After a game at Nationals Park last season, Jason Marquis had a chance to talk with John Lannan, a second-year pitcher atop a rotation consisting of four rookies.
"Lannan just thought there was a lot of pressure on him to lead a staff," Marquis said, "when he was a second-year player and really didn't know what it was about."
On Tuesday, the appropriately named veteran became the Marquis name on that very staff, signing a $15 million, two-year contract to join the Washington Nationals. He immediately jumps to the top of the rotation and adds a vocal presence to a staff that is also expected to include No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg in the near future.
"I've been in their shoes before," Marquis said. "I've looked up to the likes of (Greg) Maddux, (Tom) Glavine and (John) Smoltz and learned a lot of valuable lessons from them, not only on the field but off the field. Hopefully they can feed off what I do in between starts, feed off what I do on the mound and apply it to themselves."
Marquis will receive $7.5 million for each season under his deal. The 31-year-old right-hander went 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 216 innings for the Colorado Rockies in 2009. He made his first All-Star appearance thanks to an 11-6 start, but he fizzled down the stretch and wasn't part of the Rockies' postseason starting rotation.
Still, he brings the sort of seasoned, innings-eating presence that Washington's starting rotation has been lacking. Even though Marquis will pitch only once every five days, general manager Mike Rizzo said the addition will have a domino effect on how manager Jim Riggleman handles the rest of the staff.
"We feel that we've checked one of the boxes of our greatest needs with a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher," Rizzo said.
Marquis wouldn't be top-of-the-rotation at a lot of places. He is 94-83 with a 4.48 ERA in a major league career that began in 2000, playing for the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs before his season with Colorado.
But he has made at least 32 starts in five of the past six seasons. The lone exception was 2008, when he started 28 games for the Cubs.
Meanwhile, Lannan was the only pitcher to make 20 or more starts for Washington last season, when the club finished with a majors-worst 59-103 record. It was the second consecutive year that the Nationals lost more than 100 games.
Despite that recent history, Marquis said the Nationals were on his short list of desired destinations. He listed the signing of Strasburg to a record $15.1 million contract this year, the recent trade for New York Yankees relief pitcher Brian Bruney, and the $6 million, two-year deal given to free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez as reasons the franchise is a more attractive place to go.
"It starts with the Strasburg move, obviously," Marquis said. "You can maybe not take him because the money's too high. In the offseason, obviously, you get Bruney from the Yankees. Pudge, his track record obviously speaks for itself. It showed they want to make moves to go in the right direction."
Marquis, who went to high school on Staten Island, had been interested in signing with a New York team. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the pitcher was brought up when he traveled to the winter meetings with Marquis' agents, Sam and Seth Levinson.
Because Marquis was a Type B free agent and was offered arbitration by the Rockies, Colorado stands to receive a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds in June's amateur draft.