MLB Winter Meetings: Could J.P. Howell Be The Washington Nationals' New Sean Burnett?

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

If Sean Burnett's not coming back to the nation's capital, there were plenty of writers tonight mentioning J.P. Howell as a possible replacement as the Washington Nationals continue to look for a left-handed reliever.

If we take seriously (mostly for comedic effect) D.C. GM Mike "Run Silent" Rizzo's declaration, as quoted by Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell in a recent chat, that the Washington Nationals like to play things close to the vest and, "When you hear our name linked with a player, you know those are the things that are NOT going to happen," then we'd probably discount the possibility of the Nats signing free agent lefty J.P. Howell. After today's media scrum with the Nats' skipper at the Winter Meetings in Nashville,, NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, the Washington Times' Amanda Comak, the Washington Post's James Wagner and MASN's Dan Kolko all noted, after reporting on the Nationals' continued interest in acquiring a late-inning lefty, that Howell's name is one to keep in mind:

MLB.com's Bill Ladson (@washingnats) quoted Davey Johnson on Twitter from the press conference explaining that the Nationals didn't see Sean Burnett returning to the nation's capital in 2013. "'I'll miss Sean Burnett,'" Johnson says, but echoing the sentiments expressed by the Nats' GM last night, the Nationals' manager adds that, "'He will probably go somewhere else.'" Ladson reached out to J.P. Howell as well, to ask the reliever about the possibility of pitching in the D.C.:

FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) reported tonight that his sources were saying Burnett too knew his days in D.C. were likely over:

Tom Gorzelanny still remains a possibility, though the signing of Zach Duke to a major league deal was seen by most as a sign that Gorzelanny too was done in Washington. Michael Gonzalez's name comes in each discussion of the Nats' bullpen needs. Howell, 29, is an '04 Royals' 1st Round pick who has pitched out of Tampa Bay's bullpen for the past six seasons. The lefty posted a 3.04 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 22 walks (3.93 BB/9) and 42 Ks (7.51 K/9) in 55 games and 50.1 IP last season for the Rays, holding left-handed hitters to a .198/.306/.306 line. Lefties have a .238/.323/.351 line against Howell over the course of his seven year career.

Howell signed a 1-year/$1.35M dollar deal with the Rays last January, avoiding arbitration. The lefty told Tampa Bay Tribune Rays beat writer Marc Topkin in a November 18th article that there were "a handful" of teams interested in his services, with Mr. Topkin mentioning the LA Angels as one potential suitor and the Milwaukee Brewers were mentioned by FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi). The Nationals already signed two lefties, Duke and Bill Bray to major and minor league deals, respectively, in the past few days, but they've openly stated they're still in the market...

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