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Brandon Webb signs with Texas, Nationals still in search of a starter

According to FanHouse.com’s Ed Price, Brandon Webb has reportedly agreed in principle to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Texas Rangers, pending a physical. This news is unfortunate for Washington Nationals fans and their front office because the team had been aggressively pursuing Webb.

The Nationals failed in an attempt to sign Cliff Lee this winter, and had also been in talks with the Royals in an attempt to land Zack Greinke, but that fell through and he was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for prospects. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has said that upgrading the starting rotation is a priority this off season, and Webb would have been a good start had the team been able to land him. However, with the recent news of Webb passing on the Nationals, the question now looms: what’s next?

Webb would have been a strong fit because he would have been a low-risk high-reward type of acquisition. The risk being that he just came off major arm surgery (Tommy John and shoulder) and has not pitched in two years, so a pitcher in his situation would not command a high, long-term guaranteed contract because they have no leverage. The high-reward part of it is that if they sign him and he reverts to his old form, they have caught lighting in a bottle.

Whenever a team misses out or gets passed on by a free agent, the team needs to have a backup plan. The Nationals are supposedly the front-runners for free-agent starter Carl Pavano, who after spending five years plagued with injuries, had one of his best career years in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins, going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA.

The team should be wary of giving Pavano a long-term contract like the Yankees did, because in three years with the Yankees, he did not pitch over 125 innings and had horrible luck with injuries, including cracked ribs in a car accident on the way to a start.

Should the team look to acquire a pitcher via trade, the Nationals front office could look to get in on Matt Garza. Reportedly, Rizzo and the front office have been in contact with Tampa Bay. However, many in baseball believe that Garza, or even James Shields who the Rays have been shopping, will not be traded in the off season and that the Rays will wait to see if they are in contention by July. Either way, Garza would be a good pickup for Washington, who might be in contention in July for the first time in the history of the still young franchise. Last year he went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA with 150 strikeouts and threw a no-hitter.

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