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Rizzo expected to be busy at GM Meetings

Rizzo expected to be busy at GM Meetings

Rizzo expected to be busy at GM Meetings
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals head to the General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee with three main goals in mind: Add a No. 1 pitcher to the rotation; get a leadoff hitter/center fielder; and improve the bench.

As far as the pitching goes, Washington's top priority is to sign free-agent right-hander Roy Oswalt, who most recently pitched for the division-rival Phillies. Washington feels Oswalt is the right guy to lead a rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.

Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth was a teammate of Oswalt's in Philadelphia, and he said the veteran righty is the perfect guy to lead a pitching staff.

"Roy O would be awesome to have as a veteran anchor in our pitching staff," Werth said in an e-mail. "He works fast, throws strikes and takes the ball every fifth day.

"[He] keeps a low profile in the clubhouse and has a businessman's attitude. He has lots of experience, including postseason, and that's important, especially since we plan on playing in October [next] year."

If the Nationals are unable to get Oswalt, look for Washington to be in the Mark Buehrle sweepstakes, according to a baseball source.

Buehrle has pitched 201 or more innings for 11 years in a row, all with the Chicago White Sox. He is also one of the best defensive pitchers in baseball, winning the Gold Glove Award in the American League for the past three seasons.

"The type of pitcher we are looking for is a good leader-type of guy that throws a lot of innings, has shown that he can win in the big leagues, and can really lead our staff," general manager Mike Rizzo said recently, without mentioning any names. "It's not by having the best stuff on the staff, but showing how to be a professional, how to be a winner, how to pitch 200 innings in a season many, many times in a career. That's kind of the guy we are looking for."

The Nationals are also looking for a center fielder/leadoff hitter. Washington is reportedly interested in Yoenis Cespedes, a five-tool player from Cuba who is expected to become a free agent sometime this offseason.

Whether Cespedes is going to become a leadoff hitter remains to be seen. Manager Davey Johnson seems convinced that shortstop Ian Desmond can still be the leadoff hitter his club needs. Although Desmond hit .253 in 2011, he hit .281 while manning the top spot in the batting order.

The Nats' bench was one of the least productive in baseball this past season, and Johnson didn't like that the reserve crew was built around speed and defense. Look for the Nationals to try to add players who could can be productive.

Laynce Nix and Jerry Hairston Jr. are free agents who could return to the club. Nix can provide power off the bench, while Hairston, whom the Nationals dealt to the Brewers before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, can play all three outfield positions and is above average playing third base, second base and shortstop.

With those goals at the top of the club's list, Rizzo is certain to be busy this week in Milwaukee.

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.

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