Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore wrote earlier this week in an article entitled, "Nationals looking to add bullpen help", that though Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett are all coming off solid seasons in 2010, the back of the Nats' bullpen is a little light on experience, so D.C. GM Mike Rizzo would definitely be looking for relief help during the Winter Meetings. Washington signed Matt Capps to a one-year/$3.5M dollar deal last winter after the right-hander was non-tendered by Pittsburgh following an '09 season in which he had struggled with injury issues.
The Nats took the chance that a healthier Capps, fully-recovered from elbow and shoulder concerns, would bounce back and he did, surrendering just 51 hits, 20 R, 14 ER and 9 walks (1.8 BB/9) in 47 games and 46.0 IP in which the 26-year-old closer struck out 38 (7.4 K/9) and saved 26 games for the Nats before they were able to flip the reliever to Minnesota at the trade deadline for highly-regarded-but-blocked backstop Wilson Ramos, a 23-year-old catcher who's currently tearing up Winter League pitching and heading for a platoon role behind the plate with Pudge Rodriguez in 2011.
Could the Nats pull off the same sort of move this winter?...
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) reported via Twitter earlier this week that the Washington Nationals were one of five teams who were interested in adding 32-year-old right-hander Kevin Gregg. According to Mr. Rosenthal's Tweet and sources, the one-time Angel, Marlin, Cub and Blue Jays' closer was entertaining, "Strong multi-year interest...from [the] #RedSox, #Pirates, #Nationals. #Orioles, #Mariners also in mix." This signing will be a little more expensive than the Capps deal, however, as Baltimore Sun writer Jeff Zrebeic reported this morning in an article entitled, "Could Gregg unseat Koji as O’s closer?", that the Orioles had made a 2-year offer for somewhere between $8-$10 million dollars to try to bring Gregg to Camden Yards.
Gregg converted a career-high 37 of 42 save opportunities for Toronto in 2010, walking 30 (4.58 BB/9) and striking out 58 (8.85 K/9) in 63 games and 59.0 IP. A Type-B free agent, Gregg declined the Blue Jays' arbitration offer in late November, so it wouldn't cost the Nats' any picks. The Nats' non-tendered 34-year-old reliever Joel Peralta, who was reportedly looking for a two-year deal, while the Nationals were unwilling to go beyond a one-year deal and uninterested in taking their chances in arbitration with the right-hander.
Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman hinted this week in several interviews that the Nationals could pursue bullpen help if they failed to land a top-of-the-rotation arm, though each time I heard him say so he was sure to point out that the pen was already a strength for Washington. In a post game interview late in the season, the manager praised the Nats' second 1st Round pick in 2009, closer-in-training Drew Storen's work during the 2010 season:
"There's really been very few hiccups," with Storen during his rookie season, Riggleman said after Storen recorded his 5th and final save of the season. "He [went] out there today in a tough situation and had outstanding stuff, maybe as good stuff as we've seen him throw all year, just really devastating breaking ball and threw strikes with his fastball, so it's part of the process you go through with a young guy like that, but he's done well."
Storen, for his part, is planning on heading to Spring Training and claiming the closer's role. In a late November interview on the Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio show "Power Alley" with Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette, the 23-year-old closer told the hosts that earning the job was his goal:
"I had an up and down year I feel like, and that's one thing about me, I'm never satisfied and I feel like I made a step in the right direction and made a good adjustment to a new level of competition, but I know there's a lot of work still to be done, and I've got the right support staff of veteran guys and good coaches, that hopefully I can be that guy for us this year and that's my goal and that's what I'm working every day right now to work towards."
Do you believe Drew Storen's ready to close games for the Nats on a full-time basis? Are you willing to give Kevin Gregg a two-year deal? Who else is out there on the market the Nationals should pursue...the entire Tampa Bay bullpen? Here's MLBTraderumors.com's list of available potential closers. There were rumors (from MLB.com's Peter Gammons (@pgammo) that the Nationals were interested in former Twins' reliever Jesse Crain...Do the Nationals need to add Storen-insurance? Or is the next Flat-Brimmed Closer ready to close?