Rizzo seems pretty confident he can get the Nationals a #1 starter through a trade. This supposes that there will be #1 starters available and that the Nats have enough available talented prospects to get them. I have my doubts on both of these assumptions. But since we have nothing better to do, let's play in Rizzo's dream world, the place where Carlos Pena swings a candy cane bat and hits a marshmallow ball safely into play one out of every 5 times.
Who could be available? Well the Rays are looking to cut salary and Jamie Shields and Matt Garza are potential places to start. Shields has a contracted bump in salary next season, while Garza is looking at a hefty arbitration raise. Let's not forget though, the Rays will already dump 27+ million by letting Crawford, Pena, and Soriano walk. It's not like they have to deal both these guys to make an impact on next year's payroll. Even though he'll probably make less, I think Shields is likely to go being older and trending downward. His big sell is team control through 2014, though it is a control based on ever increasing salary. I really hesitate to call Shields a #1 starter though. Garza is more in that vein, but I think the Rays would probably keep him (he'll be a deal even with arbitration) at least for one more year. Maybe a team can blow away the Rays and get him but can the Nats blow them away?
Jeremy Guthrie and Zack Grienke are two more that may be available in the "blow us away" category since they are heading toward free agency on bad teams. I think both these guys would excel on the Nats (I love guys coming over from the AL), however it's hard to see them being dealt. They are both under team control for a couple more years and both teams are hoping to get better. If they do get dealt this offseason the price will be awfully high - like best prospect in the minors type high. I don't see the Nats pulling this off without Strasburg or Harper being part of the deal.
In the big contract realm, Derek Lowe is a possibility. He's got two more 15 million dollar years for a Braves team loaded with starters. It wouldn't take that much to get him, but again is this guy really a #1? Plus at 37 he seems like an injury risk waiting to happen, doesn't he?
The most likely possibility out there of being available and having enough baggage that the Nats could pull of a deal is Carlos Zambrano. Yes, he was awesome to end the year. He also is crazy and has 40 to 60 million left on his deal. It's a big gamble, but Carlos was only 29 this year, has no history of injury, and is a #1 type guy. It's a good gamble on good pitching... if you can afford it.
Some more "out of the box" scenarios
Joba Chamberlain - AL->NL move. Possibility of buying low. If he fails again as a starter he should be a good reliever (look at the 2nd half of this year if you doubt it). The over-hyping may keep the price too high to be worth it. He did in fact fail as a starter once already so definitely not a "#1".
Josh Beckett - AL->NL. Contract and depth might make him movable. Bad 2010 season was originally part of my Nats playoffs 2011 plan (he'd bomb, Red Sox would choose not to resign, Nats would gamble and it would pay off. Didn't figure the Sox would be dumb enough to go in with a big deal before the season). It'd be a really early white flag. Injury risk.
Dallas Braden AL->NL. Feels like the A's will always listen and they have pitching depth. Braden hits FA a couple years earlier than other young pitchers on the team. A's desperately need offense. If he were on the market the Nats don't have the "this year or next" young offensive help to give the A's in return.
Bronson Arroyo FA after next season and already told Reds he won't take discount to stay so trade might be possible. Reds also have pitching depth. Still they want him to stay, he wants to stay and I think his next contract is going to be an overpay. Heading into mid 30s.
Wandy Rodriguez Astros really need to rebuild, thought about dealing Wandy this year. Free agent next year. Should be gettable with Nats level talent. He's not young though (32) and is he a #1?
Chad Billingsly Dodgers ownership a mess. Billingsly up for some big arbitration raises. They at least considered the possibility of dealing him. They didn't deal him though, even in deals for Lee or Oswalt. Got totally back on track 2nd half of the year, so much so that I don't see a deal happening at all.