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Hoping to bolster rotation, Nats might pursue Shields

NASHVILLE -- The Nationals are trying to acquire a starting pitcher, and free agent right-hander Zack Greinke has been mentioned as a hurler they could be interested in signing.

Why? The Nationals once tried to acquire Greinke's services three offseasons ago in a trade with the Royals, but the righty declined to go to the Nats, who were not playoff contenders at the time.

However, as one source put it, don't count out the Nationals trying to trade for a pitcher like Rays right-hander James Shields, who has a contract worth $10.2 million for 2013, but could be a free agent if his option is not picked up for '14.

Shields has pitched 200 innings or more for six consecutive seasons. His best season was in 2011, when he went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and 225 strikeouts. Furthermore, Shields has 448 strikeouts over the past two years.

The source believes the Nationals and Rays would make good trade partners. If Washington is able to re-sign Adam LaRoche, the club could trade a player like Michael Morse to Tampa Bay, which is looking for a first baseman.

Morse, 30, will make $6.7 million this coming season and then become a free agent. He is coming off a 2012 campaign in which he played in 102 games and hit .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. It will probably take more than just Morse to acquire a pitcher of Shields' caliber.

The Nationals are looking for a starting pitcher to replace Edwin Jackson. Manager Davey Johnson has often said he wouldn't mind having Christian Garcia in that role after Garcia was impressive as a reliever this past season. In 13 games, Garcia allowed three runs in 12 2/3 innings and struck out 15 batters.

Washington Nationals, Zack Greinke, James Shields