Washington Nationals Need to Sign Free Agent Zack Greinke

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer IOctober 23, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Zack Greinke #23 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches in game one of the double header against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 30, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals can make their offseason a success and put themselves in a prime position to win in 2013 if they bring in free agent pitcher Zack Greinke.

The Nats are going to have a strange offseason. For the first time since the winter of 1933, fans in D.C. will have one of their teams be a defending champion.

The Nationals are relevant again and have their sights on the future. Clearly management thinks they have a contender for years to come. If not, then Stephen Strasburg would have pitched in the postseason.

But they are also coming off of a brutal, soul crushing loss in the National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. After their "one strike away" disaster, in which they blew a 6-0 lead at home, the Nationals will face a winter of "what if's" and second guessing.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post thinks that the bullpen will be the main focus of the offseason. Sean Burnett is going to be a free agent and Tyler Clippard could be a valuable trade chip.

But bringing in the top starter on the market should go a long way in the Nationals' quest to not only repeat as division champs but move along in the postseason.

The leash will be taken off of Strasburg next season, who will join Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez in the rotation.

Edwin Jackson will be a free agent and will undoubtedly receive several offers. Both John Lannan and Christian Garcia could move into the rotation to replace Jackson.

Or the team can bid for Greinke, who would give the Nationals the single best rotation in all of baseball. If Gonzalez pitches like he did in 2012 and Strasbug can flourish without having everyone question his pitch count, Greinke, a former Cy Young Award winner, could potentially be the number three starter.

Greinke would be entering a league that is friendlier to pitchers. He performed well, if not up to his Cy Young level, in Milwaukee. And the man who does not care for the media glare would get to play in a market much more interested in Strasburg and the Redskins.

Plus Greinke will be only 29 next year. Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Detwiler will be 27. Strasburg will be 24. There would be two or three prime seasons for all five starting pitchers. Additionally, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, John Lannan and Christian Garcia are all under 30 with prospect Alex Meyer working his way up the ranks as well.

If Nats GM Mike Rizzo wants to win over his critics who questioned why he shut down Stephen Strasburg, here's a way he can do it. Walk away saying, "I have assembled the best starting rotation in baseball and they are all healthy and under 30."

Signing Greinke would be a great step towards that claim.