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MLB Washington Nationals

Will Washington Nationals’ Mike Rizzo Acquire a Rental?

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, pitching was the key to the Washington Nationals‘ success. In 2013, it’s been just as inconsistent as the offense, and just as much of a reason to why they stand at .500 going into the second half.

With the trade deadline approaching, we know well what GM Mike Rizzo does not believe in doing, and that is acquiring “rental players” — players that will be free agents at the end of the 2013 season. That’s a fine strategy when the team is successful and nobody is playing inconsistently, but will the team’s warts force Rizzo to make a move for a rental player?

Naturally, any move Washington makes will be contingent on how healthy Ross Detwiler is and how consistent Dan Haren  is in their starts following the All-Star Break.

According to manager Davey Johnson, Detwiler may not be ready to make his start immediately following the All-Star Break, so Washington would obviously need to wait on him, especially if Haren’s two starts before the All-Star Break (11 IP, two earned runs) are any indication of a turnaround.

Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs is obviously the golden goose of this year’s trade deadline, especially since his return from a lat injury has been nothing short of triumphant, going 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA.

The Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer duo in the Windy City want nothing short of a king’s ransom for Garza, and rightfully so. There has been talks that Chicago is considering extending Garza long term, but that, in my opinion, only happens if they do not get any offers they like via trade. Garza will be dealt, and there is really no question about that.

We already know that in a few years, Washington is going to have to dedicate much of their money to specific homegrown players, like Stephen StrasburgJordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper, none of which will come cheap; but if Washington were to acquire Garza, Rizzo would probably want to do one of two things.

One option is acquire Garza, let him pitch out the season with Washington, and extend a qualifying offer of about $11 million, which would be a $750, 000 pay increase from his 2013 salary of $10.25 million.

What that qualifying offer does is two-fold: teams will all of a sudden become much more wary of signing Garza, because that team signing Garza will have to give Washington their first-round draft pick in the 2014 draft. If that happens, then all of a sudden Washington’s contract offer suddenly becomes much more enticing, either at the one-year at $11 million or whatever bargain offer Rizzo draws up.

The second option is as cut and dry as they come: acquire Garza via trade, but make the trade contingent on Garza signing an extension with Washington. This obviously allows Rizzo to have a better idea of what the payroll will look like, along with putting together a more cost-effective rotation for the next few years until those extension talks for Washington’s “big four” comes along.

Now, there may very well not be enough money to go around in D.C., but, according to CNBC, the Lerner family is the second-richest ownership in baseball, so that could very well be a moot point.

One thing is clear: Washington acquiring Garza absolutely gives them a solid four-man (and potentially five) rotation they had imagined when they signed Haren.

Could Washington acquire Garza? Yes. Will they? Time will tell.