NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Having spent the better portion of their history swiping minor leaguers from other, more talent-laden organizations through the Rule 5 draft, the Nationals now are finding out what it's like to have their own prospects plucked away.
The Nationals lost two players this morning in the major-league portion of the annual event that closes the Winter Meetings: left-hander Danny Rosenbaum (who went to the Rockies) and second baseman Jeff Kobernus (who went to the Red Sox).
The Nationals then lost left-hander Jack McGeary (Red Sox) and right-hander Hector Nelo (Dodgers) during the Class AAA portion of the draft.
The club didn't select anyone in any of the draft's three rounds.
Though neither was expected to have a significant impact on the Nationals' big-league roster next season, Rosenbaum and Kobernus each were highly regarded in the organization and could have been needed for depth in the next year or two.
"You set your rosters and you know you're always taking chances on losing any of your prospects," assistant general manager Bryan Minniti said. "It's never good to lose a left-handed starting pitching prospect and a middle infield prospect. But you wish them well, you wish them luck. At the end of the day, you hope you get them back at some point in the next year."
Teams must pay their counterparts $50,000 for each player selected in the Rule 5 draft. Those players then must remain on the big-league roster for an entire season or else be offered back for $25,000.
Rosenbaum, 25, went 8-10 with a 3.94 ERA last season at Class AA Harrisburg, earning Eastern League All-Star honors after a dominant first half before fading down the stretch. The left-hander was expected to open 2013 in the rotation at Class AAA Syracuse and would have been among the group of starters general manager Mike Rizzo wants to have available in case of injury to one of his five big-league starters.
The Nationals' upper-level pitching depth has become woefully thin, with the organization now having lost Rosenbaum, Alex Meyer, Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock all within the last year. Two other top pitching prospects -- Sammy Solis and Lucas Giolito -- had Tommy John surgery in 2012.
Team officials recognize the need to sign several minor-league free agents who can fill out their Class AAA rotation and be ready for call-ups if needed, though it won't be an easy sell.
"The challenging thing with the major-league rotation we have is recruiting guys that know they're probably going to end up at Triple-A, barring an injury," Minniti said. "We'll continue to try to sign those guys. But it's going to be a little more difficult with the rotation we have."
Kobernus faced less of a potential future with the Nationals, given the fact they already have two starting-quality second basemen on the big-league roster in Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi.
The 24-year-old Kobernus -- who is expected to be immediately dealt by the Red Sox to the Tigers -- hit .282 with with 42 stolen bases last season at Harrisburg and was targeted to open 2013 at Syracuse.
McGeary's loss in the Class AAA phase of the draft caps his disappointing tenure in the Nationals organization. Drafted out of high school in 2007, the left-hander was given a $1.8 million signing bonus (a record at the time for a sixth-round pick) and tuition money to attend Stanford as part of a creative package orchestrated by former general manager Jim Bowden.
McGeary, though, never lived up to his potential. After splitting time as a professional pitcher and college student for a year, he turned to baseball full-time in 2009 but struggled mightily and wound up needing Tommy John surgery on his elbow. He appeared in only eight games last season and has yet to reach Class AA.
Nelo, 26, posted a 2.73 ERA and 16 saves in 47 games with Harrisburg last season.