Dec 9, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT
Updated at 6:09 p.m.
NASHVILLE — Seeking more depth for a rotation that is losing two key stalwarts to free agency this winter, the Nationals made an offer to right-hander Mike Leake this week at the Winter Meetings, general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
Rizzo didn’t provide specifics of the offer and framed it as just one of “several” that have been put on the table for free agents over the last few days.
“We’re checking in on a lot of fronts, both pitching and position-player wise,” he said. “I wouldn’t describe it as any further along than a lot of other things that we have.”
Leake likely wouldn’t come cheap; he has been projected to command a contract in the range of 5 years and $80 million. That would represent the second-largest deal the Nationals have ever given to a pitcher, trailing only Max Scherzer’s record-setting, 7-year, $210 million contract from last winter.
Leake has posted solid-if-unspectacular numbers over his career; he’s 64-52 with a 3.88 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in six seasons with the Reds and Giants. But his biggest selling points are durability and reliability — he has made at least 30 starts in each of the last four seasons — and he has strong supporters within the Nationals organization, headlined by Dusty Baker (who previously managed him in Cincinnati).
“We’re very familiar with him,” Rizzo said. “He’s a very athletic pitcher and does a lot of things right. Like I said, he’s one of many things we have in the fire right now.”
The Nationals don’t need to add starting pitching this winter, with Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross already a formidable quintet, and top prospect Lucas Giolito perhaps ready to debut sometime in 2016. But the losses of Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister to free agency this winter does leave the organization with less depth than it has had in the past.
Rizzo has never been reluctant to add pitching even when his staff already appears complete, most notably when he signed Edwin Jackson prior to the 2012 season and Scherzer prior to this season. He attempted Wednesday to downplay the current interest in acquiring another starter.
“I would describe it as tepid,” he said. “It’s not a necessity for us right now, but we’re always in the market to improve the ballclub any way we can. If we have to strengthen a strength or try to refine a weakness, there’s different levels and different strategies going on at the same time.”
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