Speaking to reporters during a teleconference after the Washington Nationals officially announced the signing of 32-year-old free agent right-hander Dan Haren, Nats' GM and Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo explained that the team wasn't necessarily done trying to improve its roster after a 98-64 season in which the franchise claimed its first NL East crown. The Nationals still needed to resolve the situation with Adam LaRoche which remains undecided to this day, and they were looking for a left-handed reliever which they still haven't found. Rizzo said they were happy with the depth they had in terms of starting pitching, but added that his oft-repeated mantra on such matters was, "... we're never satisfied with what we have. If we can do better, we'll certainly attempt to do better and I'm always after depth."
The Nationals re-signed reliever Zach Duke this winter, bringing back the left-hander who is likely to replace Tom Gorzelanny in the long-relief role in the bullpen. In order to fill the void left by the departure of Sean Burnett this winter via free agency, the Nationals were rumored to be interested in both soon-to-be-former-Rays' reliever J.P. Howell and left-hander Mike Gonzalez who pitched for Washington in 2012. As for right-handers, the Nationals have Drew Storen (CL), Tyler Clippard, who saved 32 games last year, Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen, possibly Christian Garcia if he doesn't transition to starting and Henry Rodriguez, the right-handed flamethrower whose control (seriously, and he meant it) and potential Nats' manager Davey Johnson praised in a November interview with MLB Network Radio.
So, with all the right-handers already on the roster, why were the Nationals interested in Mike Adams? It would fit in with Rizzo's thinking as expressed above in regards to the rotation. The Nationals have Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, their vaunted set-up and closer tandem for the last two seasons, but the possibility of Adams, a 34-year-old free agent coming off a 2012 campaign in Texas in which he was (5-3) with one save, a 3.27 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 17 walks (2.92 BB/9) and 45 Ks (7.74 K/9) in 61 games and 52.1 IP over which he was worth +0.9 fWAR, was apparently appealing to Washington.
Adams has spent the majority of his career in a set-up role, throwing 228.0 of 328.2 career innings pitched in the eighth inning. The Philadelphia Phillies had issues getting leads to their high-priced closer Jonathan Papelbon last season, so they signed Adams to fill the eighth inning role, giving him a 2-year/$12M dollar deal this week. The contract reportedly includes an option for a third year at $6.5M as well, which vests if Adams throws 120.0 innings total over the course of the first two years to paraphrase CSNPhilly.com's Corey Seidman's reporting on the deal.
Elsewhere in the article, the CSNPhilly reporter notes that Adams' agent, Josh Yates, told reporters that there were six teams interested in the pitcher's services this winter, with three of the teams believed to be seriously in pursuit. According to the agent, as Mr. Seidman wrote, Adams, "... had offers on the table for more guaranteed years and money. One of those offers was from an NL East team, believed to be the Nationals. He even had opportunities to close." Adams told reporters he had offers for, "... more guaranteed money elsewhere," but explained that he narrowed his options down to two teams and made the final decision to join the Phillies:
"'There was an NL East team that was really in on it,' Adams admitted. 'It was a tough choice between the two, but from what I’ve heard from other players that have been in this organization, what they think about it, where I think it’s headed, that played a huge part into my decision.'"
Whether or not that "NL East team" was the Nationals is unclear, of course. If it was Washington? Were the Nats simply exploring options to improve their bullpen? Interested in adding depth? Addressing what they see as a weakness? Unsure about how Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen will rebound from late-season struggles on Clippard's part and a Game 5 performance by Storen which saw him struggle to throw strikes with the NLDS vs St. Louis on the line? Speculate away... More importantly, with a report connecting the Nationals to a right-handed free agent reliever, how long before people start speculating about a potential match between 33-year-old free agent Rafael Soriano and the Nationals, especially since Soriano just happens to be represented by Scott Boras... And you know about the connection between Boras and the Nats... etc.... [Yawns]
(ed. note - "Soriano's tied to a compensatory pick since the Yankees made a qualifying offer to him this winter, and it's reportedly an issue for him much in the same way it's reportedly been an issue for Adam LaRoche.")