MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nats like options to replace Zimmermann

Roark shined in 2014 rotation; Ross emerged last season

Nats like options to replace Zimmermann

WASHINGTON -- After right-hander Jordan Zimmermann signed a five-year deal with the Tigers for $110 million, the Nationals went on their Twitter account and thanked him for all he did during his seven seasons with the team.

"Thank you, Jordan, for all you did in a Nationals uniform. Best of luck in the next chapter of your career!" the tweet said.

Look at what Zimmermann did with Washington: 70 wins with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.159 WHIP. And that's before you mention the fact that he pitched the team's first no-hitter and held his own in the postseason.

Zimmermann will not be the only pitcher the Nationals lose this offseason. Right-hander Doug Fister will not be back either after he was demoted to the bullpen during the second half of last season.

Hot Stove Tracker

But the Nationals have pitchers who could take their place in the rotation. Right-handers Joe Ross and Tanner Roark are already on the 25-man roster. Roark was a team player after losing his job in the rotation because of the signing of Max Scherzer. If the team needed a long man -- no problem, he was the guy. Setup man? No worries. If the Nationals needed an emergency starter, Roark came through. He proved in 2014 that he could be a mainstay in the rotation. That year, Roark posted 15 wins, a 2.85 ERA and 1.092 WHIP in 31 starts.

Fister lost his starting job because of the 22-year-old Ross, who gave the Nationals quality innings and made 13 starts in his debut season.

One can't help but think that right-hander Lucas Giolito will be given a chance to make the squad. He is the Nationals' best prospect and he pitched like he was fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. This past season, Giolito was with Class A Advanced Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg and combined for a 7-7 record with a 3.15 ERA, striking out 131 batters in 117 innings. He also earned a spot in the All-Star Futures Game. He could participate in his first Spring Training with the big club in 2016.

Pleskoff on Giolito's future

Giolito's fastball sits in the upper 90s and is known to hit 100 mph. His curveball and changeup are just as good.

"He has done a really good job. We brought him up from Florida a little bit late," assistant general manager Doug Harris said of Giolito. "From a stuff perspective, he has the ability to pitch at a higher level. He has some things he has to work on. We have to be mindful of it, like holding runners, fielding his positions, things that are important as it would relate to a bigger opportunity down the road. Those are the things we are very mindful of as we move forward."

General manager Mike Rizzo might poke into the free-agent market for a starting pitcher, but that is not a top priority for the Nationals. They badly need bullpen help more than a starting pitcher.

As far as starting pitching is concerned, the Nationals once had interest in free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke back in 2010, but he turned down a trade to Washington because he felt the club was not ready to win. But the question is, will the Nationals pay big money to acquire a player like Greinke, like they did with Scherzer last offseason? The Nationals signed Scherzer to a seven-year deal for $210 million.

"I'm happy sliding Tanner and Joe into the rotation, but that being said, you can never have enough good starting pitching," Rizzo said recently.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashinNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.