Nationals Rumors: Nats' Search For Left-Handed Reliever Nearing An End?

Kevin C. Cox

Several reports this morning say that the Washington Nationals think they might be close to getting the left-handed reliever they're after sooner rather than later, though the latest word is that nothing is "imminent." Will the Nats leave the Winter Meetings with their lefty?

Asked about Washington's pursuit of a left-handed reliever yesterday in an interview on the MLB Network Radio show Inside Pitch, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told hosts Casey Stern and Jim Bowden that a second lefty was high on the list of things the Nats' need for 2014.

"We have some in-house options that we could use as that second left-hander but we think that we need to really make that left-handed reliever something that we have to get done." - Nats' GM Mike Rizzo on MLB Network Radio

"We're in the market," Rizzo said. "It's a good year to be looking for a left-handed reliever via the trade market or the free agent market, because there's a lot a depth and quality in the free agent market and in the trade market. So, we're looking to do something there if we can, if it makes sense for us. And it's something I think that is part of something that solidifies the bullpen. And with that, we have some in-house options that we could use as that second left-hander but we think that we need to really make that left-handed reliever something that we have to get done."

Bowden mentioned two free agent relievers that remained on the market, bringing up J.P. Howell and Scott Downs as possibilities since he knew neither the General Manager or Nationals' skipper Matt Williams, who was there for the interview, were going to discuss particular names. Late last night, however, different possibilities came up on Twitter as potential trade targets:

"I personally like a lefty specialist, if you will, that can come in and ‑‑ for that two‑out situation and get them out..." - Matt Williams on Nats' reliever search from GM Meetings

Matt Williams talked about what the Nationals were after when he met with reporters at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday. "I personally like a lefty specialist, if you will, that can come in and ‑‑ for that two‑out situation and get them out," Williams explained. "I also like a guy that can do that, that we can stretch to another inning. As an example you've got a lefty in that fifth inning or whatever it is, or sixth inning, and then you've got left, right, left following. And he can go back out. The guys that Mike is talking about fit that bill."

"So, again," Williams continued, "it's a question of who's available, what it costs, or in a trade situation what some other team may want, all of that comes into play. In a perfect world you'd like a short lefty, short righty, the problem with baseball is it's not perfect. Those are the wish list things, and we'll see what we can come up with."

Early this morning, both the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore and FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal have reported that the Nationals feel they might get their left-hander today:

From what the WaPost's beat reporters are hearing, it sounds more likely that it will be one of the original targets mentioned, rather than one of the trades that will fill the need in the Nats' pen:

Scott Downs, 37, finished the 2013 campaign pitching out of the Atlanta Braves' bullpen following a trade from the Los Angeles Angels. The veteran lefty is coming off a 3-year/$15M deal he signed with LA in 2010. In his 12th major league season last year, Downs posted a 2.49 ERA and a 3.09 FIP with 19 walks (3.95 BB/9) and 37 Ks (7.68 K/9) in 43 1/3 IP in which he held opposing lefties to a .259/.333/.296 line while right-handers put up a .276/.379/.378 line against him.

Will the Washington Nationals leave the Winter Meetings with the left-hander they're after, having "solidified" the bullpen for 2014?

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