WASHINGTON -- General manager Mike Rizzo made it known in September that getting an ace pitcher is the top priority for the Nationals. Rangers left-hander Cliff Lee is the only top-line pitcher on the free-agent market this offseason.
As of 12:01 a.m. ET on Sunday, Lee is now able to negotiate with the other 29 clubs.
According to a baseball source familiar with Lee and the Nationals, the left-hander will listen to what Washington has to say. The person said the Nationals are a team that Lee has to learn more about.
Given that the Nationals will have a lot of competition for Lee's services, it is more likely they will trade for a top pitcher. Rizzo said that Washington has the players to acquire that ace pitcher.
"We need a front-of-the-rotation guy to put everybody in their proper places in the rotation," Rizzo said in September. "That's the No. 1 priority going into the offseason. We definitely have depth, prospect-wise, to pull off a deal for a pitcher."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.