MLB Hot Stove rumors: Nationals eyeing Lance Lynn as they gear up for 2018 run

Once again, the Washington Nationals suffered a disappointingly early postseason exit last season, as they were eliminated in the NLDS for the fourth time in the last six years. Three times they were eliminated with a Game 5 loss. Ouch.

In an effort to get over the hump in 2018, the Nationals are reportedly looking to upgrade their fifth starter's spot with a big name free agent. Ken Rosenthal of The Atlantic reports the Nats have interest in right-hander Lance Lynn. The luxury tax may be an issue, however. From Rosenthal:

Difficult to imagine, I know. But according to major league sources, the Nats are interested in a non-Boras starting pitcher — right-hander Lance Lynn, who is represented by Excel Sports. 

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The luxury tax is another potential obstacle. According to the Associated Press, the Nationals paid a penalty of $1.45 million for surpassing the threshold for the first time last season. Their penalty rate will increase from 20 percent to 30 percent for every dollar they spend above $197 million next season, and they would face additional penalties if they exceeded $217 million. 

The Nats' payroll currently projects to $201.4 million, according to Cot's. A dip below $197 million would enable them to reset their penalty rate to 20 percent in preparation for the much-anticipated free-agent class of 2018-19, which includes their own right fielder, Bryce Harper

Rosenthal notes new Nationals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist was Lynn's pitching coach with the St. Louis Cardinals, so there is some familiarity there. As things stand, Washington has an excellent rotation front four (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark) with a hodgepodge of candidates for the fifth spot (A.J. Cole, Erick Fedde, Tommy Milone, etc.). There is definitely room for a fifth starter upgrade.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals
Lance Lynn would solidify the fifth spot in the Nationals rotation. USATSI

It is very possible, if not likely, the Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo are feeling extra pressure to win in 2018, and not only because of their recent postseason losses. Harper and Daniel Murphy are due to become free agents after the season, meaning this very well could be the team's last chance to win with this core. Furthermore, how long with Scherzer and Strasburg perform at such a high level? Their best chance to win is right now, with this core in its collective prime.

The Nationals are very good as it is -- FanGraphs pegs Washington as a 91-71 team in 2018, for what it's worth -- even with their revolving door of fifth starters. I'm not sure there's a team more desperate to win this coming season, however. You can kind of start to see the window closing, and because of that, I think Rizzo and the Nationals will try to do as much as possible to improve their chances in 2018. If that leads them to signing Lynn, so be it.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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