or 2012 where we can realistically expect improvement.

  10. sec314 - Sep 30, 2010 at 3:41 AM

    A No. 1 Starter would be great, but these guys lost a lot of 2-0, 2-1 and 2-1 games. They need another big bat or two if Dunn is gone. Willingham cannot be depended upon to play a full season consistently and an outfield with Bernadina AND Morgan playing most everyday is a joke. I'd put a genuine leadoff hitter much higher on the priority list.

  11. sjm105 - Sep 30, 2010 at 3:52 AM

    Lee is the ONLY #1 FA starter out there & I don't see the Lerners opening their wallets after 6 years of frugality. We do have some pieces to trade but Norris by himself will not bring much. I hate to think that JayB is right but he is closer to being right then those thinking we will sign what we need. I am guessing we will end up with Brandon Webb on a gamble and we will have to hope our stable of #4-5 starters have some sort of magical transference. Does Grienke have any kind of no-trade clause? Maybe if we put enough pieces out there KC will bite but I am not expecting anything big. Would love to see Dunn signed but that will also drag on as he sees what the market is like. I am taking a pessimistic outlook on this off season so anything that happens will be uplifting. Go Natssign Dunn

  12. Souldrummer - Sep 30, 2010 at 4:37 AM

    If they are serious about going for a No. 1 starter, a Norris/Zimmermann package might be the way to go. You say Strasburg and that No. 1 acquistion are your top of the rotation guys and you say that your draftees plus the 4/5 bunch is your back end. Personally, I wouldn't trade homegrown prospects at this point. I'd like to give the upper minors some time to mature. I still don't see how a No. 1 starter would make us competitive with the Braves or Phillies, though, and I'd prefer that we make additions that don't require us to give up any of our top 5 prospects before we see how Harper's development is starting next year.

  13. Will - Sep 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    Brandon Webb is also a free agent. Coincidentally, he threw his first game yesterday in over a year. It was just an instructional league game, and he's not 100% yet, but it's certainly noteworthy that's he's back on the mound.I think our priority should be a #1 starter and another outfielder with good on base skills. Whether it's a Crawford-type or a Werth-type, an OF with Morgan and Morse/Bernadina is not good enough.In my ideal world, Rizzo would sign Webb to a 2 year incentive laden contract and trade for Grady Sizemore. But that's probably wishful thinking. Maybe Curtis Granderson is more realistic?

  14. CapPeterson - Sep 30, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    I am encouraged by Rizzo's comments on Morgan. Sounds like he's less committed to him as the starting CF and leadoff hitter than he was earlier in the year. It's pretty clear though that they don't think anyone else on the current team (with the exception of Maxwell) can play CF. That means Bernadina, of course. And the more I see of Bernie in the OF, I have to admit that, although he has speed, a strong arm, and great athleticism, he has trouble reading the ball off the bat sometimes.And, hey, I have no trouble agreeing with JayB on Detwiler. He wants the Nats to succeed. Have you guys and gals taken a look at Nationals Journal lately? It's infested with Nats' haters rooting for the franchise to fail so that Angelos and the O's can reclaim their (in their eyes) rightful dominion over the Delmarva/DMV area.

  15. Anonymous - Sep 30, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    1) I don't think any one can reasonably consider Brandon Webb a #1 top of the rotation guy at this stage. 2) Cliff Lee Won't happen and it shouldn't because he will require something like 6 years at $150 mil and years 4 – 6 may be not be pretty; the Yankees can afford to eat $75 mil in order to win in years 1 – 3 but most other teams can't. 3) Putting Zimmermann in a package to acquire a no. 1 pitcher is exactly the wrong thing to do as Zimmermann has the very real potential to be better than the pitcher you acquire. 4) Derek Norris and Chris Marrero are exactly the type of players the Nats should use to upgrade their major league team because they may be attractive to rebuilding teams who have assets they want to move. 5) I think that Grady Sizemore is a very interesting player to target as he is coming off several injury riddled seasons and his talent may be better than his current market value. 6) A stud starter and better table setters at the top of the order; preferably in the outfield are exactly the holes which need to be filled for 2011. 7) The Nats should consider moving Willingham somewhere near the top of the order to take advantage of the fact that he gets on base all the time. 8) I am not 100% convinced that Espinosa will hit; really not convinced that Bernadina is an everyday player. 9) I wouldn't be so quick to dump Harris and Kennedy; coming off bad years they are still veterans who should improve to their normal levels next year.10) .500 should be a reasonable goal for 2011; it's not a huge leap from .500 to contention.Happy off season to everyone.

  16. Anonymous - Sep 30, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    1. He's a #2/#3, but he'd be #1 here.2. Cliff Lee won't happen because Cliff Lee will choose to go to a contending team.3. Good starting pitching is the hardest commodity to acquire. You only deal it when you're dealing from a position of strength, or other teams think someone you have is better than what you know/believe him to be.4. Don't bring them up to be bench players unless that's really their best expectation as major leaguers.5. What type of injuries? The type that could be expected to reoccur? If so, no.6. Exactly. The Nats can't score runs if their #1 and #2 guys in the order can't get on base.7. Willingham at the top of the order probably beats what we've had, but I'd prefer to get someone with OBP and some speed.8. Shouldn't be convince of any of the young guys, and some of them have shown us they might not pan out – namely Bernadina, Desmond and Morse. All are free swingers, that try to pull the ball most of the time and don't shorten their swing when they've got two strikes on them.9. Harris has been on the decline for several years. Kennedy had a bad year and might be worth re-signing. Gonzalez is utility guy who can field and not hit.10. Agree.8. Agree.

  17. Souldrummer - Sep 30, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    @AnonymousIf you want to acquire a No. 1 starter via trade, you have to offer something of value in return or take on an odious contract. I realize that everybody loves Jordan Zimmermann, and I certainly do as well. If you're going to go after somebody like Greinke, though, I've got to believe that KC would want a major pitching prospect back in return. If they'd take somebody like Detwiler, I'd do my happy dance, but they won't. They're going to want somebody who either has the upside of JZim or who has some kind of track record so that they don't have to say to their fans that they're trading their most productive player for something that the fans can't make sense of.If I were a rival GM, I'd say any deal for a no. 1 starter must include Jordan Zimmermann. If you don't have the funds or desire to overpay for Cliff Lee and you're not willing to sacrifice some of the long term than you don't have enough to deal.Personally, I feel that our farm has improved but it's not improved enough where we can gut our prospects for a big splash deal. FWIW, I don't think Burgess or Marrero have much value. For me, Marrero becomes a trade chip should he succeed at AAA and we re-sign Dunn.

  18. souldrummer - Sep 30, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Don't know who is around, but Boz is bringing the heat on his live chat right now on Dunn. There's more stuff than this excerpt, but here's a sample: 'Dunn said to me this week, "What about all the guys who went before me that helped us get these contracts? Don't I owe something to them?" Dunn likes to be liked __by other players. He doesn't want to be the guy who significantly lowered the bar for arbitration prices or other player' deals. '

  19. Will - Sep 30, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    Regarding Webb, I think it's impossible to make any determinations about what type of player he is right now. He's thrown a few dozen pitches in the last year and a half. With that said, from 2006 to 2008, he was the best pitcher in baseball, and that was while he pitched in one of the most batter-friendly parks in the game.I hope that Rizzo will give Webb serious considerations. He could return as one of the top pitchers in the game, or he could never truly recover from his injuries. But the Nationals will never have a chance of signing guys like Cliff Lee as long as we continue to finish 30 games out of contention. Guys like Webb, high-risk high-reward types, are the type of players we can sign. I just hope whoever evaluated Chien Ming Wang isn't the one evaluating Webb.

  20. Anonymous - Sep 30, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    Cliff Lee is the only #1 starter available so I have to think that Rizzo is thinking packaging a bunch of guys (5 or 6) and do a trade

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