The Nationals almost traded for right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke two years ago. Instead, he fired his agent and told the team not to bother. Greinke liked Washington's future, but he wanted to play on a contender right away. After the 2010 season, that wasn't the Nats.

Times have changed, however. Greinke was traded instead to Milwaukee, who in turn dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels during the summer. He finished out his contract and is now a free agent, the best to hit the open market this winter. So should Washington make a play for him?

He will be expensive. The Angels, with limited depth in their starting rotation after missing the playoffs in 2012, won't want to lose Greinke. But the rival Texas Rangers could try to bolster their own pitching staff at their rivals' expense -- and the crosstown Los Angeles Dodgers apparently have no budget anymore. Under new ownership, they are a threat to land every top free agent.

To wade into that mix, Washington likely would need to top an offer Milwaukee made to Greinke in July that reportedly was for five years and $100 million. And the dollars could go way above that figure given the teams expected to express interest. But with a big increase in cable TV money coming from MASN this offseason, it's possible Washington can afford it -- if it wants to.

Greinke is 29 and had a 3.48 ERA in 2012. He has been one of the better pitchers in the game since 2007 when he was with Kansas City, though he never quite approached the brilliance of his 2009 season (2.16 ERA). That could make the Nats wince at such a high price. But if he isn't Justin Verlander, Greinke is still considered a top-of-the-rotation starter. And Washington just happens to have an opening after declining to make right-hander Edwin Jackson a qualifying offer last week.

Their top four are set: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler. But that doesn't mean general manager Mike Rizzo has to settle for a conventional fifth starter, either. Greinke easily would give him the sport's deepest rotation.

- Brian McNally