UPDATE: Blue Jays, Diamondbacks pursue Gio Gonzalez

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6:10 p.m. EDT: Susan Slusser is back with a report that the Blue Jays are trying to acquire Gio Gonzalez. Add them to the list that includes the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Reds and maybe still the Tigers and Yankees.

12:25 p.m. EDT: CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler reports that the Tigers weren’t prepared to pay the price for Gonzalez, which started with top pitching prospect Jacob Turner and had to include more.

Along with the Phillies’ interest, it’s also known that the Diamondbacks are making an effort to land Gonzalez, which is interesting, since the A’s are probably looking for the same kind of return they got when they sent Dan Haren to Arizona (Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Chris Carter and more).

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal adds that the Nationals and Reds are also in the mix.

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The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser has heard from three different sources that the Tigers have engaged the A’s in talks for left-hander Gio Gonzalez.

The price will surely be high for the left-hander, who is a full four years away from free agency. The word earlier in the day was that the A’s wanted Jesus Montero and either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances from the Yankees for Gonzalez.

The Tigers aren’t capable of providing that kind of haul. Any trade would almost surely start with their top pitching prospect, right-hander Jacob Turner, and could also include third baseman Nick Castellanos or left-hander Casey Crosby. The A’s might also have some interest in outfielders Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks. Dirks is more their kind of player, but while Jackson is on-base challenged, his ability to run down balls in center is still pretty attractive.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.