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But he also knows ex­actly who might be avail­able on the trade mar­ket.

Asked in­for­mally about starters on teams said to be sell­ing, Rizzo could re­cite statis­tics for al­most all of them. He knew ex­actly how many in­nings lefty James Pax­ton, who was re­cently traded from the Mariners to the Yan­kees, threw last sea­son. He and his staff have vet­ted their op­tions for stuff, dura­bil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity. None of that should be sur­pris­ing; The Na­tion­als of­ten emerge as a team that “checked” on X player. They call about al­most ev­ery­one and con­sider al­most ev­ery­one.

But what makes this off­sea­son such an in­trigu­ing time to trade is that the Na­tion­als could use a long-term ro­ta­tion fix, some­one to sta­bi­lize the group be­hind Max Scherzer and Stephen Stras­burg. Corbin, Keuchel and Eo­valdi are 30 or older, which isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a prob­lem, but Stras­burg and Tan­ner Roark are 30, too. Rizzo could want a younger op­tion in ad­di­tion to, or in­stead of, those free agents.

Not all of the op­tions avail­able on the trade mar­ket would be younger. Di­a­mond­backs righthander Zack Greinke is 34, but per­haps the Na­tion­als could pry him away if Ari­zona agreed to pay part of his record-break­ing salary. But Rob­bie Ray, dealt to Detroit in the deal for Fis­ter, might also be avail­able, and he is 27 and un­der team con­trol un­til 2021. Ray seems like more of a fit lo­gis­ti­cally, though his con­tract terms would likely re­quire send­ing a greater prospect haul to Ari­zona. The Mets al­most cer­tainly would not trade Noah Syn­der­gaard to a divi­sion ri­val, but he would be a high-end fit, too.

In­di­ans ace Corey Klu­ber is 32, older than Fis­ter and Gon­za­lez were when Rizzo traded for them. Klu­ber is in the fi­nal year of a deal that has team op­tions for 2020 and 2021, so he is un­der team con­trol for some time, too. Car­los Car­rasco is 31 and un­der con­trol through 2020. Both could be en­tic­ing, but they would be shorter-term fixes. Some cognoscenti be­lieve Gi­ants lefty Madi­son Bum­gar­ner might be avail­able, and he is just 29, but he has bat­tled in­juries lately and is un­der team con­trol only through next sea­son. He does not seem like a Rizzo tar­get, ei­ther.

Blue Jays starters might be avail­able, too. Rizzo drafted Mar­cus Stro­man, and he is just 27, un­der team con­trol through 2021 and com­ing off a down year. The Na­tion­als could also buy low on Yan­kees right-han­der Sonny Gray, though peo­ple fa­mil­iar with their thought pro­cesses in­di­cated that they are aim­ing higher.

Whomever Rizzo chases, those deals for Fis­ter and Gon­za­lez com­prise a small sam­ple size that nev­er­the­less in­di­cates his will­ing­ness to part with prospects to get top-line start­ing pitch­ers. He had to threaten to quit his job to com­plete the Gon­za­lez deal, as own­er­ship could not un­der­stand how he would be will­ing to part with so many prospects to ob­tain one player. Gon­za­lez be­came a ro­ta­tion sta­ple for seven sea­sons, thereby pre­vent­ing Rizzo from hav­ing to hunt more deals. He ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar push­back while trad­ing for Fis­ter, a deal in which he sur­ren­dered a fu­ture All-Star (Ray) for a two-year fix.

Does he have the prospects to cre­ate that kind of pack­age this time? Yes. While Rizzo has in­di­cated that Vic­tor Robles, Juan Soto and one of Carter Kieboom and Luis Gar­cia are as close to un­touch­able as can be, he still has Kieboom or Gar­cia and other promis­ing op­tions to deal. And as the Kelvin Her­rera trade (and oth­ers be­fore it, in­clud­ing the Jonathan Papel­bon deal) in­di­cate, other teams of­ten value lessher­alded Na­tion­als prospects as po­ten­tial big-league reg­u­lars. Rizzo doesn’t mind part­ing with them, ei­ther.

This win­ter, as the Na­tion­als try to bol­ster their ro­ta­tion for this year and the long term, Rizzo might see his op­por­tu­nity to deal again. With Kurt Suzuki signed to play catcher, he might no longer feel pres­sure to pur­sue J.T. Real­muto, the kind of deal that would have emp­tied his prospect arse­nal. If that deal doesn’t ma­te­ri­al­ize, Rizzo has the fire­power he needs to trade for a start­ing pitcher. He doesn’t deal for starters of­ten, but when he has, the deals have been sig­nif­i­cant.


Di­a­mond­backs start­ing pitcher Rob­bie Ray de­liv­ers to a San Diego Padres bat­ter in Sep­tem­ber in San Diego.

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