Washington Nationals: Sign a starter now or wait

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Lance Lynn /

No longer a question of “will they or won’t,” if the Washington Nationals are signing another starter, it must happen now.

One of the nagging questions facing the Washington Nationals over the first part of spring training is whether they will sign another starting pitcher in free agency.

With names such as Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn appearing on MLB Trade Rumors regularly, there must be a tiny fire with the smoke. However, if the Nats are bringing in help, they must do it soon.

Already a week into the Grapefruit League campaign, Opening Day starters are taking their second turn on the hill Friday and Saturday. The longer the wait, the chances of an unsigned pitcher being ready in time for the season narrows.

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Bullpen sessions and live batting practice with high school and college players is not enough. They need real game experience on the mound to properly stretch out. A new player must get familiar with catcher Matt Wieters and whoever the backup is. Also, unless it is Lynn, he needs to establish a good working relationship with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist.

Then add the expectations of becoming the hired hand to get Washington over the hump. Not as easy as riding that proverbial camel. You are looking, with Arrieta, paying someone $20-25 million for one potential start in October.

No pressure there.

From the endless rumors, it is difficult to tell how strong Washington’s interests are in grabbing another starter. On paper, a top-line pitcher adds to an already strong rotation. If the Nats were not doing any homework, you would wonder how serious they are.

But, already over the competitive balance tax in 2018 for the second time, how much money can they add to the payroll without causing future problems? The irresistible force meets the immovable object.

Despite the siren song of improving the staff, the smart money remains on waiting until after the All-Star Break to fix their holes. Remember, catcher is a problem too.

However, the right deal may come soon to snag another starter. Arrieta may settle for two years with an opt-out. Lynn might take $15 million. Cobb could do a discount to win a championship. All the pieces are there for a title run.

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Already two weeks late into camp, any signing will have their hands full prepping for the season ahead. Right move or not, it must happen soon. The regular season is coming fast and the time to line up a rotation is now.