The Nationals are sending scouts to watch Brandon Webb pitch in instructional league games over the next week, reports Bill Ladson of MLB.com. According to Ladson, Webb would have interest in playing in Washington if the Diamondbacks don't re-sign him, in part because of his relationship with Nats GM Mike Rizzo.
Rizzo, the former director of scouting for the D'Backs, drafted Webb in the eighth round of the 2000 draft. The right-hander has spent his entire career in Arizona's organization, but hasn't pitched in a big league game since Opening Day 2009 because of shoulder issues. Webb faced hitters for the first time in nearly two years earlier this week; though he reportedly topped out around 81 mph, the 31-year-old said his arm felt good.
Despite his lengthy layoff from the majors, Webb will be seeking a significant base salary this offseason, as agent Jonathan Maurer told MLBTR in August. The former Cy Young winner and his agent will be using contracts like those signed by Ben Sheets, Brad Penny, and Rich Harden as "conversation starters."
We know the Nationals will be targeting a front-line starting pitcher over the winter, and prior to 2009, Webb would have fit the bill. It's possible he could return to that form, but as we saw with Sheets, Penny, and Harden this season, high-upside arms aren't always prudent investments. Nonetheless, as MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith pointed out, the Nats are a team that could have interest in an upside starter like Webb on a short-term contract, particularly while Stephen Strasburg recovers from Tommy John surgery.