Justin Duchscherer is the latest pitcher to decline the Nationals' overtures and sign elsewhere, but he's certainly not the only one. The Nationals showed interest in Zack Greinke, Cliff Lee, Carl Pavano, Jorge de la Rosa, Chris Young, Javier Vazquez, Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis this offseason, without landing any of those pitchers.
It's not unusual for teams to check in on a number of free agents and potential trade targets and it's not like GM Mike Rizzo wanted to sign all of the starters he expressed interest in. The Nationals aren't necessarily surprised or disappointed to have missed out on free agents in whom they had just passing interest.
But the Nationals did have trouble attracting elite pitchers like Lee and Greinke to Washington this winter. Earlier in the month, Rizzo told Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post that luring free agents to D.C. isn’t easy.
"It shows the difficulty of trying to build something," Rizzo said. "The only thing that convinces players to come is winning. It's the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? Do you win and then the players come, or do the players come and then you win?"
The Nationals sidestepped free agency and acquired Tom Gorzelanny in a trade with the Cubs, but only after missing out on another offseason trade target, Matt Garza. The Nationals were willing to spend in free agency, but did not surrender the trade chips required to acquire a pitcher of Garza's caliber.
Gorzelanny joins Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, John Lannan and Jordan Zimmermann in a rotation that will include Stephen Strasburg once he recovers from Tommy John surgery. It's a passable rotation, but the Nationals had hoped for more. If and when they start winning, luring free agent arms to D.C. will likely be easier, but Rizzo has a challenge before him until then.