WASHINGTON -- Nationals reliever Hector Carrasco filed for free agency on Monday and is expected to get a significant raise.
After closer Chad Cordero, Carrasco, who made the league minimum of $300,000, was the second best pitcher on the Nationals during the 2005 season. Carrasco was starter and reliever and went 5-4 with a 2.04 ERA.
Since the season ended, general manager Jim Bowden has made it known that signing Carrasco is one of his top priorities. In fact, Bowden is planning to have talks with Carrasco's agent, Tom Reich, next week at the general managers' meetings in California.
In other news, the Nationals have had preliminary talks with the agents for starters A.J. Burnett, Kevin Millwood and Jarrod Washburn.
Burnett played with the Marlins last season and went 12-12 with a 3.44 ERA and 198 strikeouts. In late September, he was asked to leave the team after he had harsh criticism of the club.
Millwood, best known with his years with the Braves, was 9-11 with a 2.86 ERA with the Indians and helped them become playoff contenders this season.
Washburn has spent his entire eight-year career with the Angels. His best season was in 2002, when he helped them win the World Series title. That year Washburn went 18-6 with a 3.15 ERA.
"All the top pitchers that are in the market place, we have interest in them and hope to pursue them within our budget," Bowden said. "We have a great start to our rotation with Livan [Hernandez] and [John] Patterson. We are going to add to those two pitchers."
Bowden still doesn't know what the Nationals' budget will be in 2006, but he is confident that he can add that starting pitcher that the Nationals need. This past season, the Nationals spent $58 million on player salaries.
"No matter what the budget number is, there is going to be room for at least one big starting pitcher," he said.
Bowden also didn't sound confident that he could re-sign right-hander Esteban Loaiza, who declared himself a free agent last week. Both parties are far apart on dollar figures and the years of the contract.
According to a source close to Loaiza, the right-hander wants a three-year deal, and, as of now, the Nationals are not willing to give him that kind of security.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.